It was Francis of Assisi whose preaching inspired Chiara to leave her home on Palm Sunday, 1212, when she was eighteen years old and to give her life to Jesus. She begged Francis to let her live according to the spirit of his newly founded religious order. Francis gave Clare a brown garment with a veil to wear and cut off her hair. She was sent to reside with the Benedictine Nuns. Her unhappy parents tried to bring her home, but she would not leave. When St. Francis rebuilt San Damiano church he offered Clare a small house beside it. Soon other young women, including her sister Agnes, joined her. Like Clare they desired to live a life of poverty and silence out of love for Jesus. In 1216 Clare was made the abbess of her order, called the Poor Ladies. She embraced fully the virtues and strict vows of Francis. She refused any attempts at watering down the Franciscan rule of life by others, even popes! Clare embraced radical poverty, suffered an illness for thirty years, and yet was filled with a spirit of love and joy as a bride of Christ. She died on August 11, 1253. On August 12, Pope Alexander IV offered the White Mass for Virgins in her honor. Two years later she was canonized. After her death the order she founded became known as the Poor Clares.
The beautiful painting of St. Clare above, I found on Dom Mark Daniel Kirby's Vultus Christi Blog. Dom Kirby is the prior of Silverstream Priory in Ireland. To learn more about this new Benedictine foundation dedicated to praying for priests go to http://www.cenacleosb.org
St. Clare was Italian,and there are many Italian dishes and desserts to celebrate her feast day. However I am choosing to prepare eclairs for her feast. It is a bit of a play on the sound of her name, Clare, eclair, but it is also a dessert that we associate with special occasions. A saint's feast day is always a special occasion. It is the day that we celebrate their entry into heaven and honor them for their heroic virtues. We can ask them for favors, too! In St. Clare's case, we honor her for her complete and perserving embrace of radical poverty for the love of Christ. There is nothing wrong with material goods. In fact, we need a certain amount of things to live. St. Francis and St. Clare, though, were called to leave their wealthy families and embrace a poverty that imitates the poverty of Our Lord, who tells us, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Luke 9:58). So let's celebrate St. Clare for her love and fidelity to lady poverty and the founding of a great religious order. Today the Poor Clares number about 20,000 throughout 70 countries in the world! St. Clare is the patron of television and television writers.
RECIPE FOR ECLAIRS
This recipe is taken from the Food Channel. It does take some time, but the results are scrumptious. You can simplify by putting the dough in a bundt pan and baking it, rather than making individual eclairs. When it is done and cooled, cut the pastry horizontally, take off the top portion, and fill the bottom with the cream. Place the top of the pastry back on, then drizzle the chocolate glaze over it. The presentation is impressive! If you like the idea of eclairs but do not have the time to make them, nothing is wrong with going out and buying some! Enjoy!
- 2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 6 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
- 1 cup water
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs, plus 1 extra, if needed
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons water
Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the saucepan. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.
Pastry: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, add 3 eggs, 1 egg at a time. Stop mixing after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining 1 egg and mix until incorporated.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe fat lengths of dough (about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog) onto the lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. You should have 8 to 10 lengths.
Egg Wash: In a bowl, whisk the egg and water together. Brush the surface of each eclair with the egg wash. Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps of points of dough that remain on the surface. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet. Fit a medium-size plain pastry tip over your index finger and use it to make a hole in the end of each eclair (or just use your fingertip). Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe thecustard into the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside (don't stuff them full).
Glaze: In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm. The glaze can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, and rewarm in a microwave or over hot water when ready to use.
Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze and set on a sheet pan. Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set the glaze. Serve chilled. Recipe by Gale Gland“Butter Sugar Flour Eggs” by Gale Gand, Rick Tramonto, Julia Moskin, Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, 1999
If you are interested in learning more about the Poor Clares, here is a wonderful book you will enjoy reading by Mother Mary Francis. You can purchase it from Ignatius Press, www.ignatius.com It was written when Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. was a young religious in Roswell, New Mexico
Prayer to St. Clare
O Glorious St. Clare! God has given you the power of working miracles continually, and the favor of answering the prayers of those who invoke your assistance in misfortune, anxiety, and distress. We beseech you, obtain from Jesus through Mary His Blessed Mother, what we beg of you so fervently and hopefully, (mention your petition) if it be for the greater honor and glory of God and for the good of our souls. Amen.