It's pretty safe to assume that most of us have had an éclair or two at some point in our lives, whether it was at a Parisian pâtisserie or at a corner bakery. But how many of you have attempted to make a batch of these chocolate topped, cream filled pastries at home?
After spending an afternoon whipping up a batch of éclairs from Miette: Recipes from San Francisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop, it crossed my mind that éclair baking is the home equivalent of the first semester at pastry school.
The recipe is made up of three foundation recipes: choux pastry, chocolate ganache, and pastry cream, and baking éclairs allows the home baker a chance to experiment with each. Not only do you get all of that useful pastry experience, you also end up with a whole tray of really lovely éclairs.
The recipe begins with a choux pastry, a cooked dough that is the base for éclairs as well as gougères, profiteroles, croquembouches, and beignets. (Sound familiar?) It's piped into little logs, brushed with egg wash and baked until golden and hollow.
Next up is the pastry cream, a thick, eggy custard that fills the éclairs and can be tweaked and flavored to your heart's content. It's the stuff that fills everything from Napoleons to Boston Cream doughnuts, custard pies, and many more cream-filled sweets. Miette's version begins with a whole split vanilla bean simmered in milk for an hour, making for a base that has a very pronounced vanilla flavor and tons of little vanilla specks.
The topper for our éclairs is a slick chocolate ganache, a mix of chocolate, sugar, cream, and eggs that can act as an icing or topping for cakes or a base for chocolate truffles.
Once you've assembled this holy trinity of pastry, assembling the éclairs is a breeze. Holes are poked in the baked choux with the large end of a chopstick and then pastry cream is piped in. The ridged tops of the éclairs are dipped into the ganache and voilà—gorgeous homemade éclairs served up with an intensive mini-course in pastry arts.
Get the Recipe!
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of 'Miette: Recipes from San Francisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop' to give away this week.