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Strawberry Eclairs with Poppy and Vanilla Pastry Cream

What on earth has been going on?  I have not wanted to cook – or even bake. Do you ever get this feeling but times ten? Has it been a gradual form of French strike following the Elections? The weather could also be blamed, but as a Scot one should be used to torrential rain, winds and colder temperatures in June, n’est-ce pas? As you’ve seen recently, I have helped curb this crêpey feeling by sampling macarons, chocolate and delectable pastries around Paris. The only thing that has started to feel lighter is my purse.

Then this weekend I could have drifted off on a petal tasting these luscious strawberries from the market.

Antoine seemed relieved that our favourite restaurants were fully booked; I had forgotten the Roland Garros tennis finals, the Euro Football, then more Euro Football. Instead of being the perfect wife – joining in the banter, shouting hysterically at the screen – I footed it to the sombre kitchen as another deluge drowned my dreary pansies on the windowsill. Checking the football schedule, I can now guarantee a surge and return to home cooking until 1st July.

Macarons? I had no egg whites ready so needed to use up some yolks. What about crème pâtissière but with a twist to the classic? Inspired by the strawberry and poppy macarons from Ladurée and Gérard Mulot last week, I still had some poppy aroma left from my rhubarb and poppy macarons. So here’s a pink poppy crème pâtissière/pastry cream recipe for the egg yolk collection. Use any aroma of your choice in place of the poppy and if you prefer the classic vanilla cream, omit the colouring and aroma and add another vanilla pod. Do you think football fans will notice the girly pink?

Strawberry and Poppy Eclairs

Makes 12

48 strawberries (the sweetest you can find)

CHOUX DOUGH

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Follow the recipe for choux buns then using a piping bag with a serrated tip (about 10mm), pipe out long éclairs on baking trays covered in greaseproof/baking paper (or Silpat mat) Leave a good space between each mound, as they will spread out during baking. No need to glaze. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack then cut the tops off horizontally.

POPPY and VANILLA PASTRY CREAM (Crème Pâtissière)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

500ml full milk
1 vanilla pod (split down the middle)
4 egg yolks
50g cornflour
80g sugar
1/2 tsp poppy aroma
pinch of red powdered colouring

1. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and gradually add the cornflour. Whisk until light and creamy. Gradually add the milk, food colouring and aroma, whisking continuously until thickened.

3. Leave to cool, whisking now and again.

4. Pipe the cream into the éclairs adding hulled strawberries to decorate, place on the éclair tops and dust with icing sugar plus a light sprinkling of poppy seeds.

Hint:

Use half (for 6 portions) and keep the extra choux dough in the fridge for the next couple of days to make :