When I read 'Lavender' as the theme of this month's International Incident Party, I thought, Uh-oh... I'm in royal trouble. Lavender falls into the 'exotic' category of ingredient to me, mainly because it is virtually impossible to get here in Brunei. I haven't even come across lavender tea being sold here, let alone the real deal! (We do have a variety of lavender soaps and toiletries to choose from, though. I guess we just like to smell fresh and flowery, just like grandma's pillows!).
Being as lavender-deprived as I am, the last time I'd come across this ingredient was when I was sipping a soothing cup of tea in Hong Kong, about six years ago. I brought home boxes of the stuff, and consequently friends and family had to endure a rather long period of being presented with lavender pound cakes and cookies - until the last of the purple flowers were used up. So when the need for lavender suddenly came up, my mind flashed back to Hong Kong. Luckily WL, my friend of nearly 2 decades - actually, she's my sister from another mother (and father) - lives in Hong Kong. She very generously DHL-ed me some lavender tea which arrived a few days ago, just in time for the party! In hindsight, the courier cost was much, much more than the actual price of the tea, so this gesture reminded me who my real friends are. Thank you, WL! If only it is possible to DHL these eclairs back to you, you know I will...
For this party, I had my mind set on making éclairs, sweet lavender-infused ones. Not lavender in the filling nor the topping but in the pastry itself. Lavender gives out that distinctly heady scent and flavor, so I wanted to be careful not to overdo it, otherwise my éclairs would taste a bit like my deodorant (not that I ever ate/licked my deodorant, mind you). Then, when I bought some black sesame powder (to use in a health drink), I thought, why not break the convention a little? Yes.... black sesame éclairs with a hint of lavender - nutty and floral in one bite. Wait.... how about a dulce de leche crème mousseline as a filling? Dulce de leche in my book contains three of the so-called Seven Deadly Sins (greed, lust, gluttony), so whenever a recipe includes it, you know it's going to taste sinful! I also made my dulce de leche the lazy man's way. Who has 2-4 hours to wait? Popped the condensed milk in the microwave for about 24 minutes, and presto! That's sloth for you.
Thank you for hosting this fab party once again, Penny @ Jeroxie.com! For a peek at what the other lavender-inspired creations are, click on the participants' thumbnails below.
|Black sesame powder ground with lavender (spot the lilac flowers that escaped the blade)|
This was my first time making crème mousseline and my work area ended up looking like a disaster zone because of all the splattering that ensued. But oh, it was so worth it! The pastry filling turned out looking like a smooth, rich buttercream yet it was wonderfully light in texture and sweetness, with the dulce de leche providing the right amount of caramelly, smoky flavor. I had some leftover chocolate ganache in the fridge so I drizzled that on the top of the éclairs as a bonus. I took one bite and there I was, elevated to my own personal heaven, completely dizzy from the new tastes and sensory overload. Lavender + black sesame + dulce de leche + chocolate = Absolutely speechless.
|Express dulce de leche|
Dulce de leche crème mousseline
|Tried an éclair with dulce de leche topping too. It was too much, way too much!|
|Once you try these, you'll never go back... y'know what I mean!|
Lavender-Black Sesame Eclairs with Dulce De Leche Crème Mousseline
Lavender-Black Sesame Choux Pastry for Éclairs
1/2 cup black sesame powder
1/2 cup black sesame powder
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (125g) unsalted butter
1. Blend the sesame powder with the lavender briefly or simply leave flowers whole. Mix sesame, lavender and flour together in a bowl until fully combined. Set aside.
2. In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring milk, water, condensed milk, salt and butter to a boil.
3. Add the flour mixture to the pan in one go. Stir like mad with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, until the dough mass is dry and a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan.
4. Transfer to a large bowl and beat for 1 minute to release more steam. Add in about 2 eggs, one at a time and beating furiously after each addition, until the batter comes together and takes about 7 seconds to fall from the beaters.
5. The number of eggs is variable (the original recipe says 4, but I had to adjust because the sesame powder makes the batter rather oily/moist and dense). You don't want a runny dough but neither do you want a dough that's too stiff because it won't rise well. That’s why you have to check your dough after the addition of each egg.
|Stir until you get Popeye-like arms!|
|Crusty bottom (the pan, not mine)|
6. Transfer batter to a piping bag with a 2/3 inch plain tip and pipe out shapes to your parchment-lined baking sheet- about 4 inch rods for éclairs.
7. Bake in a preheated 400°F (205°C) oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350°F (177°C) and bake for at least 20 minutes more, until crispy. Don't open the oven door till at least the 30 minutes total cooking time has elapsed.
8. Once cool, they can be packed in ziploc bags and frozen for a month. Otherwise, keep at room temperature. However, once filled, they must be eaten immediately or they will be soggy.
Dulce De Leche Crème Mousseline Filling
1 2/3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup dulce de leche
4 large egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons (5 leaves) gelatin, sprinkled over 2 teaspoons cold water
7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1. In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dulce de leche, egg yolks, and cornstarch until well-combined, then pour the boiled milk over this in a small stream while whisking constantly.
3. Pour this back into the saucepan and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin, stirring until dissolved.
4. Cool for 10 minutes or so, to about 45°C (115°F), whisking every now and again. Add the softened butter in bit by bit, whisking after each addition. The cream will be satiny and smooth. Place a sheet of cling film flush against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I wanted to use mine rather pronto so I cheated and placed this in the freezer for about 15 minutes until it firms up!
Dulce De Leche (the sloth’s way!)
1. Empty a 400g tin of sweetened condensed milk into a large microwave safe bowl.
2. Microwave on medium power for two minutes.
3. Remove from microwave and stir with a wire whisk. Be careful; the mixture and bowl will get very hot and remain that way throughout the process.
4. Microwave on medium power for another two minutes.
5. Remove and stir again.
6. Microwave on medium-low power for 16 to 24 minutes or until milk turns thick and caramel color, stirring every 4 minutes.
Caution: The condensed milk will bubble up ferociously, so make sure your bowl is deep and large.
150 (5oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and diced
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1. Combine chocolate and butter in a bowl.
2. Separately, heat cream and sugar over medium heat until bubbly at the edge. Pour hot cream over the chocolate and mix until smooth.
3. Cool for about 15 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
To assemble the éclairs, match pairs of the baked and cooled eclair shells together. On one half, pipe the cream filling and top with the other half. Drizzle some chocolate ganache on top and serve immediately.