This was my first ever attempt at éclairs and they weren’t quite as easy as I’d imagined. I made a few errors but I think I know where I went wrong and what to do differently next time.
Here is the recipe I followed from “pâtisserie at home”:
1 x quantity Pâte à Choux
1 x quantity Crème Pâtisserie, chilled
50-100g (70g) dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
150g/1 cup cocoa nibs
100 ml/1/2 cup double/heavy cream
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon coffee liqueur
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
2 teaspoons butter
Baking sheet lined with baking paper
Piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle
Pâte á Choux
125 ml/1/2 cup water
125ml/1/2 cup milk
A pinch of salt
A pinch of sugar
140g plain all-purpose flour
Approximately 6 eggs
Large piping bag fitted with a small, plain nozzle
Baking sheet, lined with baking paper
I vanilla bean
500 ml/ 2 cups milk
100g/1/2 cup raw cane sugar
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
3 tablespoons custard powder/ vanilla pudding mix
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
- Make the Pâte à Choux and pipe into oval Éclairs about 10cm long on the prepared baking sheet
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until puffed up and golden, then turn the oven off and leave the éclairs inside to cool completely and dry out.
- Melt the chocolate on low power in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (not letting the base of the bowl touch the water)
- Make the Crème Pâtissière then fold melted chocolate at the end. Allow to cool completely before using.
Pâte à Choux
- Put the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon so that the sugar doesn’t burn and cause the mixture to stick to the bottom of the pan.
- When it comes to the boil, quickly stir in the flour and mix together. Beat the dough vigorously until it cleanly leaves the sides of the saucepan. This can take up to 5 minutes depending on the heat.
- Transfer the dough to a stand mixer or mixing bowl and beat in eggs, one at a time. You might not need all 6 eggs.
- As you add the eggs and beat them in, watch the dough and when it is soft and smooth and drops off a spoon leaving behind a ‘V’ shape, it is ready.
- Split the vanilla bean lengthwise using a small, sharp knife and scrape the seeds out into a large saucepan. Drop the bean in too and pour in the milk. Bring to the boil over low heat.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, egg yolks, cornflour/cornstarch and custard powder together with a ballon whisk until smooth and creamy.
- Pour half the boiled milk into a mixing bowl containing the egg mixture and whisk together. Now pour the contents of the bowl into the saucepan where the remaining milk is. Fish out the vanilla bean with a slotted spoon.
- Over low heat, whisk the mixture until it thickens and starts to bubble.
- After 5 minutes, the heat will have cooked the cornflour/cornstarch and custard powder and become thick and rich.
- Finally, add the butter and whisk it in until melted to further enrich the crème and make it extra glossy.
- Transfer the Crème Pâtissière to a bowl and immediately place a sheet of cling wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool completely before using.
- Put the cream, coffee granules and liquor in a saucepan and bring to the boil over low heat.
- Pour the boiled cream into a wide, heatproof bowl and add the chocolate and butter. Using a spatula, start to mix the ingredients in a circular motion, just in the centre of the bowl. Keep mixing in a tight circle until the chocolate starts to melt and emulsify with the liquid. Gradually widen the circle until all the chocolate has melted and you have a shiny, smooth ganache.
- Take a cooled éclair and dip the top into the ganache. Shake off any excess, turn up the right way round and allow to cool and set slightly on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining éclairs.
- Give each èclair a second dip in the ganache and allow to set again.
- Give each èclair a third and final dip in the ganache to make a thick, dense topping. Allow to set completely.
- When the ganache has set, carefully cut each èclair in half horizontally.
- Fill the piping bag with chocolate Crème Pâtissière and pipe a generous coil along the cut side of the bottom half of each èclair.
- Sandwhich with the other half of the èclair. Sprinkle cocoa nibs over the top of the èclairs for a crunchy finish.
I had lots of Pâte à Choux mixture, more than one tray worth and this is where I made my first mistake. I tried to do batches but realised too late that the tray was supposed to cool down in the oven. Then I tried to swap the trays so the bottom one could brown and then the éclairs started to deflate. This made it really hard to cut them in half to pipe the filling. I also think this could be due to the fact that my mixture may have been too wet. Next time I may need to half the recipe for the Pâte à Choux. The éclairs also puffed up in a weird shape so to be more exact I will measure out and draw lines to trace with the mixture.
I found the Crème Pâtissière to be quite thick and gelatinous, possibly more so than it should be and might reduce the amount of starch and pudding mix in future. Additionally, with the dark chocolate that is mixed into the Crème Pâtisserie I found it too rich and think 70g will work best in future.
Finally, the ganache had a few issues as well. When I put the chocolate in the cream it didn’t melt completely. This could be because the cream was not hot enough when I took it off the heat. I then microwaved it for 20 seconds which seemed to work. However the ganache was thick so I only put 1 layer on the éclairs and then towards the end it started to split in the bowl. Possibly because steam was created from the oven that affected it.
As you can see there is lots for me to work and improve on next time I tackle this bake.