What have I been doing for the last 2 weeks? Baking, filling, and photographing eclairs. It’s been a weird but delicious few weeks, friends! I set my mind on perfecting a small batch eclair recipe, and even though the recipe testing process is over, I’m still craving eclairs. Because the 1129 eclairs I’ve eaten in the last 10 days isn’t enough.
If last year was the year of the macaron (or was it the year of the donut?), then I’m proclaiming 2016 as the year of the eclair.
Eclairs sound so fancy. Well, they are fancy. I buy them at my favorite patisserie often (passionfruit eclairs are my death bed food), but I wanted to make them at home for friends.
This recipe is based on my mini eclairs recipe; it makes 6 skinny eclairs. The eclairs are only 4″ long, which is about 3 bites each. The pastry cream recipe is just enough to fill 6 small eclairs. The salted caramel sauce is easy–just open a jar. No, seriously I buy pre-made fleur de sel caramel sauce, and it’s perfect in this recipe. When you’re making homemade pastry and pastry cream, you don’t also want to make salted caramel sauce. Or, do you? There’s a recipe in my book, if you like.
The finicky thing about eclairs is that they are best eaten the day they’re made. While I have stored them overnight, they soften too much. Maybe I’m not doing it right by enclosing them in a glass container, but they lose their crisp crust that contrasts so nicely with the cool, creamy filling. You can (and should) make the pastry cream the day ahead, though.
Your game plan is this: make the pastry cream the day before, cover and store in fridge. Then, a few hours before you want to eat eclairs, make the pastries. I can whip up the recipe in 10 minutes, and the ingredients are simple (flour, butter, water, a smidge of salt + sugar). Let them cool, stuff them with pastry cream, and then dunk them in warm caramel sauce right before serving. Serve while wearing a fancy apron, of course. Little pinch bowls of fleur de sel and raspberries on the table are nice, too.
Yields 6 mini eclairs
30 minPrep Time
25 minCook Time
55 minTotal Time
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 12-ounce jar of pre-made salted caramel sauce
- fresh raspberries, for garnish
- large-flake sea salt, for garnish
- First, make the pastry cream: In a small saucepan, warm the heavy cream until the tiniest of bubbles appear on the edge of the pan--do not boil.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg yolks, and whisk. It will be crumbly at first, but just keep whisking hard.
- Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolk mixture, a tablespoon or so at a time. Continue to whisk as you pour.
- Next, pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan over medium heat. Stir it constantly while it comes to a simmer. Once simmering, it will begin to thicken. Once large bubbles pop on the surface, continue to cook for a few more seconds while stirring, then remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla.
- Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
- Next, make the eclairs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper. If you want the eclairs to all be the same size, trace six 4-inch lines evenly on the paper as a guide.
- In a small saucepan, stir together the water and butter over low heat. Let the butter gently melt without bringing the water to a rolling boil for too long.
- Remove the water-butter mixture from heat, and add the flour, sugar and salt mixture all at once. Stir, stir, stir.
- Put the pan back on the burner that's been turned off and stir until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. In other words, the dough will stick together in one big clump around the spoon and not the edges of the pan. It happens in about 1 minute. This is the part where you may have to leave your burner on low if you're cooking with gas or electric burners. If using a glass cook-top, leave it off entirely for this step.
- Scrape the dough into a mixing bowl, and beat on low speed with an electric mixture until the mixture is only warm to the touch (about 1-2 minutes). Add the egg and continue beating. Beat for a few minutes, until the dough falls off the beaters in sheets and is pale yellow.
- Scrape the mixture into a piping bag (or use two spoons).
- Pipe out 6 eclairs about 4-inches long each.
- Bake the eclairs for 10 minutes, then open the oven door for 5 seconds, lower the heat to 350, and close the door. Continue to bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Do not be afraid of brownness--if you under-bake, the insides do not dry out. See photo for reference.
- When the eclairs are done baking, turn the oven off, and remove the sheet from the oven. Using a thin knife, poke a hole in the side of each eclair. You will eventually cut all the way through the eclair to fill it with the pastry cream, but for now, just cut a slit so steam can escape. Return the pan to the turned-off oven, and let cool for 30 minutes with the oven door ajar.
- Next, slice the eclairs in half, and fill with the chilled pastry cream.
- Before serving the eclairs, warm the store-bought caramel sauce in a small bowl.
- Dunk each eclair in salted caramel before serving with raspberries and salt for garnish.