My apologies for taking so long to post. I have not abandoned this blog. I repeat, I HAVE NOT ABANDONED THIS BLOG. Seriously, it's my baby. No, I didn't abandon it, but, well, maybe I neglected it a bit this past week. I've just had a couple of super busy weeks with no time to bake, cook or blog. I've not been a happy camper. But, I'm back. Did you miss me? I totes missed you!!!
So now that you've mastered Pâte à Choux. And you have, haven't you? Lets make eclairs. Eclair is a broad term. If you surf the internet you'll see a wide variety of filling and icing choices as well as many different shapes and sizes. But, for me, a traditional eclair has a vanilla custard (or pastry cream, same difference.) filling and a chocolate icing on top. I'll show you how to make both and then how to assemble the eclair. I used one of Gale Gand's recipes from the Food Network web site but any vanilla pastry cream recipe will work. This is way easy stuff, but oh so impressive and delicious. Let's get started. . .
Again, simple ingredients: milk (I like to use whole milk but 2% will work as well. Don't use non fat.), vanilla paste (or a vanilla bean or vanilla extract), egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and butter (not pictured.).
Stir together the milk and vanilla paste. Heat over medium heat until it just starts to boil. As soon as you see lots of tiny bubbles forming rapidly around the edge, turn off the heat. Do not let it get to a full boil. Let cool slightly.
While the milk is cooling, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks.
Whisk rapidly until they are very light in color and have taken on some volume.
You could also do this with a hand or stand mixer.
Whisk in the corn starch until fully incorporated and there are NO LUMPS!
Then very slowly whisk in the milk: Start by adding 2-3 tablespoons of milk, then whisking vigorously. Add 2-3 more tablespoons milk, and whisk again. Continue until you've incorporated at least 1/2 of the milk. By this point, your eggs should be tempered and won't risk scrambling. Whisk in the remaining milk.
Return the mixture to the saucepan. If you think you may have bits of scrambled egg in the mix, pour the mixture through a strainer. I usually don't, I just throw caution to the wind and dump it in. Set the pan over medium high heat and whisk continuously until mixture is very think and starts to boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Let cool completely.
Once the mixture is cool, transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Press the plastic wrap down so that it touches the surface of the custard/pastry cream and seal the edges. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
To fill the eclairs fit a pastry bag with a "bismarck filler" tip. Stir the pastry cream until it is loose and there aren't any lumps. Fill the pastry bag with pastry cream. Using the pastry tip, puncture a hole in the side of the eclair shell and push the tip in about 1/2 inch. Squeeze the pastry bag to fill the shell. You'll feel the shell start to swell a bit and it will get heavier. Try not to over fill or the pressure will ooze the pastry cream back out. Alternately, you can slice the eclairs in half and spoon the pastry cream onto the bottom half and replace the top. Return the filled shells to the refrigerator.
To top the shells with a simple chocolate glaze, heat 1/2 cup heavy cream just to a boil. Put 4 ounces semi sweet chocolate in a medium bowl and pour in the hot cream.
Stir until you get a smooth glaze. Allow to cool slightly before dipping the tops of the eclairs.
These were delicious. They lasted at my house just one day. Seriously, I only got one. They were that good. I hadn't made this particular filling or icing recipe before and I was really pleased with the filling. It was thick, creamy and very vanilla. Tasted like creme brulee without the burnt sugar top. I think next time I'll fiddle around a bit with the chocolate glaze on top. It was a bit on the thin/runny side for my taste and never really "set up", making the eclairs a bit messy to eat. Fixing it could be a simple as adding a bit more chocolate to the same amount of cream. But, that's a project for another day.
I used this recipe for the filling and glaze. I made one change in substituting 1 tablespoon of Vanilla Bean Paste for the vanilla bean. Vanilla beans are just too pricy for this gal but, although a bit expensive, the paste is a good substitution. You could also use vanilla extract but you won't get those little vanilla bean flecks in the finished product.
For more recipes and instructions, check out these posts from other blogs on Pastry Cream and Eclairs:
Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker - Pastry Cream
Joe Pastry - Eclairs