I have a weakness when it comes to patisserie, I always had. Even now that I’ve drastically reduced my consumption of cakes, pastries, biscuits and even chocolate, I still do like to eat them as a treat every now and then. I enjoy baking them just as much, and when I bake at home, I feel much more in control of the quality of the ingredients I use. It may not make the end baked-goods less calorific, but I’m sure it will be less processed than many super-market bought products, and dare I say more delicious.
So when my daughters ask me to make them éclairs for pudding (obviously on rare occasions), I jump with joy at the opportunity. They also get involved piping the delicacies with cream and smothering them with chocolate. Yes, the end result may not be the perfectly shaped éclair, but that’s what makes it even more perfect; home-made and child-made. Plus it tastes so good we always end up fighting over the last piece.
A good choux pastry should puff up nicely in the oven, but knowing my luck, and since I got the camera ready this time, they came out slightly deflated. I won’t bore you with the technical and scientific details as to why they didn’t puff properly this time (yeah just an excuse to pretend I know all about it), but let’s just say the timing of mixing the ingredients is very crucial. So when you have a toddler distracting you on that day, a little imperfection is perfectly normal.
For my own sanity, I’ll make them again all puffed up nicely with the camera on hand.
So here is my version..
Chocolate éclairs – makes about 10
For the choux pastry
- 65ml milk
- 65ml water
- 55 g butter, diced
- pinch of salt
- pinch of unrefined caster sugar
- 75 g unbleached plain flour (all purpose flour)
- 2 medium eggs
Preheat oven to 200°C / 180° (fan assisted), and line a baking tray with baking parchment wiped with butter or water droplets. This helps create steam and in turn make the choux buns rise nicely.
Combine the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and set over a low heat. Bring to a boil (just simmering) and remove the pan from the heat immediately. Add the flour and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth. It’s a good workout for you arm.
Return the pan to a medium heat for about 1 minute or 2, stirring constantly, until you get a neat dough that easily comes off the sides of the pan.
Tip into a bowl, and then add the eggs one by one, beating with a wooden spoon or with an electric beater. Please do not add the eggs to the pan that has just been removed from the heat because you will end up with scrambled eggs. Trust me I’ve been there. You want the dough to be at the right temperature so don’t delay adding the eggs for too long.
Once the eggs are all incorporated into the dough, you should have a smooth, glossy and thick mixture. The choux is now ready to be used for piping.
Tip into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5 cm wide plain nozzle. If you don’t have a piping bag, simply add the choux into a strong plastic bag and snip one pointy edge to about 1.5 cm wide. Pipe into 12 cm lengths and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Without opening the oven door reduce the temperature by 20° degrees and bake for a further 10 minutes.
Remove the tray from the oven and carefully make holes on the side of the choux to let the steam escape. (Take care they will be hot). Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes to crisp up. Leave to cool completely.
For the cream filling
- 200 ml or 3/4 cup whipping cream
- 4 teaspoons unrefined light muscovado sugar (or icing sugar)
- small dash of vanilla
In a medium/large bowl, add the sugar and vanilla to the cream and let sit for a while in order for the sugar to be dissolved. Whip by hand or with an electric beater until just stiff.
Fill a piping bag (or a strong plastic bag) with the whipped cream and snip the edge to about 1 cm wide. Any bigger and it will get messy.
Carefully cut the cooled éclairs along one side and pipe the cream until filled.
For the chocolate coating
- 100 g dark chocolate (e.g. Cadbury’s Bournville)
- 15 g butter (about 1 tablespoon)
- A dash of whipped cream (optional)
Melt the chocolate either in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (being careful the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water), or, in short bursts of 30 seconds in a microwave until there are no lumps and the chocolate is smooth. Add butter and leave to cool slightly to make it easier to spread. If too thick, add a splash of cream to loosen it slightly.
Now, have fun spreading the éclairs with the glossy chocolate. Enjoy!
Note: If you get deflated éclairs, don’t be disheartened. Kids think they are perfect no matter how wonky or cracked they looked! 🙂