These Vanilla Eclairs are a great French dessert, made from choux pastry, filled with cream and then topped usually with fondant icing. For topping there are many variations, but making a simple and quick chocolate ganache seemed just perfect for me.
For the choux pastry and pastry cream I’ve used the recipes from Sucre book I bought from Laduree last year when visited Paris. It is probably one of my favorite sweets book I have so far.
The recipe for choux pastry is the same as the one for profiterole (cream puffs) just that eclairs are piped in long strips. While baking they create a hole inside which allows filling after they cool enough.
Even if the recipe is quite easy it may take a bit of time and you need to pay attention to some important steps, otherwise something might get wrong.
When making eclairs it is important to know what you are looking for. The eclairs must not deflate due to improper baking, they must keep their shape even after removing from the oven as they need to be filled. You will know they are done when they are light and get a dark golden color. Good eclairs must not have very large cracks and when icing there should be a clear delimitation between the glaze on top and the rest of the pastry. The eclairs must be served the same day after filling to enjoy the different textures the cream and the pastry bring together.
With all these in mind I suggest you to try this vanilla eclairs recipe, it is a true delight and worth all the effort involved. Once they are done they will disappear in a matter of seconds, therefore the name “eclairs” which means flash of lightning as they are are eaten really fast:)
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Recipe adapted after Laduree: Sucre The Recipes
For the choux pastry
- 1 cup (125 g) flour
- 3.5 oz (100 ml) milk
- 3.5 oz (100 ml) water
- 2 tsp (10 g) sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 5 1/2 tbsp (80g) unsalted butter
- 4 eggs
Vanilla Pastry Cream
- 2 cups (480 ml) milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup (70g) sugar
- 1/3 cup (40g) cornstarch
- 1 tbsp (15g) unsalted butter
- 7 oz (200 g) chocolate (55-70 cocoa) , cut in smaller pieces
- 2/3 cup (155 ml) whipping cream
- First prepare the pastry cream to have it ready by the time the eclairs are baked.
- Whisk the egg yolks with sugar until slightly pale.
- Incorporate the cornstarch. Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour about a third of the hot milk over the egg yolks mixture. Pour the whole mixture into the saucepan over the milk. Bring to a boil while stirring and thickens. Keep enough over heat to cook all the cornstarch. Add vanilla extract.
- Pour the cream into a clean bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes then incorporate the butter while stirring. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent forming a skin on the surface. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
- Prepare the choux pastry. Sift the flour. In a saucepan bring the milk, water, sugar, salt and butter to a boil.
- Remove from heat and add flour all at once and incorporate mixing energetically with a wooden spoon until homogenous.
Return the saucepan over low heat and while stirring cook for 1 minute or two to pull out the moisture from the batter and until it pulls away from the sides of the pan. You will see some of the dough sticks to the bottom of the pan.
- Transfer batter to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Add the eggs one at a time, carefully incorporating each into the batter, using a wooden spoon or even a stand mixer. It will result in a smooth, homogeneous batter which still holds its shape.
- Fit a pastry bag with a large ½ inch (1 cm) round or star tip and pipe the dough into 4 or 5 inch (10 -12 cm) long strips on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Dust with powder sugar and bake for about 40 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, open the oven door slightly, about 1/8 inch (2-3 mm), to let the steam escape. Bake for the rest of 30 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar, until golden. (Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door ajar)
- Remove eclairs from the oven, prick each with a skewer to release steam and allow to cool on a wire rack. Poke 3 holes in the base of each eclair using a 1/4 inch (5-6mm) plain or star tip.
- Remove pastry cream from refrigerator and whisk until smooth. Transfer the pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with 1/4 inch (5-6 mm) plain or star tip.
- Fill the cooled eclairs by piping cream into the holes.
- Prepare the chocolate ganache. In a small saucepan, place cream over medium-low heat for a few minutes to get hot. No boiling or simmering needed. Remove from heat, pour over chopped chocolate and let rest for 1-2 minutes. Stir until dissolved.
- Dip the tops of the eclairs into the chocolate and allow to set. You won’t need all the chocolate but needs to be more to be able to dip them well.
- Eclairs are best eaten the day they are made but they keep quite well in the refrigerator overnight.