I am a firm believer in conquering your fears. Unless it’s a fear of spiders or heights. Spiders are just creepy, let keep it that way. And you people that have no problem leaning over the edge of the balcony when you are on the 33rd floor, well you’re the crazy ones. I’m going to survive life just fine never stepping foot on the 99th floor of the Willis Tower skydeck to look straight down at the street of Chicago. You can see the city just as well from the street. The End.
But their are some fear that are worth conquering. For me successfully making pâte à choux has been a fear for some time. Several failed attempts have only perpetuated this fear. And just the fact that it is a french pastry dough is intimidating.
The kicker is, it’s actually a really easy pastry dough to make once you figure it out. And finally I’ve got it figured out. And you can too!
My motivation to make the perfect éclair came from the last time I ordered an éclair. I was at this cute little French Patisserie getting lunch when I saw the éclairs behind the glass and knew I had to have one. With extreme anticipation I took a bite of the éclair before I even started my lunch. It was the only bite I took. The éclair was filled with a chocolate mouse, not the pastry cream that I was expecting.
In my extreme disappointment I decided to take things into my own hands and make the traditional éclairs with pastry cream. And the end result was everything I hoped for.
If you don’t have a French Patisserie around the corner it is worth taking the time to make these for yourself. Or I suppose you could share with others.
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Butter, Unsalted
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Cup Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the water, butter, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan. Place fo medium-high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, stirring well for a full minute. It should pull away from the sides of the pan and look like a dough.
Transfer the dough to your mixer. Beat on medium speed adding the eggs one at a time after each is incorporated. Once dough is mixed through spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
Line a large cookie sheet (or 2) with parchment or a silpat. Begin piping the dough on the sheets. Each should be about 5 inches and leave 2 inches between each so they have room to expand during baking. You should be able to get about 12 eclairs.
Make the egg wash by whisking together the egg and water. Brush over each eclair with a pastry brush.
Place eclairs in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake about 25 minutes more. They should puff and turn slightly golden in color. Remove from oven and let cool.
Once completely cooled fill with vanilla custard.
Vanilla Bean Custard Filling
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Vanilla Bean, sliced in half lengthwise
6 Egg Yolks
2/3 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Butter, Unsalted
Combine the milk and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Remove from heat and let cool, about 10 minutes. Then remove the vanilla bean.
In your mixer beat the egg yolks and sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the cornstarch and continue to mix. Start adding the milk a couple tablespoons at first to temper the eggs and not cook them. Then continue to add the milk with the mixer still running. Once combined strain the mixture through a sieve pan into the pan.
Place over medium high heat and continually whisking bring the mixture back to a boil. It should start to thicken. Once it reaches a boil immediately remove from heat. Stir in the butter. The pour into a heatproof bowl. Transfer to refrigerator to cool for an hour.
To fill the eclairs you can either slice each eclair and add a bit of cream or put the custard in a pastry bag with a small round tip. Using a straw poke a hole through the length of the eclair. Stick the pastry tip in the end of the eclair and pipe a small about of cream into each end.
1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
2 Tablespoons Coffee Liqueur (like Kahlua)
Heat the cream in a small sauce pan until just starts to boil. Remove from heat. Place chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour milk over chocolate chips and stir the chocolate until smooth. Let cool for a couple minutes and then add the liqueur. Let the chocolate cool and thicken. (Will cool faster in the refrigerator if you are ready to finish the eclairs.) Once thickened and cooled spoon over the tops of the eclairs. Let sit for 30 minutes to set.