French Food 101: Debunking the myth that it has to be over complicated: Episode 2: Pastry: Eclairs
Updated: Feb 3
Flash Back Summer of 1999... just graduated HS, decided on a college for the fall, chopped off my hair to exert my new found independence and had an upcoming out of the country trip with just two of my best girlfriends (We'll circumvent the fact that the "independence" factor was kind of jaded due to the fact that my trip that summer to the city of love and croissants was wholly funded by my wonderful parents). To the dismay of my waistline let me just point out that in France there is a bakery on every corner beckoning you to come in and try their pastry, their fresh warm baguette or croissant and their take on marzipan fruit...and I gladly willingly and gluttonously indulged in it every time (along with the occasional liters of ice cold Amstel and cheese plates). So here's to you Metz France and your delicious pastry and my humble attempt to mimic. (recipe courtesy of "Artisan Patisserie for the Home Baker" by Avner Laskin, this book for the home baker is an oldie but goodie that I've had for 20+ years ):
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
Pastry Cream (crème patisserie) recipe:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (good stuff)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
One beaten egg
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter to boiling point. Add flour and stir constantly until mixture is smooth and forms a ball when tested in cold water. Remove from heat transfer to an electric mixer and beat on low speed for 3 mins to cool slightly. Beat in 4 eggs, one at a time. Cover w/ plastic wrap and let chill for at least 30 mins in the fridge before using. Place the paste in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/3 inch round tip. Pipe 4inch strips onto the baking sheet leaving about 1/2 inch between strips. Brush the strips w/ the beaten egg. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until light brown. Set aside to cool.
Ready a pastry bag fitted with a 1/3inch round tip. Prepare cream by combining milk, 1/4 sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and cornstarch in another bowl until smooth. Once milk has boiled reduce heat and slowly add egg mixture whisking constantly until mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat, cool and add vanilla. Fill bag with cream. Hold Éclair in palm of your hand with the side that touched the baking sheet facing up. Stick the tip in close to the bottom edge and pipe in the filling just until éclair feels substantially heavier. Repeat with all eclairs.
Melt chocolate for icing in a double boiler. remove from heat and add butter and cream. Beat until smooth. Lightly dip the top of the éclair in the chocolate mixture. W/ the chocolate side facing up place éclair on parchment paper and put in the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 mins and serve.