I love a good eclair. But I’ve always liked them with a pastry cream filling as opposed to a chocolate filling. A bittersweet chocolate glaze is the perfect accompaniment to the pastry cream inside. Making these in a mini size makes me feel a little less guilty about eating one! There are three components that need to be made, and some of them may seem a bit intimidating, but it is totally worth the work.
recipe adapted from the Tartine cookbook
makes about 32-34
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 6 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 large eggs + 4 egg yolks
- 4 oz. butter (1 stick)
pâte à choux
- 1/2 cup nonfat or 1% milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 4 oz. butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Make the pastry cream the day before. Have a large bowl ready for cooling the pastry cream with a fine mesh sieve (strainer) resting on the rim. Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and using a pairing knife, scrape the seeds into the milk. Add the pod halves to the milk as well. Add the salt. Bring the milk to just under a boil, stirring occasionally to keep any milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Since this is a large batch, you need to be very careful about the milk solids not sticking.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Add the eggs and yolks and whisk until smooth. You may want to place a damp towel under your bowl to keep it from sliding while you whisk (this will especially come in handy on the next step).
When the milk has come to just under a boil, slowly ladle in a cup or so of the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking quickly and constantly. Once that is incorporated, ladle in more milk while constantly whisking. Do this until you have whisked in about two-thirds of the milk. You can then discard the vanilla pod halves. Then pour the egg-milk mixture back into the pot with the remaining hot milk, all the while whisking so that you don’t cook the eggs. Place the pot back over medium heat and continue to whisk until the custard is thick and you see a few slow bubbles come up. The custard must reach the boiling point for the cornstarch to work, but you only want to see a few bubbles. If you let it come to a full boil, the mixture will curdle. Once you see a few bubbles, remove from the heat immediately and pour through the sieve into your bowl. It is important to do this right away because the pastry cream will continue to cook if it is in the hot pot.
After you have poured all of the pastry cream through the sieve, let the pastry cream cool for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into 1 tbsp. size pieces. Whisk the butter into the pastry cream one piece at a time, whisking until smooth before adding another piece.
When all of the butter has been whisked in, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool a bit to room temperature if it hasn’t already, then refrigerate until cold.
Now that you’ve made the pastry cream, we’re on to the pâte à choux. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine the milk, water, salt, sugar, and butter in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Let the mixture come to a full boil. Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon or a heat proof rubber spatula. Keep stirring until the mixture forms a smooth mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan and some of the moisture has evaporated. This will take 2-3 minutes.
Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Start mixing on medium-high speed, add the eggs one at a time, letting each egg get fully incorporated before adding the next. When all of the eggs have been added, the mixture will be thick, smooth, and shiny.
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip (I used #6). Pipe a tiny bit of the pastry under the corners of each parchment paper to “glue” the paper down to the baking sheet so that it doesn’t fly up during baking. Pipe out strips about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch – 3/4 inches wide. Smooth out any imperfections with a damp fingertip. I baked one sheet pan at a time.
Bake until puffed and starting to show a little color, about 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until the shells feel light and they are nicely browned all over, about 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and poke a small hole in the end of each shell with a skewer to allow steam to escape. Let cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining baking sheet.
While the shells are cooling, make the glaze. Combine the chocolate and corn syrup in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1-2 minutes to melt the chocolate. Gently stir the mixture with a rubber spatula until smooth and shiny. Let cool until just warm.
Now you are ready to fill the eclairs! Remove your cold pastry cream from the refrigerator. Gently stir it with a rubber spatula. Spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip. Fill each shell from the hole that you previously made to let the steam escape. You should be able to fill them from one end since they are small. Fill each one until they are heavy and will hold no more cream.
To glaze the eclairs, dip the top of each filled eclair into the glaze, gently shaking off the excess. Place upright on a rack and let the glaze set. Serve the eclairs right away or refrigerate for up to 6 hours before serving. They should be eaten the same day they are filled.