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Chocolate Eclairs Recipe & Video

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A Chocolate Eclair is a delicious combination of crisp pastry, luscious cream, and dark chocolate. Eclairs start with a hollow, log-shaped shell of choux pastry that can be filled with vanilla, chocolate, or a coffee flavored pastry cream. The finishing touch is to dip the top of the pastry in a vanilla, chocolate, or coffee flavored glaze or fondant. While the flavor of the filling usually matches the flavor of the glaze, I'm going to break from tradition here, and fill the choux pastry with a vanilla flavored pastry cream and then dip them in a dark chocolate glaze. But if you want a chocolate pastry cream, simply stir two ounces (55 grams) of finely chopped chocolate into the hot pastry cream. 

While a French pastry chef (Antonin Careme) may have invented the Chocolate Eclair, North Americans have become very fond of this pastry. This is an unusual pastry in that it's first cooked on the stove and then baked in the oven. It is made by adding flour to a boiled mixture of butter and water (like a roux). It is important that the butter melts before the water boils as you do not want too much evaporation as this will change the consistency of the dough. Once the flour is added the mixture is cooked just until it forms a smooth ball of dough. After removing from the heat, cool to lukewarm, and then slowly add beaten egg until you have a smooth thick paste-like dough. (As you add the egg, you will notice that the dough first breaks apart but as you continue to beat it will come back together.) Once you pipe the dough onto the baking sheet you can brush the pastry with a bit of beaten egg. This gives the pastry a lovely golden brown sheen and you can also smooth out any imperfections on the surface of the pastry. The pastry is baked first at a high temperature and then the oven temperature is lowered. The high temperature is needed so the dough will rise quickly (leaving a hollow center) and to set the structure of the shells. The temperature is then reduced to allow the outsides of the shells to become firm and crisp, while at the same time allowing the insides of the shells to dry out. You might want to cut one of the shells in half at the end of baking to make sure they have dried out, because if the inside dough is still very wet (although a little wet dough is fine), the choux pastry will deflate upon cooling. You can store the unfilled choux pastry shells at room temperature for one day or you can freeze them for about a month. To reheat, place in a 325 degree F (165 degree C) oven for about 5 - 10 minutes or until crisp.

Once the pastry shells have cooled, split them in half (lengthwise). The top half is dipped in a chocolate glaze and the bottom half is filled with pastry cream. (The pastry cream can be made up to three days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Stir before using.) If you want the pastry shells to remain crisp, glaze and fill the shells with the cream shortly before serving. If you don't mind the shells becoming a little soft (actually I prefer it this way) you can assemble the chocolate eclairs a few hours (or up to 2 days) before serving. Just make sure you cover and store the eclairs in the refrigerator. This recipe can be doubled.

 

Choux Pastry: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. To make all the eclairs  the same size, I use a template. Take a piece of parchment paper and draw 12 - 3 1/2 inch (8.5 cm) lines, spacing the lines about 2 - 3 inches (5 - 7 cm) apart. Place the template under your parchment paper so you can use it as a guide.

In a bowl whisk the flour with the sugar and salt. Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir until combined. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). Transfer the dough to your electric mixer (can do this by hand or with a hand mixer), and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about 1 minute). Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon). Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe 12 oblongs of dough (about 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide) onto the baking sheet (using template as a guide). (When piping have the bag at a 45 degree angle.) If desired, with a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the dough with a lightly beaten egg. 

Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Continue to bake for a further 25 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are almost dry inside. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Pastry Cream: In a heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Whisk the flour with the cornstarch and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk just to a boil (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If necessary pour through a strainer.) Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, keep whisking constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until the pastry cream becomes thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. (For a chocolate pastry cream stir in 2 ounces (55 grams) finely chopped semi sweet chocolate. For a mocha flavor add 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder to the hot milk.) Pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until firm (can be made up to 3 days ahead). Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Chocolate Glaze: Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream just until boiling and immediately pour it over the chocolate. Gently stir until the chocolate has melted. Stir in the vanilla extract and corn syrup.

To Assemble: Split the pastry shells in half, lengthwise. Take the top shell and dip into the chocolate glaze, letting the excess drip off. Place on a wire rack to dry. Fill the bottom half (can spoon or pipe) with the cream. Once the glaze is dry, gently place the top half of the pastry shell on the cream. Can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for two days.

Makes 12 Chocolate Eclairs.

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Choux Pastry:

1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup (120 ml) water

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Glaze: (optional)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Pastry Cream:

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk

3 large egg yolks

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour

2 scant tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:

2 ounces (55 grams) semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy "whipping" cream (cream with 35% butterfat content)

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup (or golden syrup or glucose)

 
 
     
 

 

 

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