This recipe is in honor of Paris and all of the things we love about it.
Which includes éclairs.
For so long, éclairs were things relegated to the corner pastry shop or the dessert menu. Never did I think they would make their way into our home on a regular basis.
But then Jason enrolled me in that pastry seminar [as I mentioned before], and everything changed.
That’s not to say these things are easy to make. There are plenty of times along the way when all I can think is “Am I doing it right? Oh no. This doesn’t look like I remember.” But perseverance is key, because even if it doesn’t always look right, odds are it still tastes right. The looks come with practice.
And to practice, you’ll need the necessary tools, mainly pastry bags and piping tips.
Surprise! I don’t have either of these things. All I have is my mom’s cake decorating set from the 1970s and a box of durable Ziploc bags. And you know what? They work just fine [for now].
You also need the three main ingredients:
- Choux paste [the same used for gougères]
- Crème pâtissière [aka pastry cream]
- Chocolate glaze
We already covered the versatility of choux paste in our previous post, but instead of making gougères cheese puffs, you will be piping the plain paste to make the iconic vessels of the éclairs.
Here’s the play-by-play.
- With the choux, pipe using a large, plain piping tip (No. 5). Hold bag at a 45-degree angle with the tip about a 1/2-inch above the parchment paper. Squeeze bag and pipe logs that are 1/2-inch wide and 3-inches long [about the length of a finger].
- Egg wash the choux pieces twice. The first time penetrates the dough and the second time makes it shiny.
- Bake at 375 to 400-degrees for about 22 to 25 minutes until a dark brown color and very lightweight. For even color, rotate the tray after 18 minutes. Let cool once done.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pastry cream.
Note: Unfilled éclairs will last a couple of days in the fridge or up to a week in the freezer. So if you need to wait for another day to assemble them, no worries.
CRÈME PÂTISSIÈRE (PASTRY CREAM)
- 2 cups (16 oz) milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 Tbs. cornstarch
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Heat milk to a simmer in a non-reactive pan.
- Place egg yolks in a non-reactive bowl and gradually add the cornstarch and sugar. Note: sifting the cornstarch and sugar onto the eggs makes it easier to incorporate. Also, fun chemistry aside: sugar helps protect the eggs from scrambling!
- Gradually add simmering milk to egg mixture. Return mixture to pot and cook over medium heat.
- Stir continually with a whisk.
- Bring to a boil. Constantly stir and continue boiling over medium heat until the flavor of the starch is cooked out, about 5 to 7 minutes. The pastry cream will become very smooth and shiny. When it stops smelling like grits, taste it. You can’t overcook this stuff. Also, unless you have guns for days, best to have an extra set of hands on deck to help you whisk. This stuff gets thick, and 5 minutes can feel like an eternity.
- Strain into a clean bowl and chill over ice.
- Add vanilla when cream has cooled.
Finally, prepare the chocolate glaze.
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
- 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
- Melt all ingredients together over steam [in a bowl over a boiling pot of water].
- Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken slightly until ready to use.
With all of the ingredients prepared, it’s time to get fancy.
- First, we get to fill éclairs with the pastry cream. The vessels should technically be pretty hollow and ready to be filled. All you have to do is puncture one side with your pastry cream bag [re: cake decorating tip and Ziploc bag] and start filling. If you’re having trouble with it, feel free to fill from both sides.
2. Now glaze by placing the éclairs upside down into the chocolate glaze.
3. Repeat until you have a beautiful tray of éclairs ready for serving.
A little ode to Paris in bite sized perfection.
These tasty works of art will keep for several hours and will most certainly spoil your guests at your next dinner party, like any good pastry should.