Today is Bastille Day: le quatorze juillet, the French National Day (La Fête nationale). I’m celebrating by baking up one of my favorite French pastries – chocolate éclairs.
The éclair is a choux pastry (pâte à choux) that originated in Burgundy, France during the nineteenth century when it was called “pain à la duchesse” or “petite duchesse“. It’s filled with pastry cream (crème pâtissière) and topped with icing.
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ⅓ cup water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- ⅓ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
- In a small saucepan, warm heavy cream until tiny bubbles appear on the edge of the pan–do NOT boil.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk. It will be crumbly.
- Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolk mixture, a little at a time. Continue to whisk as you pour.
- Next, pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan over medium heat. Whisk 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 whisking, 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.
For the pâte à choux:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- 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. It happens in about 1 minute. If using a glass cook-top, leave the burner off entirely for this step.
- Scrape the dough into a mixing bowl, and beat on low speed with an electric mixer 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.
- To get the most rise out of the dough, scoop 3 balls of dough and pile the dough on top of itself with the edge of a spoon. You should get 6 pastries.
- Bake the pastries 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 18-20 minutes. Do not be afraid of brownness–if you under-bake, the insides will not dry out.
- When the pastries are done baking, turn the oven off and remove the sheet from the oven. Using a thin knife, cut a slit in the side of each pastry so steam can escape. Return the pan to the turned-off oven and let cool for 30 minutes with the oven door ajar.
For the chocolate glaze:
- Combine the chocolate and coconut oil in a small bowl. Stir well, then microwave in 10-second pulses until almost all the way melted, stirring between each pulse.
- Next, slice the pastries in half and fill with the chilled pastry cream. Dip the tops of the pastries in the chocolate and chill for 15 minutes until set.
The éclairs are so good! I especially love the pastry cream; not too sweet, goes perfect with the chocolate glaze. Another french pastry crossed off my list. Vive la France!