I had made pate a choux, vanilla pastry cream, and chocolate glaze before, but I had never made them all at the same time in the form of an eclair. I decided it was high-time I do so, and I grabbed Wayne Harley Brachman’s Retro Desserts for a recipe to follow. I’ve had this book since it first came out in 2000, and it’s full of fun, well-known desserts with everything from cakes and pies to ice creams and candies. The book is described as bringing together kitsch desserts for today’s kitchens and letting you make your remembered favorites entirely from scratch. The cream-filled devil’s food cupcakes bring back Ho Ho’s. I’ve never had cherries jubilee, but it’s in the book too. I’ve made the banana pudding which was fantastic, and I’ve always wanted to try the banana peanut butter sandwich cake. Then, there’s the rocky road pizza pie and the white-chocolate grasshopper pie to try. I could go on and on, but I was explaining about the eclairs.
I’ve named this post Practice Eclairs because these were so far from perfect. In fact, they were so ugly only their mother could love them. When it came time to pipe the dough into eclair shapes, I rather failed at the task. They ended up too wide and too flat and didn’t puff up enough to make them look any better after baking. I also made a few minis which were kind of cute, and I would love to make an entire batch at that small size. The mini version is shown at the top of the post. Making the pate a choux was easy enough. I’ve made Ina Garten’s gourgeres, and her technique involves a food processor to incorporate the eggs. Brachman suggested using an electric mixer which also worked fine, and either method is much easier than stirring in each egg by hand. So, making pate a choux is no problem; piping it into appropriate shapes still needs work.
The vanilla pastry cream was also not a problem. I’ve followed the recipe in this book several times, and it always turns out great. For filling the eclairs, this recipe suggests slicing the top off each one, pulling out some of the interior dough, and spreading the pastry cream on the bottom piece. Then, the top pieces were dipped in the chocolate glaze and set aside to dry. Tops found bottoms, and they were done. Slicing the eclairs to fill them, instead of hollowing them with a skewer and then piping in the filling, seemed like cheating. I think it also contributed to their unsightliness. However, the look of them stopped mattering as soon as I tasted them.
Freshly made eclairs are a wonderful thing. The pastry cream made with a vanilla bean had incredible flavor, and the chocolate glaze with espresso was amazing. I want to try again and do a little better job of piping the dough into eclair shapes. And, I want to try some other recipes to compare and contrast and fill them without slicing, but deliciousness won out over ugliness with these for certain.