I love my cat. I love him to pieces. I talk to him, probably more than I should. If he sneezes, I say bless you. I tell him to move his furry butt when he starts sniffing the desserts I'm trying to photograph. It's just my little kitty Ajax and I in my apartment and he's more like a (really adorable and super needy) roommate than just a pet.
But today, I did not love my cat.
Is that even possible? Yes. I didn't hate him or dislike him, I just.... I didn't love him for about an hour. I was mad. I'm trying not to make myself seem like a disappointed mother here.
My cat peed on my laptop.
It's not like he did it on purpose, so I can't really be super angry. He loves to sit on my laptop when it's open or closed. When I'm not using my laptop, it sits on the corner of my couch, closed. Ajax sits on it. Everything is good.
My smoke detector is really touchy. Even if theres no smoke, it goes off sometimes. I hate it. I actually disconnected it for a few months but then there was a fire inspection and I got in trouble for disconnecting it. This leads in to the cat peeing fiasco, just bear with my here.
So, I open the oven to put the choux pastry in and I notice that theres a teensy bit of smoke. Nothing major, but more than enough to set the stupid smoke detector off. Ajax hates the smoke alarm. He stays freaked out for a good hour or two after it as well. Being the good cat mother that I am, I want to avoid that.
I start fanning at the smoke detector with a dish towel. I forget that Ajax is scared of the noise the towel makes when I do this. I look over and he seems fine though, so I keep fanning, just in case.
I put the choux pastry in, I clean up a bit, and then I go to give Ajax a cuddle. His bum is a bit wet. Why is his bum wet?
No. No no no, please, no no. He didn't.
He did. He was so scared of the noise that he peed himself while sitting right on top of my laptop.
I took about half a roll of paper towel to that laptop in hopes that I could get all the pee off. Tried to turn it on - nothing. Put the blowdryer on low and tried to dry it out with that for half an hour - nothing. At this point, I was resigned to the fact that my laptop had shaken it's death rattle. In a last ditch effort, I have put my entire laptop in rice. We'll see how that turns out.
In the meantime, my wonderful boyfriend has lent me his Macbook, which is way better than my laptop anyways. Being the pro photographer he is, he has all the things I could possibly need for editing my photos, which is super.
Ajax knew he had done something wrong. He slunk away to a corner and just sat there for hours. Poor little guy. After about half an hour of being frustrated with him, I felt guilty and went and gave him some cuddles. He was just scared after all.
But still, my laptop.....
I honestly don't know how to transition from talking about cat pee to talking about maple eclairs.
Thankfully, the eclairs worked out great, otherwise I would've had the worst day ever. They're super tasty! Not exactly the usual springtime treat, but you need to change it up every so often.
Maple sugar is a bit tricky to find, depending on where you live. Whole Foods should have it, or any specialty baking or food stores. I would really really recommend using it. It's used in both the pastry cream and the glaze and adds a whole lot more maple flavour to the eclairs.
Maple Eclairs with Maple Sugar Glaze
Recipe from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook
Maple Pastry Cream
1/4 cup maple sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperture, cut into 4 chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon regular salt
Pâte à Choux
1 cup water
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon regular salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Maple Sugar Glaze
2/3 cup maple sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/8 teaspoon regular salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
First, make the pastry cream. Put the maple sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and use a whisk to combine. Add the egg yolks and whisk vigorously until well combined and the colour of the yolks pale slightly.
Meanwhile, combine the milk, cream, and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium-high heat and scald. Remove the saucepan from the heat and temper the yolks by adding a few ladles of the hot milk-cream mixture to the sugar-yolk mixture, whisking to combine. Then scrape all the sugar-yolk mixture from the bowl into the saucepan and place the pan back on the stove over medium-high heat. Return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. If, at any time, you think the pan is getting too hot and the pastry cream is in danger of scorching, lower the heat as needed or just move the pan on and off the heat, whisking steadily all the time.
When the mixture comes to a boil, allow it to boil for about a minute while whisking constantly and vigorously. The pastry cream should be very thick, like a thick pudding. When the pastry cream is thick, remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the pastry cream to a clean bowl.
Stir the pastry cream with a rubber spatula for a few minutes to cool it down to between 140 degrees and 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. It will no longer be scalding hot but will still be warm enough to incorporate the butter.
Transfer the pastry cream to the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse several times until all the butter is incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth. Then add the vanilla extract and the salt and pulse to combine.
Transfer the pastry cream to a clean bowl and place it over a bowl of ice water. Stir it occasionally until the pastry cream has cooled, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the pastry cream to chill completely before using, about 3 to 4 hours. It can also be made the day before.
For the choux pastry, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture comes to a full boil, add the flour all at once and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon to combine everything into a paste. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook for about one minute, until the dough dries out and starts to form a ball and come away from the sides of the pot.
Remove the dough from the saucepan and immediately transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the dough to give off steam and cool just slightly. Then, while beating on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, waiting for each egg to be incorporated before adding the next. When all the eggs are incorporated, beat on medium-high speed for a bout 1 minute more.
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 5/8-inch tip. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you want to make guidelines to follow so you all your eclairs are exactly the same length, draw 10 5-inch lines on a baking sheet and flip it over. The markings will still be visible, but there's no danger of getting ink on your eclairs.
Press gently and steadily on the pastry bag and pipe 10 eclairs that are 5 inches long onto the baking sheet, setting them a couple inches apart. I made my eclairs a little bit smaller and therefore was able to make about 20 eclairs. I used two baking sheets but only had one sheet in the oven at a time. If you have any little peaks left behind from the pastry bag, wet one finger and gently smooth the peaks down.
When all the eclairs are piped, turn the oven down to 400 degrees, put the pan in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Then, still without opening the oven door, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes. Then turn the oven off, but leave the eclairs in the turned-off oven for 20 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven. The eclairs should be an even golden brown and should feel light when you lift one up.
Remove the eclairs from the baking sheet and place them on a wire rack to cool to room temperature before filling.
When you are ready to fill the eclairs, put the filling in a clean pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain or star tip. Using the tip of a paring knife, make two slits about 1/4 inch in length in the top side of one eclairs, one near each end. Inserting the pastry tip into one slit and then the other, squeeze gently on the bag to fill the eclair. If necessary, clean off any excess drips of filling from the spots where you filled the eclair using a clean finger.
As each eclair is filled, place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, top side up. Continue until all the eclairs are filled, using up all the filling.
For the glaze, put the maple sugar and salt in a large bowl, then sift the powdered sugar on top. Set aside.
Put the cream and maple syrup in a small saucepan and warm gently over medium heat. You don't want the cream mixture to boil, but to get just warm enough to dissolve the maple and powdered sugars. Stir in the vanilla extract, then pour the cream mixture over the sugars in the bowl, whisking to combine everything until smooth.
Transfer the glaze to an appropriate container for dipping, such as a small loaf pan. Pick up each filled eclair and dip it top side down into the container of glaze so that the glaze comes halfway up the sides of the eclair. You can rock the eclair gently from side to side to get it well coated in the glaze. Lift the eclair out of the glaze, then tilt the eclair at an angle to one end so excess glaze can drip off, then tilt the opposite angle so excess glaze can drip off the other end.
Place the eclair, top side up, on a wire rack and continue until all the eclairs are glazed. Allow the eclairs to rest on the wire rack until the glaze sets and hardens, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.