SMiLes by Meg

Eclairs

Happy Mother’s Day! This year, we started a new tradition – my cousin Kim and I cooked brunch for all the mothers on my dad’s side of the family – my mom, her mom (hi Gail!), our grandmother, and my godmother (our aunt). Brunch is my favorite meal to cook, but terribly difficult to make dessert for – it’s already pretty sweet, and everyone tends to feast and get full since it’s the first meal of the day.

I wanted to make something light enough to still eat after waffles, quiche, bacon, sausage, fruit salad, and hash browns (that’s me bragging about my brunch spread). And I kinda really just wanted to pick up some pastries at the French bakery in town and focus on making other stuff. Which made me think I could make French pastries myself! Resulting in, of course, even more work. But worth it.

Before continuing, I should also address the elephant in the room – I changed my blog layout again! Hopefully this makes it easier to find the treats you love, or at least convinces you to sign up to get my blog sent straight to your email – that’s the nice little box to the right if you want to do that!

Anyways, eclairs. I’m going to give you a couple do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do tips as we take a journey through this recipe.

The night before you actually want to eat these, you should make the custard. In a small saucepan, heat the milk just until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat.

In a stand mixer, whisk together the flour and sugar to combine. Easier to do this by hand than using the whisk attachment – I was being unnecessarily lazy. Then add the egg yolks and beat on medium speed with the whisk attachment until a paste forms. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the milk into the bowl, and continue beating to incorporate. Don’t stress out when it’s all foamy – we’ll fix that. Pour the batter back into the saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the froth goes away, it thickens, and just starts to boil. Remove from heat and transfer to new bowl. Whisk in vanilla extract. Whisk in the butter until melted and incorporated. Allow to cool for a couple minutes, then press plastic wrap over the surface and refrigerate to chill overnight. When you are thinking about eating the eclairs, you’ll need to make the base. I recommend whisking up the eggs and having the flour pre-measured before you start this process – it’s quick! In a large pot, combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt over medium high heat. Once it begins to simmer, remove from heat and quickly stir in the flour. Until fully incorporated. Put back over heat for two minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and continue mixing for another 3 minutes to cool – I transferred to another bowl for this step because I prefer to mix in bowls. I feel like it’s weird to have a preference about that, but I do. Slowly mix in the eggs, a little at a time, until dough is thick and stretchy. Drop dough by the big spoonful onto a baking sheet lined with tin foil and sprayed with cooking spray, about 2 inches apart – they spread a bit. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350°F and continue to cook for another 10 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Keep an eye on them, but don’t open the oven door if you can help it – puff pastry is testy. When they’re done, remove from oven and prick each puff with a toothpick to release steam. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

When you’re ready to assemble the eclairs, make the glaze by just combining the sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla extract in a bowl until smooth and shiny. You could try to pipe the custard into the eclairs, but I didn’t have a piping bag, and my makeshift one failed pretty hard: So I took to the method of cutting a little slit in the side, spooning in some custard, smushing it shut, and dipping the top in chocolate glaze. Place them on a plate immediately to let glaze set.

If you make them big, this recipe will make about 12 eclairs. I couldn’t fit any more on my cookie sheet, so I sized accordingly.  If you won’t eat them all at once (like we did – I’ve had two today and a whole bunch of custard from “cleaning” the bowl), they should keep OK in the fridge, and would probably be pretty good chilled. That’s how they always have them at the bakery that inspired me.

Enjoy!

Eclairs

Ingredients:

Custard

  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Puff Pastry

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten

Chocolate Glaze

  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Custard

  1. In a small saucepan, heat milk until just begins to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer bowl, whisk together flour and sugar.
  3. With the whisk attachment, beat in egg yolks until a paste forms on medium speed.
  4. With the mixer still running, slowly add warm milk, beating to incorporate.
  5. Transfer batter back in to saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until foam dissipates, mixture thickens, and bubbles just begin to form. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract. Whisk in butter until melted and smooth.
  6. Transfer custard to bowl and allow to cool a few minutes at room temperature before covering with plastic wrap, touching the surface, and refrigerating overnight to chill.

Puff Pastry

  1. In a large pot, combine water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt over medium high heat, and cook until just begins simmer.
  2. Remove from heat and quickly mix in flour to incorporate.
  3. Return to heat for two minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from heat and continue to mix for 3 more minutes to help cool.
  5. Slowly mix in beaten eggs, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and dough is thick and stretchy.
  6. Drop dough by the large spoonful two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and sprayed with cooking spray.
  7. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue to bake for 10 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and prick with a toothpick to release steam. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Glaze and Assembly

  1. When ready to assemble eclairs, make the glaze by whisking together all ingredients in a bowl until smooth and shiny.
  2. Cut a small slice in the side of each eclair, maybe 1/4 way around. Spoon in custard. Dip top in chocolate glaze. Set on plate to let glaze harden.

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