Salted Caramel and Vanilla Eclairs

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I rarely make éclairs because I rarely eat éclairs. And the reason I rarely eat them is because I don’t really find them good. The pastry cream is often too sweet and sticky, and the choux casing is often dry and rubbery. The only consistently good part is the icing. However, in the past few months, it’s become all the rage in Paris. Specialty shops and éclair counters are popping up literally everywhere with an array of colorful, freshly-assembled éclairs. The flavors offered are endless, only the shape remains unchanged.

This is my second attempt at éclair making. The first one was years ago and a complete fail. This time, I used a French baking blog (la cuisine de Bernard) for a step by step explanation. And it paid off.

Making éclairs is laborious—I will not hide that. The pastry cream needs to be smooth and creamy, which means not over boiling the milk and not scrambling the eggs. The choux dough needs to be light and fluffy, which translates in a lot of elbow grease. My arm still hurts as I type this blog post out. J

But ultimately, if you have the time and the will to make these delicacies at home, do it. They are hands down the best, most scrumptious dessert when well made.

By the way, you need to count two days from start to finish. According to Bernard (the chef I inspired myself from), the baked choux casing and pastry cream need to rest overnight to facilitate the assembly.

 

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Makes 10 big éclairs or 20 small ones

 

Pâte à choux

(make the day before)

60 ml water

60 ml milk

55 g salted butter (if you don’t have salted butter, add a ½ tsp salt to the batter)

3 g sugar

2 eggs

70 g flour

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C or 400 F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring the milk, water, sugar, and salt to a simmer.
  3. Once the mixture simmers, take off heat and add in the flour all at once. Beat energetically.
  4. Return to heat and, whisking continuously, dry out the batter for a minute over medium heat.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add a little bit of the flour mixture into the eggs and whisk super-fast so as not to cook your eggs. Add a bit more and beat again. Repeat until the eggs are homogenously incorporated into the dough.
  6. Place the dough in a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.
  7. Pipe out finger-long éclairs (for mini, use your pinkie as reference – for normal, use your major). Try to keep them as flat as possible because they puff up a lot!
  8. Bake for 17 minutes (for minis) and 23 minutes (for normal) or until dough is puffed and golden.

 

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Vanilla Pastry Cream

(make the day before)

500 ml 2% milk

50 g salted butter

55 g pastry cream powder (it’s a baking specialty product you should be able to find in the baking aisle – it makes the cream super creamy)

5 egg yolks (keep the whites for Italian meringue! Yum)

100 g sugar, divided

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 50 g sugar and the pastry cream powder. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, mix the milk, butter, and the remaining 50 g of sugar. Boil.
  3. Take off the heat. Pour a little bit of warm milk on the eggs and whisk vigorously.
  4. Add a bit more, and beat again. Repeat until the eggs are combined with the flour.
  5. Pour mixture into saucepan and return to medium heat. Add vanilla. Whisk for 3 minutes or until your pastry cream has thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  6. Pour into a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. The wrap should touch the mixture to prevent it from drying out. Place in the fridge overnight.
  7. To use the cream, take out of fridge and whisk until smooth.
  8. Place in a piping bag fitted with a very small fluted nozzle and make 2-3 indents (directly with the nozzle into the top of each éclairs – for small éclairs, make on hole near either extremity – for normal ones, make one hole in the middle and 1 near either extremity).
  9. Pipe out the cream into each hole until you see it begin to pop out of the holes. Run your finger over any runaway cream and smooth the top.

 

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Salted Caramel Icing

90 g sugar

100 ml water

30 g salted butter

2 tbsp crème fraiche (or sour cream)

  1. In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water on high heat.
  2. Once it begins browning, take off the heat. Add the salted butter.
  3. Place over low heat. Add the cream. Mix until smooth.
  4. Take off the heat. Carefully, dip the side of the éclairs that have the holes in them into the icing.

 

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