One of my first encounters with delicious, scratch-made pastries is from this bakery down my street, Hans and Harrys. Every time we had company, or wanted something extra special for dessert, we would get desserts from this pastry shop. Whether it was my sister’s favorite White Chocolate Mousse Cake, or Steve’s favorite Fresh Fruit Tartlets, we always enjoyed everything that came from this little shop.
One of my favorite pastries from Hans and Harrys was their Chocolate Éclairs. I loved the soft, egg-y pastry, filled with this delicious cream and dipped in Chocolate. It truly was my first experience with a good quality pastry. And to this day I will always remember those Chocolate Éclair.
Ever since I started baking a few years ago we haven’t even visited Hans and Harrys once. I always bake the desserts for every get together and special together. And I really enjoy this! But it means that I needed to make sure I make bake pastries just as good as if it was from a bakery – Especially Fresh Fruit Tartlets and Éclairs.
I tackled the tart a couple years ago but it took until this week to make Éclairs. I wanted to make something special for Mothers Day and I was thinking something that my mom would really like. She has always wanted to me to make Éclairs, so I thought no time better than now. And I must admit, they came out fantastic!
I never attempted Éclairs because I thought they would be difficult. The Pate Choux (the pastry to make the Éclair dough) has always been very intimating to me. But I knew that I had to try it sooner than later. After giving it a first try, I now believe how easy it is! The dough comes together in minutes and involves very simple ingredients. The only thing that you have to remember is to not open the oven while the éclairs are baking. They will deflate and not become puffy. Also be sure to bake the éclairs until they turn a deep golden brown. If you remove them from the oven too early they will not be filled with air and will again deflate.
To make these éclairs more special for mother’s day I made them in mini size. I also made it easier and just split the éclairs in half instead of piping the vanilla pastry cream into the whole éclair. I also decided to make two versions – some drizzled in chocolate, and the others dusted in confectioners sugar.
Oh, and for fun I made some small Cream Puffs. All you do is pipe the dough in a small round instead of a long rectangle.
Mini Éclairs with Vanilla Pastry Cream
For Printable Recipe, Click here!
Makes: About 12 2.5-inch Éclairs
For the Pate Choux (Pastry for Éclairs)
¼ cup Whole Milk
¼ cup Water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter
½ teaspoon Salt
½ cup All Purpose Flour
Vanilla Pastry Cream
2 cups Half and Half
½ cup Sugar
5 Egg Yolks
3 tablespoons Cornstarch
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter
1 ½ teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
Melted Chocolate, For Drizzling
Confectioners Sugar, For Dusting
To make the vanilla pastry cream, heat the half and half and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering – just before the boiling point -- stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Add the cornstarch to the egg mixture and whisk until the mixture has thickened and has become a light pale yellow color.
When the half and half begins to simmer, remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pot and place over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened and bubbles start to form on the surface, about 2-5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface, and place in the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 2 hours.
While the pastry cream is chilling, make the Pate Choux. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, set aside until needed.
In a small saucepan, add the milk, water, butter, and salt, and set over medium-high heat. Heat up the mixture until it begins to boil, whisking occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and, with a wooden spoon, stir in the flour. Return the pot to stove over medium heat, and stir until the dough starts to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat the mixture on medium speed for 1 minute, and then add the eggs, one at a time. Continue beating for 20 more seconds until the eggs are fully incorporated and the pastry dough is smooth.
Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip. Pipe 2 ½-inch-long éclairs on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the pastries until they turn golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN WHILE THE ECLAIRS ARE BAKING! Remove from the oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
To assemble the éclairs, carefully split the éclairs in half lengthwise. Place the pastry cream in a piping bag and pipe a large dollop of the pastry cream on the bottom of each éclair. Top with the top-half of the éclair. To finish, either drizzle with melted chocolate or sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Enjoy!
These last up to 7 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Éclair recipe from Martha Stewart. Pastry Cream adapted from Annie Eats, who adapted it from Baking Illustrated.