Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chocolate Éclairs

Is there a dessert more French than éclairs? I think not. As you can tell by the lack of uniformity among my éclairs, this was my first shot at this equal parts beautiful and delicious pastry. I grew up eating my mom's homemade éclairs, which closely resemble powdered sugar-dusted profiteroles. And though mom was skeptical when I told her I wanted my éclairs to be long and chocolatey instead of round and sugary, I quickly got her stamp of approval after her first bite. 

Créme Anglaise (adapted from Gale Gand's recipe)
2 cups milk (any percent will do, but whole milk is ideal)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 egg yolks (use the whites for meringue!)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla to a boil over medium heat. Once the mixture reaches a boil, immediately remove it from the heat and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk until there are no lumps. Quickly whisk in 1/4 cup of the milk mixture. This will temper the eggs and prevent curdling. Whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat. Make sure to whisk constantly. Don't stop! Whisk until the mixture is thickened and once it reaches a slow boil, remove it from the heat and add the butter. Let it cool slightly. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure to put the plastic wrap on the custard to prevent skin formation. Refrigerate for a couple hours. 

Pastry Dough
1 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
dash of salt

In a saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it reaches a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Add the flour and stir vigorously until everything is incorporated. Again, stirring vigorously (or using an electric mixer), add the eggs one at a time. Stir very aggressively to avoid "cooking" the eggs. The dough should be very sticky and loose. Using a pastry bag or snipped ziplock bag, pipe long flat lengths of the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes more. When the éclairs are done, leave them in the oven with the door open. Do not touch the éclairs until they have cooled to room temperature. This is key! Cutting into the éclairs too soon will cause them to deflate. 

Chocolate Glaze
4 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Melt the ingredients in a bowl on a double boiler until smooth. You can also microwave.

Once the pastry has cooled to room temperature, cut each éclair halfway lengthwise and generously spread the cooled pastry cream. Do not overstuff the eclairs. Dip the tops of the eclairs in the melted chocolate. Enjoy with a cup of tea. 


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