E is for Éclairs . . .

Mmmm . . .choux pastry, cream and chocolate.

I don’t make these often because my figure does not approve of the calories. Accept by way of adding to the waistline? yes . . .approve? not so much.

The French éclair is thought to have originated in France during the 19th century and quickly gained popularity due to its shape and ease to handle. Some food historians attribute its beginnings to the French chef Antonin Carême (1784 – 1833). The first recorded English – language recipe appears in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, which was published in 1884.

A traditional éclair is made with choux pastry dough, baked and then filled with a cream of some sort and topped with confectioner’s sugar, icing or chocolate. The dough is piped into an oblong shape with a pastry bag (make the shapes round and they become profiteroles) and baked until crisp on the outside and hollow on the inside. Once cool, the pastry is then either sliced in half or injected (remember, the pastry is hollow inside) with a pastry crème. Most common fillings are a coffee or chocolate (or both . . . making it mocha) pastry crème, though other fillings include vanilla custard, fresh whipped cream or chiboust crème. I’ve also had these filled with pistachio or chestnut custard. The top is either dusted with confectioner’s sugar, or glazed with chocolate. Sometimes the top is iced with caramel, but then the dessert magically morphs into a bâton de Jacob.

Éclair is French for "lightning," though the connection is obscure.

Ingredients (for 20 éclairs):

Éclair Pastry Dough:
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
4 oz. butter
1 cup flour
5 eggs
2 tsp. granulated Sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.

In a pot, mix water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil. Once butter has completely melted, take the pot off the heat and slowly pour in the flour, stirring constantly.

Put the pot back on the heat and continue to work it with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring and kneading with spoon until the dough dries out and stops sticking to the sides of the pot.

Take the pot off the heat (I know, on the heat, off the heat, . . .enough already!) Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring energetically. You must work quickly.

Transfer the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a medium sized round or fluted tip. The size of your tip will determine the size of the éclair . . .bigger tip, bigger éclair. Squeeze out "finger-sized" éclairs onto prepared baking sheet, well-spaced apart to give them room to expand while baking.

Bake for 10 minutes. Then turn oven down to 385°F and bake another 10-12 minutes with the oven door open. Remove from oven and transfer from baking sheet onto cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.

Voilà! Step 1 complete

Chocolate Cream Filling:
6 oz. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate, chopped
1 cup Milk
4 Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Flour

Melt and milk in a pot and allow to mixture to come to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until it turns pale and light, almost whitens. Slowly add the flour, stirring. Slowly add chocolate and milk, stirring until homogenous (that means well blended).

Return pot to heat and bring mixture to a slow boil, stirring constantly until cream thickens and becomes smooth. Remove pot from heat and allow to cool.

Fit a pastry bag fitted with a long narrow round tip (the elongated narrow tip will allow you to piece the hollow pastry without causing a huge hole in the side. Fill pastry bag with cooled chocolate cream and begin filling the éclairs. Work slowly, you don’t want to have an éclair explosion on your hands. You will begin to feel when the pastry is full. If you don’t want to fill them with a pastry bag, you can cut the éclairs in half and just spoon the cream into the centers like a sandwich.

Et alors! Step 2 is complete.

Chocolate Icing:
5 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
2 oz. Butter
1/4 cup Water

Melt chocolate with water in a small pot over a low heat. Add butter while whisking. Continue whisking until shiny and smooth.

Remove from heat. Spread a thin layer over each éclair, using an offset spatula or small butter knife. Allow icing to cool and firm on éclairs

Et enfin, c’est fini!

Dare you to eat just one. . . .okay, have one more

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