The humble éclair has gotten a ravishing makeover and is fast becoming the latest pastry trend in Paris (let’s forget the cronut, for now, shall we?).
In the past year, L’Eclair de Génie and L’Atelier de l’Eclair, two pastry shops dedicated to eclairs have popped up in Paris. They have given these forgotten éclairs a new lease of life – their jazzed up versions come in the sweet and savoury form with a large range of eye popping colours and exciting flavours such as yuzu, pistachio and orange, salted caramel popcorn and even foie gras with figs.
I cannot be certain that the éclair trend will pick up in Singapore but drooling over photos of these delectable looking éclairs, I was inspired to make some pretty éclairs of my own.
I settled with salted butter caramel because I think it’s one of the most amazing flavour in the world (do ignore my fan-girl excitement). That’s just me going gaga over salted butter caramel. Honestly, I admit that I have too little self-restrain when it comes to this.
This recipe is not difficult and the few components can be done over two days to lighten your baking load. (Baking should never be painful or too tiring)
The caramel creme patisserie (pastry cream) requires the preparation of a caramel (you decide on the darkness but I like to take mine pretty dark – almost amber for that bittersweet flavour, just before it is burnt.) but aside from that, it is a basic pastry cream recipe. If you are scared of making caramel, don’t be! There is nothing scary about caramel. All you need to do is to make sure that you always use a clean (and grease-free) pot, avoid over-stirring it (it’s better to just swirl the pot) and be very patient. You don’t even need a thermometer for this – the colour will indicate when it is done (no tasting at this stage or it will burn your fingers and lips).
The tricky part that comes with éclairs is in the piping of the choux paste. It requires attention and care if you are looking for equal sized and similar shaped ones. I place a ruler beside my tray as a guide when piping. You can also choose to make these into little pâte à choux (cream puffs) if you prefer that – just remember to adjust the baking time. If you are feeling lazy, you can opt out of making the glaze. Swap the caramel glaze for a chocolate one, if you prefer, it will work just as well.
Whichever way you choose to bake these, you will be very happy with the flavour.
Recipe: Caramel au beurre sel éclairs
If you are new to baking choux pastry, you can check on my detailed guide on making choux pastry.
Caramel crème patisserie (pastry cream)
For the caramel sauce
55ml tap water
75ml hot water
For the pastry cream
500ml full cream milk
1/4 vanilla bean (optional)
125g egg yolks
125g caramel (measure quantity from above)
sea salt, to taste (optional)
1. Prepare the caramel sauce first: Place sugar and tap water in a pot and place onto medium heat and prepare a caramel until golden amber. Refrain from stirring it too much.
2. Turn off the heat and add in the hot water and stir with a spatula to stop the caramel from cooking further. You should leave this to cool.
3. Place milk and scrapped vanilla bean into a medium size pot (big enough for all the ingredients).
4. In the meantime, whisk egg yolks with caramel sauce (make sure the caramel sauce is not too hot or the eggs will cook!) in a separate bowl until well-combined before adding the cornflour. Whisk till mixture is uniform.
5. When the milk boils, you will see the milk in the pot start to bubble. Take the milk off the heat and pour it into your egg mixture. At this point, whisk quickly to incorporate the milk mixture.
6. Pour the milk and egg mixture back into pot (under low heat) and whisk continuously (as if your life depends on it!)
7. Ensure that you whisk under low to medium heat until a smooth, thickened paste. Allow the crème patisserie to cook for at least 2-3 minutes before taking it off the heat. You should see one or two large bubbles forming. That is an indication that the pastry cream is done.
8. Let it cool slightly before adding the cubed butter (at about 50 degrees celcius).
9. Transfer the pastry cream, using a scrapper, onto a tray lined with cling wrap. Cling wrap the pastry cream. Cool it down in the fridge before using it.
10. Before using the pastry cream, transfer it into a bowl and whisk it up until smooth and lump-free.
For the choux pastry
50ml full cream milk
75g unsalted butter
heap tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
110g plain flour
1. Prepare trays for baking the eclairs by greasing it with butter so that they would not stick on the tray.
2. Place water, milk, butter, sugar and salt into a pot and bring it to a rolling boil. It should be bubbling furiously.
3. Remove the pot from the heat or turn down the heat and pour in all the flour at once and stir immediately and vigorously with a wooden spoon/spatula. Ensure that there is no lumps of flour in the *panade. Cook out the mixture over low heat for another 2-3 minutes. You should have a glossy panade that can be formed into a ball that comes away from the sides of the pot easily.
4.Remove the panade and place it into your machine mixer bowl. Using a paddle attachment, put the machine on low speed in order to cool the panade down for about 5 minutes. You wouldn’t want to add in the eggs when the panade is still hot. You may end up cooking the eggs.
5. When the panade is not hot to touch, with the paddle attachment still on, start adding the eggs one at a time at medium speed (speed 4 on the Kitchenaid mixer). The mixture may look like it has cuddled and split at first but be patient and allow the machine to do its job to emulsify the mixture. It will come back together in a while.
6. Continue adding the eggs until you get a smooth, thick, glossy paste. When you lift up your spatula, it should fall after roughly 3 seconds. It should be able to fall from the spatula on its own but not be too wet that it can’t hold its shape. You may/may not require the entire amount of eggs as stated in the recipe (or you may need slightly more eggs), depending on the consistency of the choux paste.
7. Place choux paste into a piping bag with a 1 cm plain nozzle/star shaped nozzle. Pipe them as evenly in straight lines about 12 cm in length.
8. Egg wash the éclairs with a brush and at the same time flatten down the little tips. This is to ensure that the tips do not burn.
9. Bake immediately at 180 degrees celcius in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes (they take a shorter time compared to my choux pastry in the last post because they are a lot smaller). Choux pastry must be thorougly baked. if the sides of the walls are moist, when removed from the oven, steam will condense back into water and the still-wet walls will recoil. This will cause the choux pastry to collapse/ and flattened itself.
10. You can check if the eclair shells are properly baked by removing a shell from the oven and tear it apart to see if the entire choux is dry. Only remove the entire batch when the test shell is dry.
11. Fill these eclairs only after they have cooled completely.
100ml 33-35% fat cream, warmed up
*you can buy glucose from speciality bake shops. If you are in Singapore, you can find it in Poon Huat stores.
1. In a greasefree pot, place the sugar, water and glucose to make a caramel. It should be golden brown (not too dark to give a good colour to the glaze).
2. Turn down the heat and add in the warmed cream to the caramel, stir to combine with a silicon spatula.
3. Turn off the heat and add in the butter. Allow the glaze to cool to body temperature (about 37-38 degrees celcius) before using it. At this temperature, the glaze will give your eclairs a better shine and will set beautifully.
1. Fill the éclairs with the caramel creme pat. Pierce two holes on each end of the éclair and use a piping bag with a small plain nozzle to fill the cavity of the éclair. Alternatively, you can slice the éclair lengthwise and pipe the creme pat on it using a star shaped nozzle for a decorative design.
2. Dip the top of the eclair into the caramel glaze. Allow the excess to drip off and allow it to set on a baking tray in the fridge.
*Storage tip: The filled éclairs can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. But it will taste best on the first and second day.
*You can store the unfilled eclair shells in the freezer for up to a month. You would just need to toast it up in a 180 degrees celcius oven until warm for about 10-15 minutes before using it.