One of my very good friends had her birthday this week, and she requested eclairs! This was a tall order, because she served an LDS mission in France for a year and a half, so she really knows what delicious pastries are supposed to taste like! Her two older boys came over so I could show them how to do it.
To make eclairs, you start with Pate a Choux dough, which is cooked on the stovetop for part of the time, and then transferred to a mixer. The dough is then put into a piping bag with a round tip, and you pipe logs onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Next, you have to make the pastry cream that goes in the center. So the boys got to learn about tempering eggs so the custard doesn't curdle! After the pastry cream and pate a choux shells had cooled, we used another piping bag with a "bismark" tip to inject the shells with pastry cream. Last, we made some chocolate ganache, and dipped the top of each eclair into the ganache. My friend showed up right at this point in the process, and we all enjoyed a fresh, delicious eclair together! They were fantastic!
Pate a Choux
makes 8 eclairs
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons whole milk
6 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1. Beat the eggs and egg white in a measuring cup or small bowl; you should have ½ cup (discard the excess). Set aside.
2. Bring the butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice. When the mixture reaches a full boil (the butter should be fully melted), immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand, and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 minutes (the paste should register 175 to 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
3. Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly. With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream. When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms. (If not using immediately in one of the following recipes, transfer the paste to a medium bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap that has been sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray directly on the surface, and store at room temperature for up to 2 hours.)