Chocolate Éclairs

by Elizabeth Atia -

The Great British Bake Off is back on our television sets for a brand new season - who else is tuning in?

The owners and staff at Robinson & Morrison grocers in Weisdale, on the west side of Shetland, are - and they're having a bit of fun with it too.

Shop owners Helen Robinson and her husband Mark are keen GBBO fans and each week Mark sets a challenge theme for participants based on what the contestants in the bake-off have been making. So far they've challenged their willing bakers to make 12 identical traditional cakes, florentines, bread, tiramisu cake and pastry. This week's challenge was to make 6 identical éclairs.

Last week's challenge, pastry, was won by Helen with her macerated strawberry tart, judged by Shetland's own popular chef James Martin from the Peerie Shop Cafe in Lerwick.

This week, A Taste of Shetland contributor Elizabeth was invited along to judge the éclairs. There were two entrants this week: Helen and shop assistant Samantha Manson.

Helen dished up six gorgeous coffee éclairs based on Mary Berry's recipe while Samantha (age 20) presented six chocolate éclairs, adapted from Paul Hollywood's recipe. Both recipes were slightly different from each other in both ingredients and method, and the contestants spent some time afterwards comparing and discussing how this makes such a big difference to the resulting bake.

The winner this week was Samantha - her éclairs were baked to perfection - crisp on the outside and hollow inside, filled with a gorgeous vanilla seed flavoured whipping cream and topped with the best quality dark chocolate she could find - Green & Blacks dark with 85% cocoa solids. Samantha thought using vanilla seeds would compliment the dark chocolate topping better.

Helen and Samantha love their mini Great British Bake Off competition each week. It allows them to bake things they might never before have made. Last week, Helen says, was the first time she'd ever made pastry and to have won with her macerated strawberry tart was an absolute delight. This was the first time Samantha ever made éclairs and she baked three lots before the last one passed her quality control test.

None of the shop contestants are professional bakers - but they are all very keen. Samantha often makes themed birthday cakes for friends and family. She's been baking ever since she was young and she won a country show award for her novelty cakes and cupcakes when she was only eight.

Helen frequently bakes to raise funds for charity and quite often the results of the bake off competition can be found on the shop counter tops next to a charity box.

Robinson & Morrison is a family owned general merchants focusing on food, home wares (including disposable piping bags for éclair making!), a post office counter, petrol pumps, wellie boots - and, well, just about everything!

You can follow the shop and their baking antics on their Facebook Page.

Samantha's Chocolate Eclairs

Course: Main

Servings: 12 eclairs

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients
  • Water - 120 ml
  • Shetland Dairies butter - 50 grams
  • Salt - pinch
  • Plain flour - 65 grams
  • Shetland eggs - 2 medium
  • Shetland Dairies whipping cream - 200 ml
  • Icing sugar - 5 tsp
  • Vanilla pod - 1/2 (seeds only)
  • Best quality dark chocolate - 100 grams (Samantha used Green & Blacks)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 C and grease a baking tray.
  2. Put butter, salt and cold water into a small pan and heat until the butter is melted. Bring it just to the boil but don't leave it as you don't want the water to evaporate.
  3. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour. Beat vigorously until it comes together. It'll look messy at first, but persevere.
  4. Return pan to heat and cook for a further minute while beating.
  5. Beat the eggs and add a peerie bit of the egg into the dough mixture, beating well. Add enough egg so that a smooth, glossy pastry dough forms. You may not need all of the egg. If you pick some of the dough up with a wooden spoon you should be able to shake it off the spoon easily.
  6. Using a disposable piping bag (sold at Robinson & Morrisons!) pipe the dough into 4 inch lengths onto the baking tray. Use a finger dipped in cold water to press down the flick caused by the piping bag when you're finished piping.
  7. Sprinkle the baking tray with some water (not the pastry!) and bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Turn the oven down to 170 C and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the baking tray from the oven, poke a small hole in both ends of each pastry (this lets the steam out) and return to the oven for a further 5-7 minutes to crisp up.
  10. Transfer the pastry to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Meanwhile, beat the whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Then add sugar and vanilla seeds and beat until it's of the desired consistency.
  12. Slice the pastry in half lengthwise and using a piping bag without a nozzle fill the éclairs with the cream.
  13. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heat proof bowl suspended over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until melted.
  14. Dip the top of each éclair into the chocolate and leave to set.
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