When writing the recipe for these spelt eclairs, I wondered if people will think it odd that I’m using a dairy free filling in pastry which contains butter. Weird, huh?
However, it’s not as odd as it may appear.
Boundaries of Tolerance
I experience an intolerance to lactose. This means that if I drink a pint of milk, or worse still, if I consume a mountain of whipped cream, I will get anything from mild discomfort up to severe stomach cramps and nausea.
Products such as butter and yoghurt contain far less lactose than milk or thick cream. Therefore, people such as myself who experience a variety of physical symptoms from consuming lactose can often consume amounts of yoghurt or butter without any significant negative reaction. I eat yoghurt every week and have never noticed discomfort from doing so.
I seem to be able to eat butter, with no issue, although I rarely have more than a few thick daubs on occasions when I’m presented with fresh bread and butter. On the other hand, a massive knickerbocker glory might have me sweating, doubled over in agony on the verge of vomitting on a tube platform, like it did last December.
Therefore, for many people who experience lactose intolerance, it’s not an absolute situation like an allergic reaction to peanuts could be, nor is it life threatening, it’s simply uncomfortable, or potentially painful. It doesn’t mean that I can never touch dairy, it means I need to be wise about where lactose is found and minimise it’s consumption, to mitigate any negative effects. Even then, there are some days in life when a massive knickerbocker glory might just be worth the risk.
Hence we have spelt eclairs with a dairy free filling and topped with plain dark chocolate. It’s not lactose free, but it’s low lactose, therefore kinder to the stomachs of those who lack lactase. Lactase is the enzyme which breaks down lactose and the thing which people such as I have less of. It’s possible to buy lactase enzymes, a magic pill to pop if I fancy a blow out on dairy, but I’ve never tried them as 96.3% of the time I’m more than happy without dairy.
How is that Spelt?
These spelt eclairs represent another chapter in my mission to fill the internet with spelt recipes. I’m loading the web with spelt based recipes for you to make, eat and love. In the same way that avoiding dairy makes me feel better, so does eating spelt. Not that regular wheat does anything nasty to me, I’m not gluten intolerant, but spelt simply feels like a more gentle grain and easier to digest. My ex business partner summed it up perfectly when I brought some spelt pastries into work, which I had purchased at The Bread Shop. After eating it, he asked “was there something different about that? It still felt like a treat, but… lighter”.
I Bring these spelt eclairs to you hot on the heels of publishing the building blocks that went into this recipe – spelt choux paste and dairy free pastry cream, or crème pâtissière. And the good news to end with? It doesn’t stop here! I’ve got a load of great spelt recipes hiding up my sleeve which I’m hoping to pull out over the coming weeks. You may have seen a tweet about Tarte au Citron from me recently, well that’s next, once I’ve shown you all how to make sweet shortcrust pastry!
— Gavin Wren (@le_petit_oeuf) August 10, 2017
By Gavin Wren
Makes 12 x 3″ eclairs
Uses a Wooden spoon, mixing bowl, sieve, saucepan, 2 small/medium baking sheets and baking paper.
For the Spelt Choux Pastry:
125g white spelt flour
25ml milk (cow or soy)
0.5 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
For the dairy free pastry cream (crème pâtissière):
500ml milk of your choice. I prefer oat because soy imparted an odd flavour
1 vanilla pod, seeds only, or 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
100g golden caster sugar
40g white spelt flour
For the chocolate Topping:
125g 70% dark chocolate
Sift the flour into a bowl and set aside.
Place the butter, milk, water, salt and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
When it boils, remove from the heat, pour the sieved flour straight into it and mix with a wooden spoon until it all comes together.
Put the pan back onto the heat and mix for a further 2 minutes to help dry the mixture slightly. Set aside to cool to 60ºC or less. If you’re in a hurry, mix the paste around, as the movement helps it to cool quicker.
Transfer the paste to a bowl and beat in one egg at a time with the spoon, ensuring it is incorporated fully into the paste before adding the next egg. When all eggs are added, keep beating until you have a thick and sticky, but smooth paste. Yes, I’m using a whisk in the photo. This was A BAD IDEA. Use a wooden spoon, trust me.
It is important to use baking sheets which are less than 80% of the size of your oven shelf, to allow good airflow around the oven. If you use large baking sheets which fill the shelf, or deep sided trays, your eclairs will not cook properly.
Line your baking sheets with baking paper. You can use a little blob of choux paste in each corner as adhesive to stick the paper to the pan.
Pipe twelve 3″ long eclairs onto the baking sheets using a 1.5cm wide star shaped nozzle. Hold the nozzle at a 45º angle to the baking sheet and pipe with steady, even pressure. There are two methods I’ve used to ensure consistent eclair lengths.
1) Draw pencil ‘start’ and ‘finish’ lines on the paper. Pipe from the start line and stop at the finish line.
2) Count as you pipe. Start piping, then count “one-banana-two-banana-three-banana-four-banana-five…”. Count to the same figure for each eclair and they should come out to approximately the same lengths.
Each eclair will double in width, so ensure they space between them to expand.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then WITHOUT opening the door, reduce the temperature to gas mark 4, 350ºF, 177ºC, 157ºC fan and cook for another 20 minutes. If you open the door at the wrong time, it may interrupt the cooking process and cause your pastry to sag and lose it’s rise. Wash your piping bag now, because you’ll need it again shortly.
Whilst the eclairs in the oven, make the dairy free pastry cream (crème pâtissière).
Put the milk and vanilla seeds in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar to a paste in a heavy bowl, then whisk in the flours.
Gradually in the egg mix, whisking continuously as you do so. Once fully incorporated into a smooth liquid, pour it back into the pan and put it back on a medium heat. Keep whisking, and as it comes back to a simmer it will thicken. When it reaches the consistency of custard, remove from the heat and cover the surface with cling film while it cools.
Remove the eclairs from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Poke a hole in the centre of the underside of each piece to release steam. This should not be necessary, however, there is no harm in doing it, as we will be filling them through this same hole.
Put a smaller nozzle on your piping bag and fill with crème pâtissière. Poke it into the hole, point towards one end fill, then point towards the other end and fill. Repeat for all of the eclairs.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a flat bottomed bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch top of the water and once the chocolate is all melted, turn off the heat. Dip the top of each eclair into the chocolate, then lift out, allowing the excess chocolate to drip off. Place on the cooling rack to cool.
Finished! Now eat!