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April Kitchen Challenge Results: Eclairs

Homemade Eclairs with Pastry Cream Filling from @loveandoliveoil

The very definition of an epic mess is when you’re left cleaning chocolate from between your toes.

And yes, I probably should have expected that when I set out to recreate my eclair doodle from the announcement post, not quite realizing that 3 different glazes and 6 different colors and 2 different fillings plus drizzles and sprinkles would use up every bowl and spoon in the house. It’s one thing to imagine the mess you’ll make and another thing entirely to actually make it.

Homemade Eclairs with Pastry Cream Filling from @loveandoliveoil

April Kitchen Challenge: EclairsWe made two different filling flavors, both based on a vanilla bean pastry cream. One had a touch of almond extract, the other, bourbon. I accidentally made less of the bourbon filling, turning us into prospectors hunting for the hidden gold (aka bourbon). It’s like when you take your chances with the box of chocolates, hoping you don’t get the nasty coconut one, except we were all hoping we’d choose the bourbon eclair. The almond was good, admittedly, but the bourbon was better.

But, overall? Not too bad. Definitely not something to be scared of, and not nearly as ‘challenging’ as some of the previous challenges. I think the piping is perhaps the hardest part, but the pastries puff up so much when baked that it pretty much masks any imperfections, and whatever’s left gets covered up by the thick chocolate glaze.

If only all of my mistakes could be covered with chocolate glaze…

How to Make Homemade Eclairs

Pâte à choux. A fancy name for a pretty simple dough that starts on the stovetop, and finishes in the mixer. The result is smooth and shiny, like a thick and elastic cake batter that holds its shape when piped.

How to Make Homemade Eclairs

Tip: put your pastry bag in a drinking glass, folding down the top over the rim to make for easy loading.

How to Make Homemade Eclairs

How to Make Homemade Eclairs

There is no leavening agent in eclairs; rather, they rely on steam to create the crisp outer shells and hollow centers screaming to be filled with sweet pastry cream.

How to Make Homemade Eclairs

I used a small star tip to ‘inject’ the filling into the centers. You are supposed to make holes in the sides of the pastries anyway when they come out of the oven (to help release steam and keep them from collapsing), so it’s not as hard as it seems. You can also get a specialty ‘filling’ tip for your pastry bag instead of a star tip, which would make this job even easier.

How to Make Homemade Eclairs

I will say that they are not lying when they say that eclairs are best enjoyed the day they are made: day old eclairs are not pleasant. The chocolate glaze held up at least, although the pastries themselves were a bit soggy. The ones with the powdered sugar glaze (the maple, white, and colored ones) melted and oozed all over the oven (where we stored them overnight because cats). It wasn’t pretty.

Homemade Eclairs with Pastry Cream Filling from @loveandoliveoil

Luckily we all ate our fill of them before (“mini” means you can totally justify eating 3 or 4, right?) so they didn’t all go to waste.

Chocolate-Glazed Eclairs with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream Filling

Yield: 12 large or 24 mini eclairs

Total Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

For Pastry Cream:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract OR 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

For Eclairs:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs

For Chocolate Glaze:

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, shaved or finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. The day before, prepare the pastry cream filling as it needs sufficient time to set.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle simmer.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk together with sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla bean seeds until combined and no lumps remain.
  4. Slowly whisk a 1/4 cup of hot milk into the eggs; it will be thick at first but will loosen up as the milk incorporates. Continue adding hot milk, 1/4 cup at a time, until about half of the milk has been added and mixture is hot to the touch. Whisk the tempered egg/milk mixture back into the hot milk on the stove. Continue to whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble (careful as it will spatter). Continue to cook for exactly one minute to thoroughly out the starchy flavor of the cornstarch. Stir in almond extract or bourbon (if desired).
  5. Pour the pastry cream into a container or heat-proof bowl, pressing plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
  6. To prepare the eclairs,  preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  7. In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, water, salt, sugar, and butter and bring to a full boil over medium heat. Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture comes together and dries out slightly so that it pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes.
  8. Transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a heat-proof mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. When all the eggs have been added, the dough will be thick, smooth, and shiny.
  9. Spoon some of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch-round tip. Pipe out tubes about 5 inches long and 1 inch wide, or 3-4 inches long and 1 inch wide for mini eclairs. Leave about 2 inches of space between eclairs as they will puff up quite a bit when baking. If you have any "tails" or imperfections, you can smooth them out with a damp fingertip.
  10. Bake until puffed and just starting to show some color, about 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and continue to bake until hollow inside and evenly golden brown outside, about 12 minutes more. Remove from the oven and, using a metal skewer, poke a small hole in the end of each shell to allow the steam to escape. Let cool on wire racks.
  11. To prepare glaze, combine chocolate and corn syrup in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream until it just starts to bubble (do not let it come to a full boil), and then pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir gently until smooth and shiny.
  12. To assemble the eclairs, stir the cold pastry cream until smooth. Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a small star or special filling tip. Using the holes on each end that you made when the eclairs came out of the oven, fill the shells until they start to feel heavy. Do not overfill or they may start to spew filling out the sides.
  13. Dip the top of each filled eclair into glaze, letting excess drip off, then place upright on a wire rack and allow glaze to set. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 6 hours. Alternatively, unfilled pastry shells can be frozen for up to 3 weeks. Recrisp in a 450 degree F oven for about 10 minutes; let cool before filling/glazing as instructed.

Eclair recipe from Tartine, pastry cream adapted from Bravetart.

Another challenge in the books! I was very impressed with your submissions as well. Although I did have a few cream puff submissions, which weren’t technically part of the challenge (cream puffs use the same general techniques but skip over the piping step in lieu of round spoonfuls) but I’ve included them here nonetheless because they were just so gosh darn pretty.

Thanks for playing along! I’ll be announcing the next kitchen challenge in June, in the meantime, happy baking!

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35 CommentsLeave a Comment →

  1. 1
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Too many eclairs that must be eating day of? Best problem ever!  Totally cracking up at the bourbon/gold comment too’

    Reply

  2. 2
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I wish that my eclairs turned out as pretty as yours. Thanks so much for including me in the round-up!

    Reply

  3. 3
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Oh goodness…I think I need these right now! They all look amazing. I think I need to try and make eclairs, haven’t ever before. Seems like a great challenge for myself. These eclairs look amazing! :)

    Reply

  4. 4
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 8:34 am

    those are some mighty fine eclairs! i just tried my hand at pate a choux this weekend for little cream puffs and was amazed at how easy it was! i’m so excited to see that it can also be used for eclairs!!!

    Reply

  5. 5
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Now I am going to have a hankering for eclairs all day! Both the fillings sound divine! 

    Might have to join in on the next challenge!!

    Reply

  6. 6
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Eclairs are something I love but have yet to make. These came out great, Lindsay! Can’t wait to try them myself.

    Reply

  7. 7
    margie/mom
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Thanks for the great tip about putting pastry bag in a glass to fill!
    Easier, faster and way less messy. Your eclairs look beautiful.
    Too bad Dad and I were not there to help prevent day old eclairs!

    Reply

  8. 8
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 11:40 am

    So excited to see this up! And if it makes you feel any better there was this one time where I had to clean whipped cream from behind my ears because I had turned around while whipping the cream with a handheld blender and sorta didn’t turn it off :/

    Reply

  9. 9
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Such pretty eclairs!! Looks like your hard work paid off :) 

    Reply

  10. 10
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

    They look incredible!! All the colours and flavours look well worth the effort :)

    Reply

  11. 11
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Your eclairs look delicious, and I love the sound of the bourbon pastry cream!

    Reply

  12. 12
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I have GOT to try these Lindsay! You make eclairs look slightly less intimidating – and they are well worth the effort, I’m sure. I have a long list of challenges to try this year. And now eclairs are being added to the list!

    Reply

  13. 13
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    These all look so good and fun! I could eat them all! :)

    Reply

  14. 14
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    What a great challenge, and they look so delish!!

    Reply

  15. 15
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Linds these look adorable, I am beyond impressed!  love how playful you got with all the decorating, one looks cuter than the next!

    Reply

  16. 16
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks so much for hosting the challenge. It really did challenge my baking skills and gave my book club ladies something to snack on that night! 

    Reply

  17. 17
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    I wanted so badly to participate in this, but I ended up chickening out. Some things just intimidate me, and eclairs is one of those things. Hope I can participate in the next one, Lindsay!

    Reply

  18. 18
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Those eclairs look gorgeous. I could eat a whole lot of them on my own.

    Reply

  19. 19
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    You make these look so easy, Lindsay! I love all the beautiful frosting varieties. Pinned to my Brunch board so I can remember to attempt these next time I’m feeling brave :)

    Reply

  20. 20
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Best opening line to a post ever! If that’s not a hook I don’t know what is. The éclairs look gorgeous, love your decorations! x

    Reply

  21. 21
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    These look like actual heaven. I could never make them, as I would eat them all, ALL OF THEM!

    Reply

  22. 22
    Posted On May 5, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    I can’t get over how beautiful these are!  Love your decorating.  :)  Such a great challenge this month!

    Reply

  23. 23
    Posted On May 6, 2014 at 5:35 am

    These look amazing. I would happily take a messy kitchen and sink for of dishes for one of these.

    Reply

  24. 24
    Posted On May 6, 2014 at 6:44 am

    Oh my gosh, they all look so good! I’ve only tried to make eclairs once and I failed at it terribly, I’ll have to give it another go soon. :)

    Reply

  25. 25
    Posted On May 6, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Everyone did such a great job on their eclairs! Sounds like you made a pretty epic mess in the kitchen. I’d love to try one of each.

    Reply

  26. 26
    Posted On May 6, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Beautiful eclairs! Thanks for all of the “constructions” tips. :) I love all of the colors and icing variety! I think the imagining and making of messes is the easy part. Its the cleaning up such epic messes I don’t like!! :) Perhaps washing every dish in the house wouldn’t be so bad if I could pause to eat a mini eclair every now and then.

    Reply

  27. 27
    Posted On May 6, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Wow, these look gorgeous! You make them sound slightly less intimidating, maybe someday I will have to give them a try. I’ll be on the lookout for the next challenge!

    Reply

  28. 28
    Posted On May 7, 2014 at 7:56 am

    These look soooo good!! I tried a gluten free version if eclairs a few years ago and they didn’t turn out so great, but you inspired me to give them another try! 

    Reply

  29. 29
    Posted On May 7, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I love your challenges… all those colors… yummy

    Reply

  30. 30
    Posted On May 7, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    These look pretty professional to me!

    Reply

  31. 31
    frances
    Posted On May 8, 2014 at 3:35 am

    Oh me, oh my, those look fantastic. And your comment about bowls and spoons had me in stitches. When I was ‘little’, my mother wouldn’t let me near the kitchen unless I was going to make toast. ‘No!’ she’d cry, if I asked to play with the kitchen gadgets. ‘You’ll use all the spoons and there’ll be flour everywhere!’ 25 years down the line things have changed very little. When I go to visit, the spoons are rationed…

    Reply

  32. 32
    Posted On May 10, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    So so cute! Love all the different toppings!

    Reply

  33. 33
    Posted On May 11, 2014 at 2:20 am

    These are so lovely. The first and only time I tried to make pate choux, it didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped. I’m determined to master it. These look great.

    Reply

  34. 34
    Posted On May 19, 2014 at 3:20 am

    They look just amazing! And I think I really can imagine the mess that is created when making so many different glaces and fillings, imagine that in my super small kitchen *kitchen nightmares*
    I cant wait for the next challenge, I always wanted to take part in your challenges, but somehow never made it :( so hopefully next time will work out! 
    Take care :) 
    Rebecca

    Reply

  35. 35
    Ella
    Posted On June 4, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I was curious if there was a way you could make the dough and filling ahead of time (like the night before) and then bake it the next day? Have you ever tried this? I want to give these a try but I’d like to send some off with my roommate to take to her work and I’d like them to be fresh.

    Reply

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