Well, I got ambitious in the kitchen last month… now I’m trying to kick this sweet tooth that’s set in! I found a few good recipes for French éclairs, and decided to combine them here for you in one simple version in honor of Eclair Week which just ended.
This recipe takes an afternoon in the kitchen, but if you’re like me and appreciate that time as a zen, near-meditative moment, I highly encourage you giving these éclairs a try! You’ll end up with 15-20 éclairs.
I made the pastry cream first and then set it in the fridge until I was ready to use it, and I recommend this as the best way. You can even make the pastry cream a day or two in advance, to save on time.
I also topped these éclairs with a chocolate glaze (that’s why the frosting looks so shiny and spectacular!). However for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to recommend simple melted chocolate instead. If you do want the glaze recipe instead, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email through the Contact page!
Here we go….
PASTRY CREAM (filling)
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
5 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut in chunks
¼ cup whipping cream
1. Pour milk into pot over medium heat. Split vanilla been in half lengthwise with a sharp knife, and scrape those seeds right into the milk. Mmm!
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt.
3. Once vanilla milk (vanillk?) has come to a soft simmer, take it off the heat. Whisking egg mixture constantly, gradually add milk, a ladle at a time, to the egg mixture until all the milk has been added. Pour mixture back in pot and return to medium heat.
4. Whisking vigorously, bring mixture back up to a simmer. Thanks to our friend cornstarch, the pastry cream will thicken pretty quickly (4-5 minutes). Once it does, remove from heat and strain (this is key to a silky smooth filling, though you can skip it to save on time).
5. Stir in butter (this will help halt the cooking process). Cover surface of pastry cream with plastic wrap and chill completely.
6. Once chilled (probably after you get your éclairs in the oven), in a separate bowl whip your whipping cream to medium/stiff peaks and fold into chilled cream. Pop back in fridge with plastic wrap until ready to use
Pretty easy, huh? Let’s get to the dough, the body of the French éclair!
CREAM PUFF DOUGH
½ cup (125g) whole milk
½ cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1. In a large saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil.
2. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once (this is important – don’t add it in stages), reduce the heat to medium and stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough will come together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to.
3. Continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes to dry the dough – it should be very soft and smooth.
4. Transfer the dough into a large bowl and continue mixing (either by hand or with a paddle/dough attachment of an electric mixer). Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg to incorporate it into the dough.
5. After you have added the first egg, you’ll see the dough separate… don’t worry, just continue mixing and it will come back together by the 3rd egg or so. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon. Mine was a bit too dry so I actually added another egg.
6. Pour dough into a piping bag or a large ziplock back with a corner cut out. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, pipe the dough into strips, about 4-5 inches long and 1-1.5 inches thick.
7. Put éclairs into a preheated (375 F, 190 C) oven and bake for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, slip handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep it ajar and bake another 5 minutes. Rotate baking sheets top to bottom and front to back, and bake (oven closed) for another 8 minutes. Eclairs should be golden, puffed, and firm!
Now that you’ve got the pieces, let’s put them together…
1. Fill a piping bag with pastry cream. With a nice long nozzle, poke the bottom of the éclair and squeeze in some pastry cream. Give her a good squeeze! Repeat 2 more times.
2. Alternatively, you can cut the éclair in half lengthwise and spoon a mound of pastry cream on the bottom layer.
3. Heat some dark chocolate until melted and pour into a shallow bowl. Dip the top half of the éclairs into the chocolate, shake slightly to remove extra chocolate, and set right-side up (careful!) on a plate.
4. If you’ve cut the éclairs in half instead, just dip the top half into the chocolate before setting it back on the cream-filled bottom half.
5. I decorated my éclairs with fresh raspberries and some sugar beads… but the sky’s the limit in terms of decoration.