Hi friends, it’s Dori again.
Eclairs’ combination of light pastry, rich and impossibly-smooth pastry cream, and velvety chocolate glaze might be the most perfect combination in the entire universe of desserts. I’m not really that into sweets (it’s weird that I spend so much time making them, right?), but eclairs are my weakness.
If you are confused by my description of eclairs, it’s probably because you’ve been fooled by a major doughnut chain into thinking that eclairs are oblong yeast doughnuts filled with a sugary mixture of partially hydrogenated white goop and topped with something vaguely chocolate.
Add the mixture slowly and whisk until your arm hurts. And then stop whining and whisk some more.
You guys, no. It doesn’t have to be like that. Real eclairs are so much better.
And oh, the filling! Seriously you guys. The filling.
This is technically a custard because it’s a cooked cream that involves eggs (right Adam?), but I don’t care what you call it. It’s the best. If you attempt to make it at home, and you absolutely should, be sure to take your time.
Note from Adam: The French use the same word for cream and custard, crème, and then assign additional modifiers after the word to clarify which variety of cream or custard is intended. When there’s no thickening agent used other than eggs, the consistency determines whether you’re serving crème moulée (molded cream) or a thin crème anglaise.
The addition of starch makes crème pâtissière (pastry cream) designed to keep its shape without a vessel. And finally, let’s not forget our old friend crème bavaroise, better known to us as Bavarian cream, which is a custard thickened with gelatin.
I suppose I should also mention that while the British custard tart is crème moulée in a pastry shell, the British custard sauce–like the one for The Doctor’s fish fingers and custard–is actually thickened entirely with cornstarch and no egg. Alfred Bird, who brought the first instant custard powder to market, was trying to make a variation for his wife, who had an egg allergy.
You’ll notice that the recipe requires you to add a hot liquid to eggs. I don’t know if you have much experience with eggs, but when they get hot, they become scrambled eggs and that’s not what we’re going for here. Add the mixture slowly and whisk until your arm hurts. And then stop whining and whisk some more.
(Full disclosure, I’ve never actually measured how much of anything I use to make the chocolate glaze. I just… mix stuff. Sorry!)
One last note about the pâte à choux: I used sugar in this recipe because I like a little sweetness for eclairs. You can absolutely leave it out and use the shells for something savory. I’ve made small puffs and used them for pulled pork and chicken salad.
Oh, and if this recipe looks too involved for you, you can always order them from kat&dori and I’ll do all the work!
From Yesterdish’s recipe box.
Pâte à Choux
1 c. water
6 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. sugar
5-3/4 oz. flour
pinch of salt
1 c. eggs
2 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar [divided in 1/4 c.]
2 Tbsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. butter
1 c. powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. corn syrup or honey
Pâte à Choux: Boil water, butter, sugar. Whisk flour and salt. Remove water mixture from heat; add flour and salt. Mix until smooth dough forms.
Transfer to bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium for two minutes. Add eggs one at a time.
Pipe or scoop onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes; lower heat to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and pierce with a sharp knife.
Pastry Cream: Heat milk, vanilla, 1/4 c. sugar in a large saucepan. In a large bowl, mix egg yolks, 1/4 c. sugar salt, and cornstarch to form a smooth yellow mixture.
Once mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat. Add the liquid to the eggs, 1/2 c. at a time, whisking constantly. Transfer mixture back to the saucepan. Cook until thick.
Transfer thickened mixture back to stand mixer. Beat on medium low. Add butter. Chill.
Chocolate Glaze: Combine sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup/honey. Add water.