Adventures in Baking: Chocolate Eclairs
I’ve been itching to make chocolate eclairs for the longest time.
Old-fashioned British cream cakes (French pastries filled with sweetened whipped cream) were always my favourites and Jean-Marc demonstrated how easy it is to make choux pastry when he whipped up his Saint Honore’ back at patisserie camp. And if you don’t fill them with crème patissiere (pastry cream) they’re actually surprisingly quick and easy to make and I prefer them as they’re not too sweet.
INGREDIENTS (Makes 13 small eclairs)
For the choux pastry:
60g (4 tablespoons) butter
1 good pinch salt
130ml (1/2 cup) water
80g (3/4 cup) plain flour, sifted
3 large free range eggs
For the filling and topping:
1 pint (2 cups) whipping cream
1-2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (or to taste)
Some chopped pistachios (or other nuts) optional
For the chocolate icing:
100g (3.5 oz) good quality dark chocolate (I used Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate)
50ml (4 tablespoons) cream
50g (4 tablespoons) butter
Preheat the oven 220˚C (430˚F) and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat (I love my Silpat).
To make the choux pastry, place the butter and water in a saucepan and bring to a steady boil until the butter is completely melted.
Remove from the heat and add the flour a little at a time, beating with a wooden spoon until it all comes together in a ball. Place back over the heat and continue beating the dough in the saucepan for about 40 seconds to cook the flour.
Remove from the heat and set aside for a few minutes otherwise the eggs will cook when you add them. Beat one of the eggs in a small bowl.
Add the two unbeaten eggs to the warm dough, one at a time, beating thoroughly until completely incorporated. The dough will look like it’s curdling. Keep beating, eventually it will come together into a smooth paste.
Add the remaining beaten egg a little at a time until you have a smooth, shiny paste that will drop easily from your spoon. (I added all of my beaten egg).
Using a spatula, scoop the dough into a large piping bag fitted with a large round piping nozzle and pipe 10cm (3 inch) lines on to the lined baking sheets, leaving a good sized space between each one to allow for spreading. Brush each one with any leftover beaten egg. (I didn’t bother since I had no left over egg).
Place in the oven, reduce the heat to 190˚C (375˚ F), and use a wooden spoon to crack the door open an inch to let the steam escape (Chef Jean Marc taught us this trick at patisserie camp), Bake for approximately 25 minutes until the eclairs are puffed up, and are golden and crisp. If they’re not completely dry bake them for an additional few minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before filling.
For the filling, whip the cream with a little vanilla sugar (or sugar + a couple of drops of vanilla extract) and then either make three holes in the bottom of each éclair and pipe in the cream, using a small round nozzle, or, as I did, just cut them in half lengthways and fill with whipped cream using a teaspoon.
To make the chocolate glaze, melt the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. When the chocolate has melted remove the bowl from the heat and gently stir in the cream. Fold in the butter until you have a shiny, spreadable chocolate glaze.
Dip the filled eclairs into the glaze and sprinkle with chopped nuts if liked. Chill in the fridge until serving. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, though I bet they don’t get the chance.
I used Green & Black’s Organic Dark 70% Chocolate for the glaze.
When I first arrived in rainy Novemberish Seattle nearly seven years ago, it was only the discovery of Green & Black’s Almond Chocolate in our local supermarket which stopped me getting the next flight home. Since then I’ve discovered many delicious artisan chocolate bars (the Pacific North West appears to be the artisan chocolate hub of the US) but still no commercial chocolate bar that comes anywhere close in quality and is also organic and Fair Trade, for such a reasonable price as Green & Blacks.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Green & Black’s sent me some free samples recently, but they didn’t really need to bother. I’ve been a fan ever since the first nibble I took back in the UK, years ago now.