Simple Eclairs, experiment 1

The icing was a bit of a bodge, but tasty nonetheless. Yes, I made the plate itself too…

Eclairs are really three different recipes with some assembly required. I’ll break this down to three separate parts. a pâte à choux pastry recipe, a sample Créme Patisserie recipe, and an icing recipe. (for the last I’ll include what is in the picture above, though I would recommend doing it another way.)

Pâte à Choux 

researched a large number of recipes. turns out everyone seems to have gotten their recipes from the same place as this was one of the most shockingly consistent recipes across all sources I’ve ever seen.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs

btw, this made about 24 eclair shells, about 3″-4″ long.

In a small sauce pan, combine all ingredients except the eggs over a low heat. stir and beat continuously until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Continue to beat until the batter comes together and dries out a bit and a film begins to form on the bottom of the pot. The batter should be a fairly stiff ball by this point.

Remove from heat and let cool a bit. You have the option at this point of dumping the batter into a stand mixer if you like, or use an electric beater on a low speed.

Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next. by the time you beat in the last egg, the batter should have returned to being a fairly creamy smooth (frosting like) consistency.

(At this point you could add in adulterating material too. adding grated parmesan for cheese puffs is a nice option.)

Traditionally, these are piped out with a heavily textured (the more points the better) star point from a piping bag. The reason for this is that the zig-zag nature of the surface allows for extreme expansion without tearing the skin of the puff. Without the crenellations, the puff will tear itself apart trying to expand around the steam bubble that forms in the middle.

Baking… For temperature, I did it at 425º, I’ve seen as low as 325º suggested and several points in between (350º, 375º etc.) For a dough that relies on steam generation for leavening, a hot oven seems to work better, but as is obvious, opinions vary. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until you’re happy with the color. As with popovers, there is some value in poking a hole in them at that point and baking a bit further to help dry out the interior, but that is optional. I didn’t, and I’m okay with that.

425º worked pretty well here…

Note that some came out a bit bone shaped. Try hard to avoid that. It isn’t the end of the world, but it cuts down on the space available for stuffing. Note the number and size of the edges in the surface. it really pays to have the right kind of piping tip in the pastry bag.

Crème Pâtissière

This will eventually require a posting (or series) on its own. The spectrum of custard to cream to creme to pudding is pretty wide. The major distinctions seem to be based on whether the thickening agent is a protein or a starch or some mixture of the two. Protein thickened types are further broken down to egg vs. gelatin. For this, we’re looking at a mixture of starch (cornstarch and flour) and eggs for the thickening agents. When researching this I found quite a lot of recipes that used Jello (or other brand) of pudding mix. (One person extolled the virtues of a husband who could tell when she used generic instead of name brand though, so watch out 🙄…

This recipe was very good, flavor and texture were great, but it only filled 12 eclairs… 😒
To double it, double the milk and add one whole egg, thickeners go a long way… maybe add a couple tablespoons more of sugar.

  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup flour (probably optional)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Heat up the milk over a low heat in a saucepan.

In a bowl, mix the remaining ingredients (except the vanilla, save that for later) until smooth

When the milk is hot enough to steam a bit, while beating the egg mixture, slowly add about half the milk. this tempers the eggs and helps prevent them from scrambling. (Tempering eggs is a useful technique to learn, it comes up a lot. greek avgolemono soup works the same.)

Pour the mixture back in to the pot with the remaining milk and put back on the heat. stir constantly until it thickens quite dramatically. Remove from heat and *now* stir in the vanilla. chill with plastic wrap on it to prevent a skin, (I know some people like skin on their pudding, and I understand the attraction, but it makes it harder to pipe.) When all is said and done, you should have a pretty thick pudding that holds its shape pretty well.

Icing

Basically, ganache. which is hot milk or cream poured over grated chocolate so that the chocolate is soft at room temperature. Still stiff enough to stay in place where you put it, but soft enough to become smooth on its own. as you can see from the picture, that is not what I ended up with. I over did the milk a bit, so I added confectioner’s sugar until it thickened up a bit.

Most recipes for the glaze part generally seem to start out something like:

  • 4 ounces of semisweet or darker chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream

Nota Bene. there will be leftovers of the icing…

Variations added corn syrup and may have used butter and milk to substitute for the cream. I tried the latter and it was waaaay too thin. ended up adding a fair bit of confectioner’s sugar until it thickened, but as you can see, I over did it somewhat. My estimate is that I may have gone as high as 1/2 cup. I would recommend half of that. then let it cool completely before deciding to up the ante any. The chocolate itself will contribute to thickening below 90º.

Also, because it is what I had hanging around, the chocolate I used was a mixture of milk and white chocolate, left over from a visit to a fondue restaurant that sent you home with sample packs of their chocolate. I wouldn’t recommend that. very sweet.

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