Recipe of the Week: Eclairs with Vanilla Pastry Cream and Chocolate Ganache
For me, eclairs are the ultimate dessert – filled with creamy vanilla custard and dipped in chocolate ganache, they are simply spectacular. The very sight of them can make me stop in my tracks. They are amazingly easy to make and just a little time consuming, but after taking the first bite you will agree with me that it was all worth it. Using the same classic recipe for choux dough, eclairs have an oblong shape and are baked until crisp and hollow inside. Makes 12 eclairs. (Chef tip: Using a serrated knife, cut the eclair shells lengthwise. Filled with pastry cream the bottom half of each shell. Dip the top half of the eclairs in the chocolate ganache. Combine the eclairs and chill them in the refrigerator for several hours before serving them.
1 cup water or milk or combination
6 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3-4 large eggs, room temperature
1 egg, for wash
Vanilla pastry cream (recipe follows)
Chocolate ganache (recipe follows)
Bring liquid and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour, sugar and salt all at once, beating with a spoon until smooth and shiny. Return to heat for a few minutes or until the dough begins to dry out. This mixture is called a panade.
Remove from heat and beat in the eggs one at a time. Be sure eggs are completely incorporated and mixture is beaten until smooth.
Preheat the oven at 400F. Fit a pastry bag with the tip of your choice and fill with the pate a choux. On a lightly greased or buttered sheet (or on lightly greased parchment paper), pipe a long 3-4-inch-long stick and continue until all the batter is used.
Brush tops with egg wash taking care not to drip down the side to the baking sheet as this would inhibit the rapid rise of the puffs. Bake for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 325F and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Eclairs should be pierced or sliced on the side and then returned to the turned off oven for about 10 minutes to dry out inside. Cool before filling with chilled vanilla pastry cream and dipping in chocolate ganache.
Vanilla Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk or heavy whipping cream
1 piece of lemon peel
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, pulverized (or 2 tablespoons vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat the milk in a heavy saucepan with lemon peel.
Place egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla in a separate bowl and whisk briefly. Still whisking, slowly pour in the warm milk or cream.
Return custard mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly. Don’t let it boil.
Stir in the butter. Strain through a fine sieve. Place pastry cream in the refrigerator to cool. Cover with plastic wrap.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
Melt butter, chocolate and heavy cream together over a double boiler. Cool slightly before dipping eclairs.