Eclairs

It is no secret we are eclair lovers and that we love smooth custard cream encased in a buttery pate choux and covered in chocolate glaze.

Have you seen the prints and book, Paris vs. New York, A Tally of Two Cities, by Vahram Muratyan? So fantastic.We are waiting for a print to compare eclairs and doughnuts, however the one with patisserie versus pastrami is a great comparison.

We have tasted the eclairs at Bouchon Bakery, Bread and Chocolate, Cafe Fleuri Chocolate Buffet at Langham Hotel, ChocoLee Chocolates, Lady M Cake Boutique and Zaftigs Delicatessen. All of them different in their own right and delicious for different features and characteristics.

We prefer a combination of custard and whip cream, lightly fluffy and has a hint of custard. We made the traditional version with chocolate glaze and the best new lazy variation, custard cream filled eclairs with nutella on top.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, Cooks.com and Ina Garten

Pate a Choux (Cream Puff Pastry)

  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ~ Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose sifted flour (Be sure to sift the flour after measuring.)
  • 4 extra-large eggs

Make the puffs: Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded. When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan.

Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor (or hand mix) fitted with the steel blade. Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe in mounds 1½ inches wide and 1 inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have about 18 puffs or eclairs.

With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff. (You can also use two spoons to scoop out the mixture and shape the puffs with damp fingers.)

Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. Set aside to cool.

Paste can be transferred to bowl, surface covered with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray, and stored at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

Filling and Glaze

  • 1 recipe Custard Cream Filling (recipe follows)

* Be sure the pastry cream is thoroughly chilled before filling the pastries

Glaze:
  • 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. hot water

* The chocolate glaze should still be warm when glazing the eclairs.

1. For the pastry: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking sheet with vegetable oil spray and line with parchment paper.

2. Fit pastry bag with 1/2 inch plain tip and filll with warm pate a choux. Pipe pate a choux into eight 5 by 1-inch logs, spaced about 1 inch apart. Use back of teaspoon dipped in cold water to even out shape and smooth surface of logs.

3. Bake pastries for 15 minutes (do not open oven door), then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm (pastries should not be soft and squishy), 8 to 10 minutes longer.

4. Remove baking sheet from oven and cut 3/4 inch slit into side of each pastry with small knife to release steam. Return pastries to oven, turn off oven, and prop oven door open with handle of wooden spoon. Dry pastries in turned-off oven, until center is just moist (not wet) and surface is crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer pastries to wire rack to cool. (Cooled pastries can be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours or frozen in zipper-lock bag for up to 1 month. Re-crisp room-temperature pastries in 300-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or frozen pastries for 8 to 10 minutes.)

5. For filling and glaze: Using a 1/4-inch tip of a pastry bag or use tip of small knife to cut 3 small Xs along top of each pastry. Fit clean pastry bag with 1/4-inch plain tip and fill pastry bag with pastry cream. Pipe pastry cream into pastries through each X until eclairs are completely filled.

6. Microwave chocolate at 50 percent power for 30 seconds until it melts. Whisk in butter, powdered sugar and hot water. Gradually whisk in sugar until smooth. Transfer eclairs to wire rack set over sheet of parchment (for easy cleanup) and spoon warm glaze evenly over tops, being sure to cover holes. Let glaze set, about 20 minutes before serving. (Filled and glazed eclairs can be stored at room temperature for 4 hours.)

Custard Cream Filing:
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
  • 2 c. whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat. Stir a small amount of hot milk mixture into egg yolk. Add egg yolk mixture to remaining hot milk mixture in saucepan. Stir over low heat another 2 minutes. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Cool. Whip the cream and powdered sugar to make unsweetened whip cream; fold into cool custard. Makes enough to fill 10 large eclairs or 20 smaller eclairs.

Lazy variation: Slice the eclair in half and pipe the custard cream into the center. Sandwich the eclair and spread nutella on top.

Alternative filling: Sweetened Whipped Cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

Whip 1 cup heavy cream in mixing bowl with wire whip until almost stiff. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla and finish beating until stiff.

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