Caramel Eclairs

I realize sometimes my idea of an easy recipe does not align with most people's ideas of an easy recipe.  I suppose if you've been cooking since you learned to read and you especially love trying new and complicated recipes, you may have a slightly skewed world view.  Specifically I think I say a recipe is easy if each step is easy, regardless of how many steps there are.  Perhaps instead I should say a recipe is straight-forward. 

Anyway, this is a recipe that is not easy, regardless of which definition I use.  To begin with, it is actually 3 different recipes, one for the dough, one for the cream filling and one for the icing.  The recipes themselves are a little finicky.  There really is no surprise here.  The French are renown for their pastries.  However, I know at least two good reasons to give it a try anyway.  First, if you are at all serious about learning to bake delicious desserts, you will eventually have to make a foray into French cooking.  Second, if you succeed no one will stop you from eating the entire batch of eclairs yourself.

First you must make the caramel creme patissiere (pastry cream).  Caramel is one of my favorite things.  One of the important thing about any custard with eggs is to heat and blend the eggs at the same time.  I mention this in the nutmeg-maple tart recipe too.  So once you've caramelized the sugar and added cream, pour some of the hot liquid slowly into the eggs so they don't make clumps.

Then you can pour that back into the pan and heat until it thickens.  You want it pretty thick and it takes a little while.  I rushed and it was a little too thin and leaked out the sides of my eclairs (what a disaster! but it still tasted delicious, just more sticky).

Another helpful hint is to cover the creme patissiere with plastic wrap.  Actually touch the plastic wrap to the custard.  It prevents that icky thin film from forming on the top.

Once you finish the caramel filling, if you feel at all about caramel as I do, you may have trouble not eating the entire bowl right then.  My point being it is really amazingly thigh-increasingly delicious.

Next you have to make the pâte à choux (the pastry).  I really love making this, there is something about the color and the way the butter and flour clump together that is really satisfying.  My dough again was not as thick as I would have liked, so you may want to add a little more flour or a little less milk.  When it's finished it should be thick enough to be piped out and hold it's shape.
My eclairs did spread a little and I think they could have cooked just a tad longer because they were a little spongy still in the middle.  Ideally they should be very crisp and light and almost hollow.  Don't feel too bad if they don't turn out perfectly, mine didn't but guess what, it has absolutely no impact on the flavor, which is really the important thing here.

Now for the glaze.  I am going to have to try to find as many things as possible to be glazed with this recipe.  It is super easy and amazingly good.

If caramel is good, caramel that started out as brown sugar can only be better!  Now you get to fill the eclairs and then glaze them.  Then ooh and aah a little over them.  Now eat one.  It is okay, you can moan with pleasure a little bit, no one will judge you.  They are that amazing.

Caramel Eclairs

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsps water
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Mix cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl.
2. Add the egg yolks and mix until paste is formed. Stir in 1/2 cup milk
3. Place remaining sugar and water in a small heavy pot and stir to combine.
4. Cook over medium heat, swirling pan but not stirring until sugar turns a medium amber.
5. Carefully pour in remaining milk and cream and stir until smooth.  Bring to a simmer.
6. Pour about a cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture, stirring continuously.  Pour back into pan.
7. Cook over medium heat stirring until smooth and thick.
8. Remove from heat, add vanilla.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and cool for at least 2 hours.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
2/3 cup flour
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Mix butter, milk, sugar and salt over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from heat and add flour.  Stir until combined.  Return pan to moderate heat and cook while stirring.  The mixture should become very thick and will pull away from the sides to form a ball in the middle, about 3 minutes.
4. Transfer the hot mixture to a bowl (or a mixer with a paddle attachment).  Beat briefly for 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, stirring to combine fully after each addition.
5. Place dough in a pastry bag and pipe into "fingers" about 3 inches long.  Use parchment lined sheet pans.
6. Bake for 15 minutes then rotate pan and continue baking until eclairs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Cool completely before filling.

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp butter
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1. In saucepan over medium heat, heat brown sugar, cream and butter.
2. Mix vanilla, milk and confectioners' sugar in a small bowl until combined (prevents sugar from clumping).
3. Add confectioners' sugar mixture to brown sugar mixture.

Gently slice the eclairs open.  Fill with the pastry cream and top with warm icing.  Place in refrigerator if not serving immediately.
Links to original recipes for Pastry Cream, and Pate a Choux

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1 comment:

  1. these sound amazing! And quite simple to make, thanks for sharing this recipe.