Éclairs and profiteroles are made from choux pastry, an egg-rich dough which is partially cooked in a pan to give it elasticity and which, when baked, puffs up into crisp, hollow shapes that can be filled with sweet fillings, such as creme pâtissière (confectioners’ custard) or, omitting sugar from the dough, savoury mixtures. Eclairs must be baked until dry inside before being filled or they will go soggy.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. When the dough has cooled to warm, switch on the mixer and add the beaten eggs, a little splash at a time, until you have a silky, shining, pipeable paste. It is best used immediately, but if you want to hold the dough for a while, cling-wrap the bowl or the dough will dry out.
Using a piping bag, fill through the ends with whipped cream or confectioners’ custard.
For a chocolate glacé icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the cocoa powder mixed to a smooth paste with the boiling water. Stir together to produce a glacé icing thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Dip the top of each filled éclair in this icing and leave to set. Eclairs should be eaten within 3–4 hours of being filled or the pastry, no matter how crisp at the outset, will go soggy.
© 1998 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.