Chocolate Eclairs with Vanilla Pastry Cream
Makes: 14 - 16 Eclairs
Ingredients for the Choux Pastry:
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs, beaten
Ingredients for the Pastry Cream:
- 2 cups whole milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Ingredients for the Chocolate Ganache:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- Preheat the oven to 375 °F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- To make the choux pastry, add in the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir everything together and allow the butter to fully melt and the sugar and salt to dissolve.
- Reduce the heat to low and add in the flour, stirring to combine everything.
- With the pan still on the heat, use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture until a dough forms. You will want to stir this mixture continuously for 3 - 5 minutes, until most of the steam seems to have dissipated and the dough leaves a slight film on the bottom of the pan.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the dough to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the mixture on medium speed for 5 minutes, until the steam has been released and the bottom of the stand mixer bowl is no longer hot to the touch.
- With the mixer on low, begin to add the beaten eggs 1/3 of the mixture at a time. Allow the egg to fully incorporate into the dough before adding the next third. The dough will have a curdled appearance and then begin to take form. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well combined. The dough should be slightly stiff and have a glossy appearance.
- Place the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch French star or round piping tip and pipe the eclairs that are about 4 inches long, leaving 2 inches of space between them.
- Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
- After 25 minutes, or when they are golden brown, quickly prick each of the eclair shells with a toothpick to release some of the steam. Close the oven door and allow to bake for 5 - 7 minutes more. Let cool completely before filling.
- While the eclair shells are baking, make the pastry cream. Place a large high-sided skillet over medium heat and bring the milk to a simmer, being careful not to scorch the milk.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until the sugar has dissolved and the eggs become a pale yellow color.
- Temper the eggs by adding in 1/2 cup of the warm milk and whisking to combine. This should raise the temperature of the eggs to match the temperature of the milk on the stove.
- Turn the heat down to a medium low and pour the eggs into the pan with the remaining milk. Whisk everything together and scrape the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula.
- Stir the mixture for 3 - 4 minutes, pushing it back and forth and stirring in a figure 8 motion. As the pastry cream starts to thicken, little bubbles will begin to form. When it has reached a very light boil, allow to cook for 20 seconds more and then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the vanilla bean paste and butter and whisk to combine.
- Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer onto a clean baking sheet or 9 x 13 cake pan. Smooth into an even layer and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the pastry cream.
- Place in the refrigerator and allow to chill completely before using.
- Make the chocolate ganache right before assembling the eclairs. Heat the heavy cream over in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place the chocolate in a medium glass bowl.
- When the cream reaches a simmer, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate, being sure to submerge all the chocolate under the cream. Let stand for 3 minutes and then whisk together, being sure that there are no lumps and the chocolate is smooth.
- To assemble the eclairs, place the pastry cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1/4 inch round tip.
- Use a paring knife or piping tip to make a small hole into the bottom of each of the eclair shells. Place the piping tip into the opening and fill just until you feel the pastry cream push back a little.
- Dip the top side of the eclair into the chocolate ganache and then place on a cooling rack to dry. Repeat with the remaining eclairs.