This past Friday, I was supposed to attended a short course at Le Cordon Bleu to learn to make choux pastry and eclairs, but unfortunately the class was cancelled at the last minute. I was a little bummed out, but decided that with some research and experimentation, I could figure it out for myself. I’m not going to lie, it took quite a few attempts to get the choux pastry right, but after a full day in the kitchen (which looked like a tornado had passed through by the end of the day), I had it figured out! I made these with a classic vanilla pastry cream filling and chocolate glaze, but you could get pretty creative here with fillings and glazes. Also, some sources that were pretty useful (though I didn’t use anyone else’s recipe) were Meilleur du Chef, 750g, and the book Choux: Chic and Delicious French Pastries.
makes 8 eclairs
for the choux pastry;
100 g flour (use T55 in France)
50 g butter
50 g milk
75 g water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
100 g egg, whisked (this is about 1.5 – 2 eggs)
for the filling;
3 egg yolks
75 g sugar
35 g corn starch
2 teaspoons vanilla
300 g milk
for the chocolate glaze;
60 g bittersweet chocolate
30 g heavy cream
30 g white corn syrup
10 g butter
For the choux pastry;
Preheat the oven to 200°C (~400°F), and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Weigh out the flour, sift it, and set it aside. Combine the butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt in a small pot, and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. You don’t want it to boil completely, but you do want it steaming with small bubbles starting to form.
Remove the pot from the heat, dump in all the flour in one go, and stir it all together. The contents should all come together in a ball and pull away from the sides of the pan. (Though if it doesn’t, just place the pot back on the heat, and stir vigorously until it does).
Put the ball of pastry into a new bowl, and stir in the egg in two batches. The addition of the egg will make it separate, but just keep stirring until it comes back together and is nice and smooth. The result will be a thick paste (which should hold its shape when piped).
Transfer the pastry dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm (~½”) round tip. Pipe eight lines of pastry onto the prepared baking sheet, each about 12 cm (~5″) long. Use a wet finger to smooth out any lumps or bumps.
Bake for 5 minutes at 200°C, then reduce the oven temperature to 170°C (~340°F) and bake for another 20 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the oven off, and crack the door open, but leave the eclairs inside for 10 minutes more (to ensure they don’t cool too quickly and collapse). Then place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and allow the pastries to cool completely.
For the filling;
In a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, and vanilla, and set it aside.
In a small pot, heat the milk until it is steaming and hot to the touch. Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, while whisking constantly.
Fill the pot with water, and bring it to a simmer. Set the bowl over the pot of water, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened substantially into a custard. Once it has thickened, remove the bowl from the pot, and give it a quick whisk, just to ensure it’s nice and smooth. Cover the filling with plastic wrap, so that the wrap is completely in contact with the surface of the filling (to prevent it from forming a skin), and let it cool to room temperature before using.
Fill the eclairs;
To prepare the eclairs for filling, use a piping tip with a ½ cm (~¼”) opening to cut 3 holes in the bottom of each pastry. Make sure the hole goes all the way through the bottom of the pastry and into the hollow part inside.
Use a piping bag fitted with the same tip to squeeze the custard filling in through each of the holes. If a little filling comes back out through the hole, just wipe it away after with a paper towel.
Make the chocolate glaze;
Combine the chocolate, cream, and corn syrup in a microwaveable container. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted and combined. (This only took 60 seconds total for me). Add the butter and salt, and stir until smooth.
Place the glaze in a shallow bowl, and dip the top of each eclair into the glaze. Shake it slightly to remove any excess, and place the eclair aside to allow the glaze to set up.
Eclairs for everyone! :)