I do believe I promised recipes to accompany my Pastry Crawl so that those of you not in Paris can enjoy along with me. With the exception of Christophe Adam, French bakers in general adhere very strictly to the rules of éclair making: e.g. If it’s a chocolate éclair, it has chocolate filling and chocolate icing. If it’s a coffee éclair, it has coffee filling and light brown, hopefully coffee-flavored icing. Rarely is it anything else. And yet, in the United States, a chocolate eclair is almost always filled with vanilla pudding (yes, pastry cream is hardly more than a fancy name for pudding (in the American sense. Don’t make me open the British pudding can of worms.)) and glazed with chocolate. So I suffer none of these compunctions, instead viewing the éclair as a canvas for whatever flavor combination strikes my fancy. On this particular occasion, inspired in part by a recent post on Not Without Salt extolling the virtues of butterscotch pudding, I chose to make my filling butterscotch.
I am admittedly out of practice piping éclairs, my muscle memory being confused between the lusty behemoths we used to make in the States and the skinnier, more uptight ones I became accustomed to making in Paris. You can see examples of both in the above photo, insert fat American joke here.
Let it be noted that the fatter an éclair is, the greater the cream-to-pastry ratio. Do with that what you will.
You will note that instead of a sterile little stripe of glaze, I opt to coat the whole éclair. Glazing is obviously the most fun part. After eating, I mean.
This recipe kind of looks like a monster, but much of it is doable in advance, so don’t let that put you off. About halfway through making these – specifically the part where I was piping the filling into the éclairs – I was cursing and swearing and thinking “now I remember why I hate making éclairs.” But the love of eating them always overcomes the momentary frustration of having yet another blowout, because really, all that means is you have to lick your finger off and keep going. (Note: I am semi-maniacal about hygiene in the kitchen, and would NEVER do this at work. At home I do, but still run to the sink to wash my hands before proceeding.)
What is an éclair but a template, really? Choux pastry, filling, glaze. Though I’ve never seen such a thing in a French bakery, I wanted a butterscotch-filled éclair. Glazed in honey-scented chocolate. I encourage you to make these, because they’re scrumptious, but if butterscotch isn’t your thing, just use granulated sugar in place of the dark brown sugar in the pastry cream. It occurs to me that these would be great topped with crushed salted peanuts, almonds, or hazelnuts. Just sprinkle them on top before the glaze hardens.
For the pastry cream:
17 fl. oz. / 500 ml milk
½ vanilla bean
3.5 oz. / 100 g dark brown sugar
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1.5 oz. / 45 g cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1.75 oz. / 50 g unsalted butter
½ tsp. vanilla extract
8.5 fl. oz. / 250 ml cream
2 tsp. granulated sugar
- Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk. Throw in the vanilla pod and heat over medium heat until simmering.
- Meanwhile, combine the sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk to get rid of any lumps. Whisk in the eggs and yolks.
- When the milk simmers, temper in the eggs and sugar by pouring a little of the hot milk into the bowl. Whisk to combine, then pour this mixture back into the saucepan. Continue cooking – you may want to lower the heat a bit – whisking constantly, until the pastry cream boils for 3-5 minutes, or about the length of a song on the radio. This is to ensure that the raw flavor is entirely cooked out of the cornstarch.
- Scrape the hot pastry cream into a clean bowl and beat in the butter and vanilla extract. (You can also do this on a stand mixer with the paddle attachment if your arm is tired.) Stir until it has cooled a bit, press plastic wrap to the surface to cover, and refrigerate until fully chilled. This can be done up to three days ahead of time.
- When the pastry cream is cold, beat it again to smooth it out. Whip the cream to soft peaks with the sugar and another dash of vanilla if you see fit and fold into the pastry cream. This is your crème diplomate, which you will use to fill the éclairs.
For the choux pastry:
4.25 fl. oz. / 125 ml milk
4.25 fl. oz. / 125 ml water
3.75 oz. / 110 g unsalted butter
5 oz. / 140 g pastry flour (or half cake flour, half all-purpose flour)
1½ tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. fine sea salt
5 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C.
- Heat the milk, water, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When it boils, add the flour, sugar, and salt all at once and stir with a wooden spoon, still on the heat, until the dough forms a ball and leaves a film on the bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside to cool briefly.
- When the dough is no longer hot enough to cook the eggs, begin adding them in one at a time, beating well between each addition. When all are incorporated the dough should be a smooth, pipable consistency. (See this post for step-by-step pictures.)
- Using a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe out log shapes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can simply pipe them straight, or for more volume, make an S-shape on top of itself, starting and ending in the middle of the éclair.
- Bake until the pastries are puffed, golden brown, and the beads of moisture have evaporated from the sides.
- Once cool, the éclair shells can keep for up to 2 days in a plastic bag or airtight container. Alternatively, baked pâte à choux freezes brilliantly, so you can keep these in the freezer for up to two months if they’re well wrapped.
For the ganache glaze:
5 oz. / 140 g dark chocolate, 65-70%, chopped
1.75 oz. / 50 g unsalted butter
8.5 fl. oz. / 250 ml cream
2.5 oz. / 70 g honey
pinch sea salt
- Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl.
- Bring the cream, honey, and salt to a boil.
- Pour half the cream into the chocolate and stir until as smooth as possible. Add the rest of the hot cream and stir until all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
To assemble the éclairs:
- If you haven’t already, prepare the crème diplomate. Poke holes in the choux pastry, either one on each end or three evenly spaced on the bottom. Use a skewer or something similar to hollow out the éclair.
- Using a piping bag with a small round tip, fill the éclairs. When you feel them start to bulge in your hand, or see filling coming out the other holes, you know they’re full. It’s really not as hilarious as it sounds.
- Place the filled éclairs on a wire rack over a clean rimmed baking sheet. Ladle the warm ganache over the éclairs to coat them. Allow the ganache to set for a minute before removing the éclairs to a plate or tray. You can scrape up the ganache and use it to glaze more éclairs as long as it’s still fluid. Alternatively, you could dip the tops of the éclairs into the ganache to just coat the top. It’s less messy, but not as decadent and fun.
- Chill the éclairs until the ganache is set. They’re best within the first few hours of being made, but will keep up to two days in the fridge. After the first day the ganache will start to crack, but they’re still safe (and tasty) to eat.
Makes about 15 medium-sized éclairs.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.