Thursday, August 9, 2012


After coming home from my two week adventure in Europe, I found myself craving some french pastries. Pierre Herme definitely changed me. Well, he changed the way I view baked goods, at least. My oh my were his pastries divine. I can still taste the creamy and rich Infiniment Vanille Tart. My mouth waters just thinking about it. But I know that I do not have the skills to attempt to recreate such a masterpiece, so I settled for something that was easier but equally as delicious-Éclairs!  

Regretfully, I did not have an opportunity to try an eclair in Paris. I wish that I had been able to taste an eclair from Fauchon. They have a wide selection of beautifully decorated and delicious looking eclairs. They come in all different colors, sizes, and shapes. Basically eclairs in Paris are equivalent to cupcakes in America. They're the latest craze...and I can see why. 

The most basic eclair consists of a light Pâte à choux base, a sweet and luscious pastry cream filling, and a rich dark chocolate glaze. They require a few different components but they are all fairly simple to make. I'd say the most difficult part is making the perfect pate a choux, which consists of only 4 simple ingredients- butter, water, flour, and eggs. The difficult part is making sure enough moisture is employed to create the most steam and the puffiest/hollowest pastry. It is crucial that the finished product results in a light pastry with a hollow center. 

The recipe I used comes from Raiza of Dulce Delight. I love watching all her videos and following her blog. She really knows what she's doing and is really knowledgeable about baking. Her recipes are very straightforward and simple if you follow her directions. Her recipe uses a Cream Légère. It's simply a pastry cream with whipped cream folded in to make an extremely light and airy filling. I found that it was better to make the cream the night before and leave it in the fridge to chill overnight.

adapted from Dulce Delight 
makes approx 15 3-inch eclairs 

Pâte à choux
250g water
110g butter, cubed
pinch of salt and sugar
140g all purpose flour
3 to 5 eggs, depending on the dough's consistency (I used 4 eggs)
egg wash:
1 egg
2 tbs milk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside

In a medium saucepan add the water, butter, salt, and sugar and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. 

Once the mixture has come to a simmer, turn off the heat and add the flour. Stir and once the flour is combined, turn the heat back on. Cook the flour mixture for about 2-3 minutes or until a slight film forms on the side of the pan.

Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough on medium speed for 3 minutes to allow it to cool down. Then add the eggs one by one. (Be careful not to add too many eggs. The dough should be able to fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.)

Fill a pastry bag with the dough and pipe the eclairs (I used an Ateco#808 tip). Beat the egg and the milk in a small bowl and brush the mixture over each eclair. Bake the pâte à choux for 35-40 minutes or until they are golden brown. After the 40 minutes, turn off the oven, and keep the oven door open using a wooden spoon. Let the eclair shells sit in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

Cream Légère
makes enough to fill approx 15 eclairs
500g milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped or 1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
75g sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
100 ml cold heavy cream
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla to a simmer. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add the flour and cornstarch. 

Pour some of the hot milk mixture over the egg mixture and stir. This step is called tempering. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook everything until the mixture has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. 

Transfer the cream into a small bowl. Cover the cream with plastic wrap directly on top so a skin does not form. Chill the mixture for 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Right before you're ready to use the pastry cream, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks are formed. Fold in half the whipped cream into the pastry to lighten the cream. Once incorporated fold in the remaining whipped cream. 

Chocolate glaze
60g bittersweet chocolate
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp hot water
Microwave the chocolate and heavy cream for about 1 minute, or until melted. Incorporate the honey and water. Stir until fully combined.

Using a small pastry tip, poke two wholes under each eclair shell. Starting on one end fill the eclair shell until cream comes out the other hole. Then dip the eclair into the chocolate glaze. Let sit for 15 minutes until set. Serve immediately.

Happy Baking!