Chocolate Éclairs

Pâte à chou. Say it with me, pah-ta-shoe. It’s the fancy French way of saying puff pastry, and until today, was my sworn enemy. It was the only thing which I could not get to come out right, no matter how many times I tried. For the past week or so, I’ve been crawling the net, looking for different recipes, and video tutorials, and finally felt that I could try again. My dad’s favourite dessert would finally be possible (I hoped…).

I used the éclair recipe from Joy Of Baking, which had a magnificently helpful video tutorial, but halved it, and these turned out pretty well! I was very pleased with myself 😛 The only thing is, I started these up before I was even fully awake this morning, and I grabbed the 1/3 cup instead of the 1/4 cup for the flour, so the dough was a little more paste-like than it should have been, but these worked out okay anyway. I had to cut tiny slits in the sides and leave them in the oven for another 10 minutes to dry them out a bit, but they still puffed up beautifully, and held up well with the cream.

Now, as you may have noticed if you’ve kept up with my posts and seen my pictures lately, I’m back home, on the sunny Caribbean island of Grenada, and that means that there are slight cooking limitations.  Like the fact that there hasn’t been any heavy cream or whipping cream on the island for a couple of months. While I was here over March Break, I volunteered in a French breakfast and lunch café, and the owner was having to call in favours from the grocery store managers to get some in so the restaurant could function (let me tell you how low-fat was not in the café’s vocabulary). Anyway, this made it quite hard to make traditional pastry cream, so I had to find a recipe which didn’t call for it. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked 🙂 I’ll include it, but I recommend the one from my Éclair Cake recipe (only half of it though), if you want the real deal. I like this one because it uses a whole egg, and not just yolks, and is a lot lighter feeling and tasting.

I also failed epically at the chocolate glaze because I only discovered after the fact that I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed for it, and tried to make something random with no success at all. None. It turned out to be a thin sticky mess, but it still tastes good! Use the glaze from the Éclair Cake recipe as well for this. It’s glossy and magnificent and super easy to do.

Essentially, this entire recipe is a big, fat, “Do as I say, not as I do!”

Enough of my ranting, let’s get to the recipe!

Ingredients:

Pâte à chou:

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp white sugar
  • small pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

This makes 9 small 2″ puffs, or 6 normal 3″ puffs.

Lightened up pastry cream:

  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 large egg (I mean it when I say large, people)
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Again, go for the glaze from my Éclair Cake recipe.

To make the pastry, begin by preheating your oven to 400 F.

Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, and set aside for a couple minutes, then put the butter and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring it to a boil.

Once boiling, remove it from the heat and add the flour mixture all at once, and stir it together with a wooden spoon until combined. Place the saucepan back on the heat, an stir the mixture constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick ball, which should take a minute or two.

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Move the dough ball to an electric mixer, or use an electric hand mixer, and beat on low speed to cool the dough down a bit, for about a minute. Once the dough is just warm to touch, start adding the beaten egg, a little at a time, and continue to mix until you’ve got a thick paste.

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If you have one, scoop the dough into a piping bag and pipe it in 2 inch lines onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat, but if you don’t, you can use two spoons to do the job. Get a little more than a table spoon of the dough on one spoon, then push it off and onto the baking sheet with the other.

Not gonna lie, I found a really great trick for filling a piping bag on Martha Stewart’s website, which is to cover the tip with foil or cling film, prop it in a glass, and fold the sides down, then scoop whatever you’re piping in. It works really well.

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I was too lazy, but I highly recommend brushing the puffs with an egg wash to make them more golden.

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Bake them in the preheated oven for 15 minutes to form the shell, then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for another 25 minutes, or until golden, to dry out the inside.

As aforementioned, I used a tiny bit too much flour and these didn’t dry out too well (which you can tell by inserting a wooden skewer to see if it comes out clean). If you have the same problem, cut small incisions in the sides with a sharp knife and put them back in the oven for five minute intervals until they dry out. No more than 10 minutes though. After that, remove them from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool.

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Let’s not judge me for the missing éclair. I had to test if they were okay because of the extra flour 😛

To make the pastry cream, whisk together the milk with the cornstarch in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until very hot and steaming, but not quite simmering. Whisk your egg together with your sugar in a bowl until well beaten. Slowly whisk in half of the hot milk mixture, adding it about 2 tablespoons at a time until incorporated. Stir the egg mixture into the saucepan of milk, and cook gently until thickens and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Set it aside to cool. *Watch this carefully guys! You don’t want scrambled egg bits in your pastry cream, so stir it constantly.*

Once your cream is well chilled (I threw mine in the freezer for a bit, covered with plastic wrap pressed against the top), scoop it into a piping bag and, using the smallest tip, pipe it into your éclairs. If you don’t have a pastry bag, cut the éclairs in half with a very sharp knife and spoon it on, then sandwich them.

To finish, dip your éclairs in your chocolate glaze of choice, then enjoy! You can eat them right away, or keep them in the fridge for a couple of days, or do what my dad (very weirdly) likes to do, which is freeze them. They pretty much turn into fancier, more of a pain in the butt, ice cream sandwiches. To each their own, I guess.

Seriously, please ignore my horrible glaze job, and just trust that I can actually make a decent one, just not this time. I’ll update y’all when I make these better next time!

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Even with all my epic fails today, these turned out pretty great. Mistakes in the kitchen aren’t the end of the world 🙂

-Happy cooking!

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