Eclairs with Mocha Pastry Cream

Pastries.  Let the word wash over you and conjure images of a small patisserie in some tiny alley in Paris.  Pastries are fabulously delicate, while possessing a luxuriousness that can be hard for other desserts to rival.

Did I mention you can make them in your own kitchen?  By the end of today, you could be eating an éclair that you made with your own two hands.  Mind-blowing, I know.

I will admit that the thought of making my own pastries intimidated me at first.  It still does.  Luke is waiting for me to get up the courage to attempt making croissants, but I keep telling him that in order for it to even have the remotest chance of happening, he has to buy me the extra pound of butter it’ll take on his own.  And so he shuts up.

Éclairs do not require a pound of butter to make.  They do take a little time more time and effort than the average baked good, but I’m telling you, the effort is soooo worthwhile.  When I first bit into one of these scrumptious little delicacies, I could not believe it had come from my kitchen.  I simply stared at it in disbelief, chewing slowing, savoring the moment.

Normally I would hoard a dessert this good, neglect to tell Luke I made it, shove it in a back corner of the fridge and have a secret rendezvous with it while Luke was at work.  But no, not this time.  This time I shared.  Mostly it was to declare to my friends and family, “Check it out!  I made a freaking pastry on my own!!!!”  Join that party, give these a try.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Éclairs with Mocha Pastry Cream

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Makes 8-12 eclairs, depending on size

For the mocha pastry cream:
1½ cups half-and-half
6 Tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar, divided
pinch of salt
1½ tsp espresso powder
3 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
½ tsp vanilla extract

For the pâte à choux:
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 Tbsp whole milk
6 Tbsp water
1½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ cup all-purpose flour

For the glaze:
3 Tbsp half-and-half
2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

First make the pastry cream.  Heat the half-and-half, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Once the mixture is warm, whisk in the espresso powder.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, 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 to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Next make the pâte à choux.  Whisk the eggs and egg white in a liquid measuring cup.  You should have ½ cup (discard the excess).  Set aside.  Combine the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice.  When it reaches a full boil and the butter is fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour until incorporated and the mixture clears the sides of the pan.  Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the pan (the mixture should register 175-180˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.)

Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open to cool slightly, 10 seconds.  With the machine running, gradually add the reserved eggs in a steady stream.  When they have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds more until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.

Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.  Fit a pastry bag with a ½-inch plain tip.  Fill the pastry bag with the pâte à choux.  Pipe the paste into eight to twelve 5 x 1-inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart.  Use the bake of a teaspoon dipped in water to even out the shape and smooth the surface.

Bake 15 minutes without opening the oven door, then lower the oven temperature to 375˚ F and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8-10 minutes longer.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cut a ¾-inch slit into the side of each éclair to release steam.  Return the pan to the oven, turn off the oven, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon if it doesn’t stay open on its own.  Dry the éclairs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist and crisp, about 45 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the glaze, place the half-and-half and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, until the mixture just begins to steam.  Whisk together thoroughly, add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely smooth.  (I used leftover glaze from this recipe.)

To assemble the éclairs, add the pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip.  Pipe the pastry cream through the slit in the side of each éclair to fill it completely.  (I found this difficult, so I hollowed out each éclair with a chopstick and piped the pastry cream in there.)  Dip the top of each éclair in the chocolate glaze.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow the glaze to set.  These are best served within several hours, but they will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge in an air-tight container.


5 Comments on “Eclairs with Mocha Pastry Cream”

  1. laurie says:

    Anna, Michigan has these big “long johns” filled with custard or banana cream

  2. laurie says:

    Again, they are about 2″ by 6″ long, bought 2 and split them between Dad, Mom, me, and Dad’s roommate Martin

  3. dannyellaz says:

    oh, if I made these I would abuse the bragging rights too 😛 they look fantastic!

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