“His eyes are peculiar. There is nothing in them, like an eclair without the cream filling. It’s wrong, lack of cream.”-Gail Carriger.
Eclairs are yet another culinary gift from the French to the world of desserts. These individual pastries are gorgeous tea time treats or dessert table additions . They have a crisp outer shell made of choux pastry , filled with a creamy or custard like filling and topped with a glaze. In the most basic , and may I say classic of its forms , the filling is a vanilla flavoured pastry cream or creme patisserie , and the glaze is that of chocolate ganache or a chocolate glacage .
This post is about “building on recipes” as one of my favourite bloggers Gretchen from Gretchen ‘s bakery would say ! I have already shared detailed posts on pastry cream, choux pastry and ganache. But when a few readers requested me for a classic eclair recipe, I thought why not just put it all in one place.
Now, this may seem like a bit of work but it’s more about planning a wee bit .The three components are pretty simple in themselves . Make the pastry cream the day before and make the choux shells the day you need to serve and make the ganache as the shells cool. Rest assured , all my recipes for the components are as simple as possible !
The contrasts of textures and glorious flavours is absolutely instant gratification of your sweet tooth in the one of the most sophisticated manners !
These oblong , pastry cream-stuffed little bites look chic and taste heavenly. The choux shells are crisp and light , the pastry cream is flavourful and none too sweet. And the chocolate is literally the icing on the eclair ! Ofcourse , eclairs come in all imaginable flavours , fillings and glazes. But this is the eclair at its most modest – Minimalistic but exemplary.
To make the pastry cream , whisk together the sugar , corn flour and salt in a saucepan. In another bowl, whisk together the milk and egg yolks until smooth. Pour the yolk -milk mixture into the sugar-cornflour mixture while whisking continuously. Add the butter and heat on medium heat while whisking continuously. Once the butter melts and mixture boils, lower flame and cook until custard thickens while stirring. Add vanilla , pass through a sieve into a clean bowl. Cover with cling wrap so that it touches the surface of the cream. Chill for atleast 2 hours.
To make the choux pastry , preheat your oven to 200 C/ 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or grease well. In a medium saucepan, heat the water and the butter. When the butter melts and it boils, stir in the sugar and salt. Add the flour and continue heating while stirring until a film appears on the bottom of the pan. This will take 2 to 3 minutes . Let cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one by one , mixing really well after each. The dough should be thick and hold a peak. Fill into a piping bag with a wide round tip or cut 1/4 inch off the tip of the bag. Pipe lines of around 3 to 4 cms about 4 cms apart. Bake at 400f or 200 c for 20 minutes , and then at 180 C or 350 F for 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from oven, poke a hole into each. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the ganache,chop the chocolate into small pieces. Heat the cream until it bubbles around the edges. Pour over chopped chocolate and stir until smooth.
To assemble , fill the pastry cream in a piping bag with a small tip. Poke a hole in one or both ends of the shell. Insert the tip and fill. Dip the tops of the filled eclairs in the ganache , shake off excess and let dry.
These are best served the same day but can be refrigerated for a couple of days. Get to room temperature before serving.
To keep the outer covering as crisp as possible 1)bake as directed at a high temperature and then at low temperature ,2) pierce a small hole in the shells as soon as they are out of the oven - this releases the trapped steam , 3) store in an airtight container as soon as they cool down after baking. 4) make them the day you want to serve and fill as close to serving as possible. Although once filled , a little sogginess won't trouble you as much . So dont fret over it !
For fancier looking pastries, slice each eclair shell in half and pipe the pastry cream on one half and top with the other half .
For an even simpler version , fill the shells with sweetened whipped cream and dust the tops with icing sugar.