Delicious Eclairs!

It’s no secret that I enjoy baked goods, particularly high quality ones!  I’ve always loved the combination of custard, pastry, and chocolate in Boston Creme Pie, Boston Creme donuts, and (best of all) eclairs!!  It never really occurred to me to try and make them myself until this past weekend.  Jeb and I had been working on the house consistently for a couple weeks and finally put the finishing touches on the main living areas.  Sunday morning, Jeb decided to sleep in, and I decided to bake!  As I started looking through my “Baking Illustrated” cookbook, intending to find a good recipe for Cinnamon Rolls, I came across a recipe for Eclairs!  First, I had to make the custard, followed by the puff pastry, and the glaze.

Pastry Cream

from Baking Illustrated

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

2.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch unitl combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

3.  When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours.

Cream Puff Pastry

from Baking Illustrated

  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg whites
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1.  Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Beat the eggs and egg white in a measuring cup or small bowl.  You should have 1/2 cup (discard the excess).  Set aside.

3.  Bring the butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice.  When the mixture reaches a full boil (the butter should be fully melted), immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan.  Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand, and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 minutes.

4.  Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly.  With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream.  When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.

5.  Using a pastry bag, pipe eight 5 by 1-inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart.  Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in a bowl of cold water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped strips.

6.  Bake 15 minutes (do not open the oven door), then reduce the oven temperature  to 375ºF and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8 to 10 minutes longer.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and use a skewer to poke small holes in the top of each eclair to release steam.  Return the eclairs to the oven and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon.  Dry the eclairs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist (not wet) and the eclairs are crisp, about 45 minutes.  Transfer the eclairs to a wire rack to cool.

The Glaze

  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Place the half-and-half and chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is combined.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely smooth.

To Assemble…

  1. With a paring knife, cut around the sides of each eclair to remove the top third.
  2. Dip the top of each eclair into the glaze, shaking off any excess, and transfer the tops to a wire rack to dry.
  3. Spoon 4-5 tablespoons of pastry cream into the bottom of each eclair.
  4. Once the glaze has set, set the tops on the eclairs and press gently to secure.
  5. Serve within several hours.

This recipe had several steps, but was not complicated.  This is definitely a recipe that I will be repeating, as I enjoyed these much more than any store/bakery-bought eclairs.  Jeb loved them too!

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