Éclairs are one of those wonderful and iconic French pastries that are deservedly famous around the world. Popular with the traditional ‘creme pat’ filling, a lusciously thick and creamy custard, they can also be enjoyed with chocolate or other delicious flavours.
But these èclairs by Kit Smyth are something else. Never-fail perfectly crisp choux pastry, a thick crème patisserie filling with added sweet chestnut purèe or hazelnut praline and a decorative glacé icing. They’re perfect for any festive occasion – or just because you love them!
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20minutes
Yield: 12 Portions
200ml/7 floz water, room temperature
90g/3oz butter or margarine
90g/3oz plain/all-purpose flour, sifted
3 eggs, large, beaten
1 large egg, whole
1 large egg, yolk only
60g/2oz white caster sugar
15g/1 tablespoon cornflour
25g/1.5 tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour, sifted
280ml/ ½ pint milk, room temperature
Chestnut puree or hazelnut praline – see recipes
450g/1lb icing sugar/powder
Essence: Vanilla, or other favourite flavours
Food dye if you prefer different colours.
Preheat your oven to 18˚C/350˚F
Choux pastry: Combine the water and butter in a deep sauce, bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once; beat until combined and just coming away from the saucepan walls. Spread out on a plate to cool.
Once cool, return to the saucepan, and gradually add in the eggs, beating well between each addition. The paste should be free of any lumps, and shiny. It should be thickish, holding its shape when tested – ‘drop’ a small amount on a plate to check. It will be difficult to ‘drop’ if too thick and will lose spread if too runny. If the latter happens, do not add any more egg. Rather, add a small amount (1 teaspoon at a time) of plain/AP flour to thicken.
On a greased and lined baking tray/sheet, pip each éclair approximately 7cms or 3 inches, and roughly 1.5cms/ ¾ inch wide; leaving plenty of space between each baton.
Spritz the sheet with a little water prior to placing them in the oven. Once on the oven rack, close the door and increase temperature to 190˚C/375˚F, and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp.
Crème Patisserie: separate the whole egg, reserving the white, and mix the yolks together with the sugar, sift in the flours, and half the milk.
Warm the rest of the milk until almost boiling, then add it to the mixture, pouring slowly and whisking in gently. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat over a medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened, remove from the heat.
Whisk the egg white until stiff and fold into the custard mixture. Return to the heat and stir for about 1 minute, then add the vanilla essence. Remove from the heat, and cover with a greaseproof paper circle directly onto the custard and allow to cool.
Once cool, you can divide and use this mixture as required, adding chestnut puree, hazelnut praline, or using without further flavouring. If adding the praline or puree, add it in tablespoon amounts, until you reach flavour you enjoy best!
Glacé icing: Place the icing/powdered sugar into a bowl, and carefully add the hot water whilst stirring constantly. Only add a few drops of water at a time, as the sugar will dissolve quickly. Add the vanilla or other essences; stop adding water when the consistency runs evenly and coats the back of a spoon. If you want to create different coloured icing toppings, nows the time to add your favourite colour!
Assembly: To build your èclairs, you can cut the choux pastry almost in half lengthways before piping some crème patisserie into it, or you can pipe the mix in with a long-nosed flute pipe – common for filling doughnuts, etc. Delicious filled with homemade chestnut puree.
Once filled, carefully dip the top of the èclair into the icing, or spoon the icing over the top to coat each pastry. And for extra pizazz, why not sprinkle a little homemade hazelnut praline over the top! Allow the icing to set before serving – or it gets very messy!
Kit Smyth is a retired chef with a passion for French cuisine. Originally from Australia, Kit is dedicated to exploring both old and new ingredients, techniques and styles, and developing recipes for home cooks, she also teaches these recipes online and in-person. Find out more at her website: TheBiteLine