I have certainly eaten my fair share (and more) of French pastry, but I’ve always felt a bit intimidated about making it at home. I have usually had access to great French bakeries and thought it wasn’t really worth the effort. A friend of mine asked if I would make some chocolate eclairs for her – she had just been to Paris and wanted me to replicate a traditional eclair for her. I decided it was time, and to accept the challenge.
I started researching how to make pâte à choux and crème pâtissière and decided that I could do this (and if I can, so can you, trust me). The instructions here are very specific, but they are actually pretty simple. If you follow them exactly you should get great results. The creme does get very thick and it should – it needs to have substance or it can leak out or make the eclair too damp. There are varying opinions on whether you should open the door a bit during cooking, or leave it closed. I tried both ways, and I didn’t notice too much of a difference, but there was a little less deflating when I cracked the door open with a spoon. I didn’t want them to be too sweet – French pastry actually usually isn’t, so I didn’t add too much sugar to the pastry creme and used a dark chocolate for the glaze. You are welcome to add more sugar to the cream, and maybe 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to the glaze if you have an insatiable sweet tooth.
(This recipe was originally published here on 10/03/2013)
- for the pâte à choux:
- water - 1/2 cup
- whole milk - 1/2 cup
- butter - 1/2 cup (115g), cut into pieces
- sugar - 2 tsp
- salt - 1/2 tsp
- flour - 1 cup, sifted
- eggs - 4, large
- for the vanilla pastry cream:
- whole milk - 2 cups
- sugar - 1/2 cup
- egg yolks - 5
- flour - 2 tbsp
- cornstarch - 1/4 cup
- vanilla extract - 1 tsp
- butter - 2 tbsp
- for the chocolate glaze:
- heavy cream - 1/4 cup
- dark chocolate - 4 oz
- butter - 1 tbsp
for the pâte à choux:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
- Put the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. When it boils, remove it from heat immediately and stir in the sifted flour with a wooden spoon, stirring it in all at once and quickly, until the flour is incorporated.
- Put the pan back over the heat, and vigorously stir the dough, until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and no longer sticks to the spoon.
- Scrape the dough out into a bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, stirring constantly (or use a mixer with a dough hook attached) until the dough is glossy and smooth.
- Fill a pastry bag with a large plain tip and pipe out 8 4-5" lengths of dough.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C) and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon and bake for about 25 minutes more, until golden brown.
- Cool completely on a wire rack at room temperature.
for the pastry cream:
- While the eclairs are baking, in a medium saucepan, bring the 2 cups of milk to a boil over medium heat, then remove from heat.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together, until white and fluffy. Add the flour and cornstarch, and mix thoroughly until combined and smooth.
- Whisk in about ⅓ cup of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly as you pour it in. Whisk in the remaining hot mixture, then pour it back into the saucepan and cook again over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to boil.
- Stir in the vanilla and butter and allow to cool.
for the chocolate glaze:
- While the eclairs are cooling, put the cream, chocolate, and butter in a heat proof bowl over boiling water and as the chocolate melts, stir to combine.
- Fill a pastry bag with the pastry cream, and use a medium/small tip to pipe the filling into the eclairs. You can do this from the bottom, making two holes. Do not over-fill. (You can also cut the eclairs almost in half and just pipe the cream into the middle of them.)
- Dip the top of the eclairs into the still warm chocolate glaze, then set on a sheet pan and chill in the fridge for about 1 hour to set the glaze.