Truth be told, I never liked éclairs. I didn’t understand the appeal. All of the éclairs I had sampled were stale on the outside, soggy on the inside, and covered with bland chocolate glaze on the outside.
I didn’t have high hopes for my first batch of homemade éclairs. I made them for my husband who has always loved them. I never expected to take the first bite and happily think to myself, “Is this what an éclair is supposed to taste like?”
Apparently, I didn’t dislike the éclair. Instead, I disliked what happened to an éclair that was forced to linger in a pastry case. Now I know the secret and always fill and top them right before serving. The end result is everything an éclair wants to be: crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and dressed with rich chocolate ganache.
After several modifications, this version is my family’s favorite. It uses my recipes for pastry cream and ganache from our favorite Boston Cream Pie. In fact, that may be why we all love it so much. While Boston Cream Pie takes the better part of a day to make, these éclairs do not.
Now that I have mastered freezing the pâte à choux before baking, I try to always keep them on hand. In less than thirty minutes, the taste of Boston Cream Pie can be on our farmhouse table. Then we can get on to the best part of the éclair: enjoying them together.
Boston Cream Pie Eclairs
4 ounces (8 Tablespoons) butter
8 ounces (1 cup) whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1 c (120 grams) All-purpose flour
4 large eggs
6 Tablespoons (72 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) All-purpose flour
2 large eggs
12 ounces (1 ½ cups) whole milk
1 pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ounces heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Position the racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper. Set aside.
Measure the flour into a small bowl. Crack all of the eggs into a bowl and set aside until they are needed.
Combine milk, butter, and salt in a medium sized pot over high heat. Monitor the mixture closely, stirring often, to avoid scorching. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the flour in one addition. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together to form a ball. Continue to stir continuously for two minutes until the dough is completely smooth and leaves a film on the bottom of the pot. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for five minutes.
Once the five minutes have elapsed, add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. With the addition of each egg, the dough will break. This is normal; rest assured that the dough will be perfectly smooth by the time the fourth egg is incorporated.
Using a pastry bag with a large round tip, pipe dough onto the prepared sheets in 1 1/2 inch by 4 inch strips. Transfer the baking sheets to the preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Rotate the baking sheets and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake 10 – 15 additional minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom.
Remove the baking sheets to a wire rack to cool completely. Pierce each éclair with a toothpick or skewer to allow steam to escape while cooling. This will allow the pastry to cool without deflating.
Meanwhile, prepare the pastry cream by combining 2 eggs with sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until completely smooth.
Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear. Remove the pan from the heat and ladle 1/2 cup of warm milk into the egg mixture. Whisk rapidly to temper the eggs and prevent them from scrambling. Add the egg mixture to the remaining warm milk in the saucepan. Return the pan to medium heat and whisk continuously until the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat.
Remove the pastry cream from the pan (straining if necessary to remove lumps) and place in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing it firmly against the cream mixture to prevent a skin from forming as it cools. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the ganache by warming the heavy cream in a small pan or in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add the chocolate and allow to rest for two minutes. Whisk to incorporate. When the cream and chocolate have become a satiny glaze, set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
To serve, the pastry cream can be added to a pastry bag with a large round tip. Place the tip in the end of the éclair and squeeze to fill. The éclair can also be split horizontally using a sharp knife before spooning the pastry cream over the surface of the bottom half and covering with the top half. Dress the filled éclair with the ganache. Serve immediately.
This dough can be frozen and baked directly from the freezer. Simply pipe dough onto a freezer paper lined pan. Place pan in the freezer until dough is completely frozen. Remove the dough from the freezer paper and store in a freezer bag until ready to use. To bake, simply place frozen dough directly on lined baking trays and bake as directed above. Frozen dough may take an additional 4-6 minutes of baking time.
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