Chocolate Éclairs

Classic Cream Puff Pastry

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Preparation info

  • Makes four dozen

    3 inch

    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

The Simple Art of Perfect Baking

By Flo Braker

Published 1984

  • About

Atraditional favorite: elongated cream puffs filled with pastry cream and glazed with chocolate. Don’t confuse this with puff pastry. The only factor the two have in common is that both are leavened by steam.

Ingredients

    Method

    Advance Preparations

    Prepare a double recipe of Classic Pastry Cream in the recipe for Diplomat Cream. Cover its surface with plastic wrap, and poke 4 to 5 slits in it to allow steam to escape. Refrigerate until time to fill the éclairs.

    Baking Preparations

    Fit the pastry bag with the ½-inch (#6) round decorating tip.

    Using a paper towel, lightly grease the baking sheet with solid shortening. Dust very lightly with all-purpose flour and tap to remove excess. Marking a baking sheet for piping éclairs is similar to the procedure for shaping ladyfingers shown. A toothpick serves as a pencil to trace rows of parallel lines on the baking sheet, so the paste may be piped in strips, their edges touching the guidelines.

    Draw four sets of parallel lines, each set measuring 3 inches wide, along the entire length of the baking sheet. Leave 1 inch between each set to allow for expansion and air flow.

    Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat oven to 400 degrees for at least 20 minutes before baking. At the same time, pour about 2 cups hot tap water (120 degrees) into a shallow stainless steel bowl and place it on the floor of the oven. (The water produces a humid environment, which aids in leavening the paste, since it prevents the exterior from setting its shape too quickly.)

    Ingredient preparations

    Pour the flour into a triple sifter; sift it onto a sheet of waxed paper to remove any lumps, and set aside.

    Crack the eggs into a liquid cup measure until you have 1 cup. Whisk briefly just to combine yolks and whites and set aside.

    Making the Cream Puff Paste

    Pour the milk, water and salt into a heavy-bottomed -quart saucepan. Slice the butter into -inch pieces, drop them into the saucepan and bring the mixture to a rolling boil over medium heat. Immediately remove from heat.

    Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon to combine the liquid and melted butter. Add the sifted flour all at once, stirring vigorously and scraping the sides of the pan, until a stiff paste forms and comes together in a ball. Return to medium heat, stirring quickly for about 10 seconds to eliminate extra moisture. Remove from heat immediately. The paste should be smooth, thick and glossy. The entire mass can be lifted on a spoon, and the saucepan will appear almost unused. Transfer the thick paste to the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.

    Separate the mass into 7 or 8 pieces and cool them for 10 minutes, or until the paste registers 150 degrees on an instant bi-therm thermometer. (The temperature of the paste is important because of its effect on the eggs. Too hot, and they will set and the paste will not puff sufficiently in the oven; too cool and it will be difficult to incorporate the eggs, and the paste will be lumpy, interfering with expansion in the oven.)

    Attach the bowl to the mixer, and with the paddle attachment, mix the paste on lowest speed (#1) while slowly adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of egg. (Adding small amounts slowly gives smoother results.) As the paste absorbs the egg, increase the speed to medium-low (#2 to #3) and mix just until the mixture is homogeneous and resembles the consistency of a thick pastry cream. Further increase the mixer’s speed only if the mixture appears curdled. (Fast and lengthy mixing when adding the eggs whips more air into the paste and produces puffier, blossoming shapes.)

    Reduce the speed to low (#1), and repeat the procedure three or four more times, adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of egg each time and increasing the speed when they are partially absorbed. The entire sequence should not take more than 3 minutes.

    Remove the bowl from the mixer; detach the paddle, and mix the batter vigorously with a rubber spatula for about 10 seconds to incorporate the ingredients completely. The batter should be very smooth, shiny, glossy and stiff, yet fall slowly in a ribboning effect when dropped from the spatula.

    Forming the éclairs

    Scoop all the cream puff paste into the pastry bag fitted with the decorating tip.

    Place the baking sheet in front of you. Pipe a strip of cream puff paste 3 inches long and as thick as the tip’s opening, using the lines as an indicator of where to begin and end each éclair. Keep the tip at a 45-degree angle suspended about ½ inch above the pan, and lift it up slightly when you finish an éclair to cut off the flow of paste. Space the éclairs ½ inch apart to allow for expansion and air flow.

    When all rows are filled, you may glaze each éclair with an egg wash to create shiny surfaces, but the glaze can seal the surface and cause cracking as the éclair puffs and releases steam.

    If you prefer not to seal the paste, lightly brush each éclair with water (or milk) rather than with an egg glaze. The paste absorbs these liquids like a sponge, and the brush helps shape each form neatly and smoothly.

    Baking the éclairs

    Place in preheated 400-degree oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove one éclair from the oven to check if the baking is finished. The baked éclair should be golden brown, its sides rigid enough so they will not collapse when removed from the oven, and the crust should be tender on the outside and hollow inside.

    When the baking is finished, remove the baking sheet from oven. Using the point of a #2 open-star decorating tip, poke a hole in an end of each éclair. Return baking sheet to oven for 3 to 5 minutes to allow the éclairs’ interiors to dry.

    Remove from the oven, and transfer the éclairs to a rack to cool completely. (Do not place close together, or the steam may soften the éclairs and make them soggy.)

    Baked cream puff paste stales quickly, so after baking and cooling, freeze the éclairs for up to 5 days in sturdy containers to avoid crushing them in the freezer. (You cannot freeze them for too long because they are susceptible to odors, which become trapped in their cavities.)

    Filling the éclairs

    Two hours before serving, stir the pastry cream until smooth. Then whip the heavy cream in the recipe for Diplomat Cream. Fold it into the pastry cream. Scoop into a pastry bag fitted with the ¼-inch round decorating tip. Insert the tip into the hole in the end of each éclair and fill the interior. Repeat for remaining éclairs.

    Glazing the éclairs

    Prepare Glossy Cocoa Glaze. Turn an éclair upside down, dip its top into the glaze, lift it up slowly and shake it back and forth, removing the excess. Turn it right side up and place it on a rack to allow glaze to dry. Repeat for remaining éclairs.