As a child, my father worked as a route salesman for Entenmann’s; there was never a shortage of eclairs in our home. A delicious indulgence that was readily available–but never made in my own kitchen, until now.
I’ll admit, these challenges have become true challenges for me lately. Between working two jobs, house hunting, playing lodge mom for the kids at the local ski hill, and battling the stomach bug twice and a cold once in just four weeks, there has been little to no time to experiment in the kitchen–and about as much inclination to do so, as well. There are not enough hours in the day to fit in everything I want to do AND get enough rest. My house is a mess and just the sight of it sucks all creativity right out of me, leaving me limp and listless, unable to muster the energy to do much more than lie in bed and catch up on Netflix streaming. It sucks.
So here I am again, on the eve of a deadline, procrastinating. The dishes, piled up on the counter and in the sinks, promise that I cannot get to work without spending 30-40 minutes cleaning up. A clean-up that will be extremely short-lived, once I start making eclairs and refill the sinks. For the first time in a long time, the mere thought of baking has become a chore. It used to be an escape, a coping mechanism, a source of eternal joy. Now? I can barely stand the thought of it. What’s happened to me?
Regardless, the show must go on…
So I washed up, clearing the counter as best I could of the last couple days’ clutter. And I set to work. And in no time, the same old familiar feeling gently washed over me–joy in the kitchen. Peace. A task in which I could involve myself so wholly that the world around me ceases to matter for that little time spent laboring over a recipe. Or two. This is what’s been missing.
The eclairs? Sure, they look like an amateur made them, but it is, after all, my first time. To simplify matters, I piped them out using my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator–so many great uses for that tool! The pastry cream was nowhere near thickened enough the first time around, even though I dutifully stirred it for over 30 minutes over low heat. Once I realized it would not set in the fridge, I returned it to the burner and started with a much higher temperature. It thickened in mere minutes and tastes delicious, almost bypassing the choux pastry entirely in favor of my stomach!
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut up
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1-2 pinches flaky sea salt (Maldon)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 ounces bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate, broken into small pieces
- 1 Tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt, bringing to a boil over medium heat.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the flour, stirring constantly until the dough forms a ball.
- Transfer to the bowl of your stand mixer and mix on low speed for 3 minutes to cool.
- Add eggs one at a time, thoroughly incorporating each before adding the next.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least a half hour (and up to 24 hours) before using.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and half of the sugar over medium heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, other half of the sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla extract.
- Once the milk is gently boiling, remove from heat and slowly pour a ribbon of about ⅓ of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, constantly beating with the whisk to ensure proper tempering of the eggs.
- Pour the eggs into the rest of the hot milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, beating constantly with the whisk.
- Once the mixture has thickened, cook it for another 3 minutes to ensure the starch is cooked off.
- Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap over the surface of the pastry cream to ensure no skin forms.
- Keep in refrigerator until cooled completely and up to 2 days before using.
- When ready to bake the eclairs, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Scoop the dough into a pastry bag (or I used a Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator) fitted with a large star tip.
- Pipe out lines of eclairs, spacing 1 inch apart on the sheet. You can add layers on top of layers to make them puffier--in fact, I recommend it if they're a little on the thin side initially.
- Brush the tops of each line of dough with the beaten egg.
- Bake both sheets for 25 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until golden on top.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- In a microwave safe bowl, heat the chocolate at 50% power for 30 second intervals, stirring in between each, until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Stir in the cream and butter until smooth.
- Transfer the pastry cream to a pastry bag or Easy Accent Decorator, fitted with the long, narrow tip for filling.
- Gently push the tip into one end of an eclair and fill, then repeat on the other end.
- Dip filled eclair on the eggwash side in the chocolate.
- Assemble on a wax paper lined tray and transfer to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Serve or transfer to an air-tight container for longer storage, up to 2 days.
Next month, we’ll be making Royal Icing for First on the First. We’d love to have you join us! For more details, check out the First on the First tab above.