Chocolate Éclairs

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.

Ingredients

  • 85 g/ 3 oz unsalted butter, diced
  • 8 g/ ¼ oz caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 125 g/ oz sifted plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • about 300 ml/ ½ pint whipped cream or confectioners’ custard

For the Chocolate Glacéicing

  • 115 g/ 4 oz icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1–1½ tbsp boiling water

Method

Put 200 ml/ 7 fl oz water in a pan with the diced butter, caster sugar and pinch of salt. Simmer until the butter melts, then turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Add the sifted flour and beat with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough which comes away from the pan but is still slightly moist and sticky. Return to a low heat and continue to beat for 1 minute to dry to the point where it comes away from the pan in a smooth, elastic ball. This is most easily effected using an electric mixer. Transfer the dough to the mixer bowl fitted with a balloon whisk.

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.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/ gas 7. Put the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1-cm / ½-inch plain nozzle. Twist the end of the bag to compact the dough until it begins to ooze from the nozzle and squeeze out twelve 7.5cm / 3-inch lines on to a non-stick baking tray, cutting the lengths through with a sharp knife and leaving about 5 cm / 2 inches space between them to allow for expansion. Bake for about 15–17 minutes, when they should be crisp, golden coloured and well risen. Remove, pierce the ends and return to the oven. Switch it off and leave them for 5 minutes. This ensures uniform crispness. Put to cool on a rack.

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.

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