The Éclairs: Rob Pirina has seen a renaissance of sorts over the last few years. When it comes to pastry classics, we could argue, “why fix what ain’t broke”, but the flavours coming out of patisseries of late are good enough to soften even the hardest classicists. Baking Business spoke to Rob Pirina to see what he’s been doing with éclairs and to talk us through the making of these French pastries.
The word éclair is a French word meaning “lightning”. Some say the pastries are named so because of their gleaming glaze, others say it’s because of the lightness of the cream puff and soft filling. Whatever the reason, the classic French pastry has been a staple in patisseries since at least 1850.
Éclairs: Rob Pirina from Glenorie Bakery, 45 minutes north-west of Sydney, says he grew up watching his dad and his French business partner piping choux pastry. It’s the family recipe that originated in these early days that Rob still uses today but he says it’s the new range of fillings that the bakery has become famous for.
The humble pastry chef has been extremely innovative over the last decade, taking the éclair to all-new levels of creativity. Rob mixes his choux pastry by machine for ease and consistency. He says the process is second nature to him now but one of the tricks he learnt early was to know that when the flour and butter mix starts coming off the bottom of the bowl, it’s ready to move to the planetary mixer.
Once there, Rob says he adds the eggs one to two at a time to wait for them to be absorbed by the batter.
“It’s important not to put the eggs in while it’s too hot or it will cook the eggs,” he says.
He warns not to let the mix cool down too much, however, as it could become too hard to pipe and may create an inconsistent choux. If the mix is too dry, Rob recommends adding more eggs; if it’s too wet, he says, “start again!”
When it comes to the piping, Rob prefers to pipe by hand.
“It’s all about consistency and making sure you have no air pockets in your piping bag. Otherwise you may wear your batter when it explodes as you try to pipe your choux.”
Last year, Rob and head chef Jean Baptiste hired pushbikes and cycled around Paris for a week, stopping at every bakery and patisserie they came across to see what they could find.
“We came back full of new ideas and created this new range for our customers down under,” Rob says.
“We get the whole team involved to come up with new ideas.”
Rob considers colour diversity and different tastes when planning his fillings. One of the éclairs piped at Glenorie is the Salambo, which has a rum custard filling and is topped with toffee and flaked almonds. Also popular is the pistacchio éclair, which has pistachio-based cream layered under sliced strawberries, a Nutella éclair and Glenorie Bakery’s award-winning lemon-meringue éclair.
Despite this huge range of innovative flavour combinations, Rob says he still likes the traditional éclair best.
“For me, I like the classic style with French chocolate custard and French coffee custard. These bring back the best memories for me but now the sky is the limit for flavours and we plan to explore many different styles and flavours over the next few years.”
Rob’s Family Choux Recipe
WHAT TO DO
1. Place water, milk, trend, sugar and salt in large pot and bring
to the boil.
2. Once boiled, add flour and mix with plastic spoon.
3. Continue to mix until roux stops sticking to the side of pot.
4. Place roux in hobart mixer with paddle attachment.
5. Mix on 1st speed until mix has cooled (bottom of bowl just warm).
6. Slowly add eggs, only adding new lot when last pour is not visible.
7. Once eggs are mixed in, pipe mix and cook in deck oven open damper.
TOP: 170 degrees for 60 minutes 5/5
MIDDLE: 175 degrees for 56 minutes 5/5
BOTTOM: 180 degrees for 52 minutes 5/5