Éclairs are inexpensive to make, freeze well and can be sweet or savoury filled and iced with a myriad of exciting combinations.
Éclairs are inexpensive to make, freeze well and can be sweet or savoury filled and iced with a myriad of exciting combinations. Experiment and taste, so start with coffee or chocolate. Drizzle the éclairs with contrasting icing – simple but delicious, it could then be feathered in a variety of pattern or personalised with a name or message.
Even sprinkles and hundreds and thousands add a fun element. Coarsely chopped nuts toasted or otherwise! A single chocolate button or dragée can give a contemporary look. The filling e.g. pastry cream can be flavoured. Flaked almonds, fruit and or berries sprinkled over the choux before baking or added to the filling or as a decoration on top.
There are lots of ways to add a crunch – mint crunch; honeycomb; praline or even crushed peppermints or candy canes (use peppermint essence in the icing). Lemon or passion fruit curd also work well. Green tea (use matcha powder) to flavour the icing, salted caramel, chestnut puree and rum all work well but just start experimenting and taste, share and wait for the reaction.
Note: Choux pastry does not include sugar so the filling needs to be appropriately sweet)
Preheat the oven to 230°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Make the choux pastry in the usual way (see recipe). Line a baking sheet with silicone paper and sprinkle with a few drops of cold water. Fill the choux pastry into a piping bag. Pipe the dough into 7.5-10cm (3-4 inch) strips, 4cm (1 1/2 inches) apart to allow for expansion.
Bake immediately in the preheated oven, for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to moderate oven 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6, for a further 15-20 minutes or until they are crisp and golden.
Remove the baking sheet onto the oven door, make a hole in the side of each éclair to allow the steam to escape, return to the oven and bake for approx. 5 minutes more. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make the chosen icing or icings.
Sweeten the whipped cream to taste with icing sugar and a dash of vanilla extract, put into a piping bag with a small nozzle. As soon as the éclairs are cold fill them with Chantilly cream through the hole where the steam escaped, (they can be split lengthways and filled either if you so choose). If the icing is too thick, add a little warm water, it should be of a thick coating consistency. Dip the tops into the icing and put onto a wire rack over a tray to catch the drips.
Éclairs are best served within 1 or 2 hours of being made. Note Sometimes instead of icing éclairs, we dip them, in caramel and cool on oiled trays or silicone paper. In the Marais in Paris a new patisserie ‘L’éclair de Génie’ (14 Rue Pavée, 75004, Paris 4) owned by Christophe Adam is dedicated solely to éclairs. Éclairs cost €4.50 - €5.00 each.
Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure the butter, water and sugar into a saucepan. Set over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter is melted. Bring just to the boil, then draw off the heat and pour at once into the sifted ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It will thicken as it cools.
Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make the icing the consistency of thick cream.
110g (4oz) icing sugar finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon 1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the lemon rind and enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.
Sieve the flour with the salt onto a piece of silicone paper. Heat the water and butter in a high-sided saucepan until the butter is melted. Bring to a fast rolling boil, take from the heat. (Note: Prolonged boiling evaporates the water and changes the proportions of the dough). Immediately the pan is taken from the heat, add all the flour at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan to form a ball.
Put the saucepan back on a low heat and stir for 30 seconds - 1 minute or until the mixture starts to furr the bottom of the saucepan.
Remove from the heat and cool for a few seconds. Meanwhile set aside one egg, break it and whisk it in a bowl. Add the remaining eggs into the dough, one by one with a wooden spoon, beating thoroughly after each addition. Make sure the dough comes back to the same texture each time before you add another egg. When it will no longer form a ball in the centre of the saucepan, add the beaten egg little by little. Use just enough to make a mixture that is very shiny and just drops reluctantly from the spoon in a sheet. Note: You may not need all of the reserved egg. If too much is added, the dough cannot be shaped. (Choux pastry dough should just hold its shape when it's piped).
Although the dough puffs up better if used immediately, choux pastry can be stored for up to 8 hours before baking. Rub the surface with butter while the dough is still warm so it doesn't form a skin. When cool, use as required or cover tightly and keep in the fridge until needed.
Recipe with thanks from Ballymaloe Cookery School.
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