We have a guest blogger this week!
Cadence Purdy, past guest blogger, is here to teach us how to make homemade chocolate eclairs!
I always thought chocolate eclairs must be a complicated, tricky thing to make. I had watched my sister make them, and it was an all-day project (for enough for 14 people) Recently, I tried to make them and found them to be easier than I thought.
Don’t feel daunted; it’s really pretty simple! Yes, there are steps to it, but it is very do-able. I made the custard the day before, baked the shells the night before and then filled and glazed the eclairs the next day.The custard is easier to work with when it’s chilled – for one thing, it won’t be as messy – so you probably do want to make it ahead.
A note: In order to make the shells, and to fill the shells, you need a pastry or icing bag (or at least, it’s easiest if you have one). You can just use a disposable icing bag. It also would be helpful to have a coupler (the white part which holds the tip in) and a large, basic tip.
Also, there are two custard recipes I tried. The first one came with the recipe, and it’s more egg-y. The second one is a custard recipe which my sister, Titi, took from a recipe called blueberry danish, and she uses it for chocolate eclairs as well. It makes a mild, not overwhelmingly-eggy custard, which uses both flour and cornstarch as a thickener, and has a little more butter and vanilla than the other recipe. I’ve included both recipes.
Chocolate eclairs custard filling (easiest recipe)
3 cups milk
1 TB vanilla (or 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise)
9 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 TB cornstarch
1 1/2 TB cold unsalted butter
Separate 6 egg yolks from the whites. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla to a boil over medium heat. (If you are using a vanilla bean–immediately turn off heat, and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.)
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in some of the hot milk mixture, until incorporated (this is to temper the eggs). If you are using a vanilla bean–whisk the rest of the milk mixture in with the eggs, and then pour back into the saucepan over a strainer, to strain out the vanilla bean.
If you used vanilla extract–just dump the warm egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk mixture, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. (This only took 5 minutes for me.) Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to use. (The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance.)
Alternate custard filling – Blueberry Danish custard recipe
3 cups milk
1 vanilla bean or 1 TB vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup + 1 TB flour
3 TB cornstarch
6 egg yolks
3 TB butter
Separate the egg yolks from the whites, reserving the egg yolks in a bowl.
Put sugar, flour, and cornstarch in your pan, and whisk it together. Whisk in the milk until there are no lumps. Cook over medium (or medium-low) heat, stirring constantly. The original recipe said to keep cooking and stirring it “until thick and no longer has a raw, starchy taste (which can take up to 30 minutes).” The starchy taste is from the flour. I don’t think it takes nearly as long when you’re only making a single batch of custard, though. I had a hard time determining when it no longer had a “raw, starchy taste”. The first time I used this recipe, I just kept stirring for a few minutes after it got thick and was bubbling, and then I went ahead and added the egg yolks. The second time, I tried to be good and cook it for a long time. It got REALLY thick/gelled up that time, but didn’t seem to taste any different; both times it came out fine.
If you cook it on too high of a heat, it will thicken up too quickly and on the bottom first. That will leave it with clumps of thick filling on the bottom, and loose, soupy filling on the top. If that happens, just whisk it vigorously till the lumps are gone and lower the heat; you may need to whisk the whole time. It may thicken before the starchy taste is gone, in which case, just keep cooking on low heat till it doesn’t taste so raw (or don’t worry about it.)
Next you need to add the egg yolks. The eggs need to be tempered before you add them to the hot milk mixture; otherwise, you get scrambled yolks in milk, not a thick, rich custard. Add several spoonfuls of the hot liquid to the egg yolks, and stir well. I usually do it till the bowl begins to feel warm in my hands. Then rapidly whisk the yolk mixture into the milk mixture. The mixture will be hot enough to cook the egg yolks, but if you’re worried about it, just keep stirring it while it’s bubbling for a minute or two.
Add the butter and keep stirring till it’s melted. Chill at least 2 hours (we’ve made them without chilling it, but it’s easier to work with chilled) or until ready to use; refrigerate until 1 hour before using.
Chocolate Eclairs pastry recipe
1 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, plus 1 extra, if needed
Egg wash (optional):
1 1/2 teaspoons water
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, add 3 eggs, 1 egg at a time. If necessary, stop mixing after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining 1 egg and mix until incorporated. (Sometimes, I found, you need to add more than 1 extra egg to get it the right consistency; but even if it’s too thick, they still puff up fine; it’s just harder to work with.)
Now is the part where you get out your pastry/cake icing bag to pipe out the eclairs! Don’t worry, it’s not hard. Fill the bag with some of the “dough”. Folding over the top of the bag makes it easier and less messy. Twist the bag closed above the fill line, forcing the filling lower into the bag. The original recipe said to use “a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip” to pipe out the dough, but I would use it without any tip–just the white coupler–because you want a thick strip of dough.
Or, do like I usually do–simply take a disposable icing bag, snip off the tip of it, and pipe it straight out of the opening in the bag. The dough comes out thick enough that this actually works best for me. The recipe says: “Pipe fat lengths of dough (about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog) onto the lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. You should have 8 to 10 lengths.” If you don’t have an icing bag, you could just spoon out lengths of dough, but make sure you smooth them out.
Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps or points of dough that remain on the surface. If you want to do the optional egg wash–this makes them look more golden–mix together the egg and water, and brush it over the lengths of dough.
At this next step the recipe and I disagree: how long to bake them for. I will tell you what the recipe says in case anyone else finds it to be accurate, but I certainly didn’t. The recipe says: “Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during baking.” I found that it only needs about 10–11 minutes at 425 degrees, then 12-13 minutes at 375 degrees.
When I made them, they puffed up during the first section at 425 degrees, and finished baking the rest of the way at 375 in a lot less time than the recipe said. Check them to see when they are both puffed up and golden brown in color, and that is when they are done.
Let the eclair shells cool on the baking sheet before filling them.
You’re almost there!! Time to fill them!
Either use your finger to poke a hole in the end of each eclair, or fit a medium-sized plain pastry tip over your index finger and use it to make a hole. I usually poke my finger farther into the eclair, to gently break through any walls inside of them. The idea is to have a hollow shell to fill with custard.
The recipe says: “Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe the custard into the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside (don’t stuff them full).” I have to admit, I usually “stuff” them, which is probably why I usually run out of custard before I’ve filled them all!
The same “trick” as I mentioned earlier is helpful for reducing messiness; fold over the edges of the icing bag before filling it half-full with custard, and twist it closed to push the custard further down.
Once you’ve filled them all, there’s just the glaze left to do . . . you’re inches away from eating these delicious treats!
2 TB butter, or 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips, or 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
(I usually put a lot of chocolate glaze on, and wind up making more than the recipe says)
The original recipe called for cream, but we use butter instead.
I do it this way: I fill a pot half-full with water, bring it to a simmer, and put a bowl over that with the chocolate chips and butter in it, and then stir it as it gradually melts. My sister always did it this way–I’m not sure if there’s an advantage to doing it this way instead of just using the microwave :P–maybe they just melt together more evenly that way.
Spoon and spread the chocolate mixture over each one. (The recipe says, “Or dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze”) and set on a sheet pan.
The recipe says to “Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set the glaze. Serve chilled.” but we have often eaten them warm! I like it better when the chocolate glaze is still warm, myself.
Thanks again to Cadence Purdy for her guest blog!
Tune in next Friday for more Food-Filled Fridays!