Sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind. In food terms, that would mean: ignore the kilojoules, and go for pure pleasure. These long eclairs (or choux buns, as they are also referred to) are filled with slices of fresh banana and sweetened vanilla-pod cream, then topped with pure Nutella spread straight from the jar. It is the stuff childhood dreams are made of.
I am a huge fan of Limnos Bakers – a patisserie chain throughout the Cape Town Metropolitan area. They make one of the best (my favourite) banana eclairs ever: a long choux bun filled with banana mousse and fresh cream, topped with banana fondant. It is so delicious my mouth is watering as I’m typing.
Generally speaking, many people struggle to bake eclairs. Somehow, they have gained a reputation as a tricky customer. With a few handy tips, you won’t have to fear these beauties anymore:
- Don’t let the water and butter mixture boil before the butter has completely melted (otherwise the liquid will reduce).
- Always use large eggs at room temperature – not medium, not extra large, not jumbo.
- Add the eggs one at a time, taking care to fully incorporate each one before adding the next.
- Don’t overbeat the mixture. Beat it until the eggs are fully incorporated and the mixture is just glossy.
I use the recipe for choux paste out of Larousse Gastronomique – my food bible. It is simple and classic.
Photo: Tasha Seccombe
Banana & Vanilla Cream Eclairs with Nutella
Ingredients for choux paste: (makes about 40 small buns or 20 large buns)
- 250 ml (1 cup) water
- large pinch of salt
- 2 t (10 ml) sugar
- 65 g butter, cut into small pieces
- 250 ml (125 g) flour
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- Add water, salt, sugar and butter to a small saucepan. Heat gently until the butter melts, then bring to the boil.
- As soon as the butter starts to boil, take the pan off the heat, then add the flour all at once and cook the paste until it thickens, stirring with a wooden spoon. It takes about a minute for the mixture to form a ball. Do not overcook the mixture or beat it too vigorously as it will become greasy.
- Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time (do it by hand with a wooden spoon or with a stand mixer using the beater attachment), continuing until each one is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Use a piping bag to pipe long buns on a greased/lined baking sheet, leaving enough space between them for swelling. (or use a spoon to drop balls of paste on the baking sheet)
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes (smaller buns will only take 10-15 minutes). The buns should be golden brown.
- Transfer cooked choux pastries to a wire rack to cool and slit them open to allow steam to escape. This will allow the steam to escape, and keep them crisp on the outside while moist on the inside.
Fillings and toppings:
- 250 ml cream
- 2 t sugar
- seeds of one vanilla pod
- 3-4 fresh bananas, sliced lengthways
- 1 jar of Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
- Whisk the cream with the vanilla and sugar untill stiff. Fill the pastries with a slice of banana and some vanilla cream.
- Heat the Nutella carefully in the microwave for a few seconds, untill slightly more runny and easier to spread. Be careful not to overheat, as it will split! It happened to me for this shoot! Don’t worry too much, you can add a little water at a time and stir the Nutella well to form a slightly more runny chocolate sauce, which also works well as a topping.
Sweet dreams everyone!
Recipe, testing and preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox
Photographed by Tasha Seccombe
Props: Tasha Seccombe & Nicola Pretorius
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