The messy, but finished product
This is one of those things that I’d long ago pegged as much to hard. Too many elements, too much to go wrong, and without a stand mixer, just too tricky. Then of course I got my beautiful KitchenAid and realised, that perhaps….perhaps it was time to quietly have a go. And I mulled over that for a little while, and let my fingers itch with anticipation of tackling something new.
Then, one of the blogs I follow made them, and made it look easy. So I cleared my weekend, bought the ingredients I was missing, and made my first attempt.
Which went in the bin before I made the crème patisserie.
What I was missing was a calm, patient hand when piping the pastry. I also need to adjust the bake time, as it was devastatingly to short.
Then I had pastry shells which, while still having room for improvement, were definitely acceptable for a first attempt.
Second attempt at the pastry
Then I found a white chocolate crème patisserie. So simple, so easy, and the chocolate ganache almost made itself. Added bonus? Mixing the left over ganache and crème patisserie into my ice cream maker for another day. All kinds of delicious.
These babies have an extraordinarily short shelf life. So try to make them the day you want them. That being said, I made them Sunday, and ate the last one Thursday, and it was ok.
Chocolate E’Clairs – from zoebakes.com
make the crème patisserie (white chocolate pastry cream) first.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 6 large egg yolks (freeze your whites for another bake)
- 1/2 cup castor sugar
- 1/4 cup cornflour
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or a vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into smallish pieces
- 2 tablespoons white rum (optional)
- 6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
In a pan, heat the milk and half the castor sugar over a medium heat until simmering. In a separate bowl combine the yolks, remaining sugar, cornstarch and salt.
Once the milk has come to a simmer, ladle a small amount out (I used a 1/4 cup for this) and whisk it into the egg mixture to warm it up. This prevents the eggs from cooking too quickly. Keep doing this until the mixture is warm to touch, then whisk the whole lot into the pot of milk.
Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil, whisk it vigorously for about 3 minutes so that you are sure to cook the cornflour. Whisk in the vanilla, rum and butter until its smooth.
Place in a large bowl and immediately whisk in the chopped white chocolate.
Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled.
Pâte à choux (cream puff dough)
Makes quite a lot, so have plenty of hungry mouths ready when you’re done.
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon castor sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
- 4 large eggs, room temperature if possible
Preheat the oven to 425oF. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a rapid simmer. Dump the flour in all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon over a low heat. Because I cook with a dodgy electric stove top, I had two elements going, one on a medium heat to get everything to a simmer, and another on a low heat that I swapped to once the flour was added.
The dough will come together as a smooth ball and the bottom will have a skim of dough stuck to it. This happened faster than I thought it would. Remove the dough from the pot, and place in the bowl of your stand mixer. Which should be fitted with your paddle attachment. Beat well in between adding each egg individually. Depending on your mixer you may need to scrap the sides of the bowl down between eggs.
Once it comes together as a smooth paste and is thick enough to hold its shape, then you’re all ready for piping.
My cheap disposable pastry bags didn’t come with a nozzle large enough, so I just cut the end of the bag of at a point that suited me. The trick I’ve found is to pipe SLOWLY, this is not a raise. Push as much dough into each pastry shell as you can along about a 3 inch line on your parchment paper. They’ll spread sideways a little, but you don’t need to leave miles of room.
This is where I varied from the original recipe. I baked my eclairs for 15 minutes at the high temperature, then I dropped it to 375oF for the next 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them, everyone’s oven is different, and my first attempt using the lower temp, and a much shorter cook time was a complete fail. When you drop the temp, rotate your trays and swap shelves.
Once baked, let them cool to room temperature.
This ganache never sets hard like tempered chocolate, so don’t expect it to crack when you bite into your eclair.
- 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
- 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
Heat the cream to a simmer. Add the chocolate, swirl the pan to cover the chocolate with the cream and allow to sit for 2 minutes.
Gently stir the cream and chocolate together. You don’t want to whip too much air into it or it won’t be smooth and shiny.
Assemble your eclairs
Cut your eclair pastry shells open along the side with a sharp knife.
Gently stir the pastry cream and pipe it into the pastry shells. Don’t be stingy here!
Dip into the ganache, or paint on and refrigerate until ready to eat.