"The éclair is a classic. Made with choux pastry, a lovely smooth cream inside and a sweet glaze, it’s one of those treats that always make me want more. Yes, I am a bit greedy like that. I have tasted many éclairs in my life, some of them really good (mostly the classics like coffee or chocolate), some of them less great… As there are plenty of pretty bad ones out there (don’t get me started on the supermarket versions), I thought it might be a good idea to make my own."
Chocolate was the obvious choice and since we’re heading towards autumn, I thought orange would be a nice way to add some more flavour.
Now, I’ve made choux buns before and the crème pâtissière recipe was a little different. That’s because I like to adapt and constantly improve my cooking and baking and find the best outcome. The corn flour does work much better than normal flour, but you will need to bring the mixture to an actual boil for it to work and become really thick. Then, however, take it off the heat and whisk like mad to make the cream really smooth. I’ve used an éclair baking tray, but you can just as easily use a normal tray and pipe the dough into lengths of around 3 inches.
So, after all this information, I hope you fancy making some éclairs at home. The cream can be made the day before and kept in the fridge. The éclairs themselves should be made on the day though.
For the choux pastry:
For the crème pâtissière:
For the glaze:
First the crème pâtissière. Mix the corn flour with the 90ml until smooth and lump-free. Pour the 500ml milk into a sauce pan, add the orange zest and bring just about to boiling point.
Whisk the egg yolks, egg and sugar together until pale and whilst continuously whisking slowly pour in the hot milk.
Now pour the mix back into the sauce pan and add the corn flour mix. Stir continuously whilst bringing back to a boil. The cream will very suddenly turn thick which is when you need to take it off the heat.
Pour into a cold bowl and cover with cling film pressing it down onto the cream; this will prevent a “skin” to form on it. Put the cream into the fridge to cool completely.
Now the pastry. Preheat your oven to 220C. Put the water and butter into a pot and bring to a boil.
Now dump all the flour into the water and mix until the dough starts to come away from the edges (I chose to now transfer it into a mixer, but you can do this by hand if you fancy a bit of a workout.)
With the paddle attachment, keep whisking the dough whilst adding the 4 eggs one by one until it’s all combined and smooth. Transfer into a piping bag with a large, round nozzle.
Now pipe out the dough onto your prepared baking tray. Put into the oven and bake at 220C for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 175C and bake for a further 20 minutes until golden.
Once baked, take the pastry out and put onto a cooling rack.
Now for the finish. Leave the pastry to cool completely before putting three small holes into the top with a sharp knife.
Put the cold crème pâtissière into a piping bag with a small nozzle and pipe the cream into the three small holes. This will fill the éclair.
Mix together the icing sugar, cocoa and water and stir until smooth.
Now apply the glaze on top of each éclair. Leave to harden for about 5 minutes before grating a little more orange zest on top for decoration.
Serve the same day as choux pastry doesn’t really lend itself to staying fresh for very long.