Pastel Easter Eclairs with Chocolate Pastry Cream
When I was a little girl I LOVED Easter. Not necessarily for the reasons you make think of.
Sure there were chocolate bunnies, pretty pastel baskets filled with funny green plastic grass and jelly beans. What’s a kid not to love?
One of the other reasons I loved Easter was looking at all the beautiful hats on the ladies in church. When you are short, legs dangling and all in your shiny white shoes, seated in a pew with the masses, you can’t see much up front but the tops of all the heads in front of you… and you start to notice things.
Hats, and LOTS of them. A field of pretty pastel madness. Plastic flowers, check. Ribbons flowing, check. Bright pink lipstick, check. Nothing was too tacky. Even the ladies who were a bit shy would channel their serious inner diva.
Easter was when you pulled out all the stops. Hats, gloves, pins. White patent leather. Ugh, okay white patent leather we can do without. I would glance over to the left, and then to the right– and if I was lucky and had an aisle view–I’d rubber neck sideways down the aisle to gaze at all the hats. Now, my Mother used to bring life savers candies to church with her and she slipped me those when I started to get a little antsy to keep my quiet. Let’s just say she went through a lot of lifesavers in her day, (this explains A LOT for sweettooth) but on Easter day-nary a lifesaver was peeled off. I was entranced, fascinated if you will–with all the pastel madness going on. Easter was made for pastel. Anything. I am still mad for pastels and calling out that 7 yr. old little girl to help dress up my eclairs. Happy Easter~
Pastel Easter Eclairs
yield: 11-12 eclairs
Chocolate Pastry Cream
1 1/4 C whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
3 egg yolks
1/4 C sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. soft butter
2 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
In a medium bowl place the egg yolks and sugar and whisk vigorously to combine. In a small bowl combine the flour and corn starch; stir into the egg & sugar mixture to combine. In a sauce pan bring together the milk and vanilla bean paste to a boil. Kill the heat. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly temper in about half of the milk a little at a time to your egg yolk mixture; whisking continuously to ensure the yolks don’t burn. Return the mixture to the rest of the milk in the pan, and on low-medium heat, whisk the mixture vigorously until the cream thickens; keep whisking and cook it for about one minute. Kill the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Whisk in the soft butter. Stir in the chopped chocolate and stir to combine. If you think you may have any lumps you can pass it through a sieve. Skipping this step would make many a pastry chef cringe, but I’m a whisking maniac and am pretty fast so I skip this step. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.
Variation: White Chocolate Pastry Cream; add 3 oz. melted white chocolate after transferring to bowl; whisk to combine.
Pâte a Choux Pastry
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder (optional)
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg beaten (for egg wash)
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Prepare a sheet tray with baking (parchment) paper. Draw lines with pencil for desired length you want. Turn paper over. In a small bowl combine the flour, sugar, vanilla powder, nutmeg and salt. Place the butter and water in a saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and with a wooden spoon add the flour mixture (all at once) and stir to combine. Return to heat and stir vigorously until the dough comes away from sides of the pan and forms a smooth ball (about 2 minutes). Transfer the dough to an electric mixer and beat on low-speed for 1 minute. Once the dough is lukewarm, start beating in the eggs and continue to mix until a thick smooth paste forms.
2. Place the dough in a pastry bag(making sure no air bubbles) fitted with a large round tip (Ateco 806 or 808-I like the 808). Pipe strips of dough using a 45 degree angle, to desired length (I like 3 inches). Leave at least 2 inches in between. Use a finger dipped in water to tap down any points of dough. (You don’t want any peaks of dough as they will burn). Brush with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven to 350° F and continue to bake for about 25 more minutes or until golden brown and when insides are not wet. Remove the tray from the oven and pierce the ends of each eclair puff with a toothpick (this ensures the eclairs don’t delfate). Return the tray to the oven and turn off oven and prop open oven door slightly and leave eclairs in oven to dry for about 10-15 mins. Note: if insides are not done the insides will turn a weird grayish color. After the drying time remove tray and allow eclairs to cool on a wire rack.
Tip: If you are not serving right away do not fill with filling as they will turn soft. You may “recrisp” your shells in an oven at 325 degrees for a few minutes the next day or so if you want to wait to fill and serve. Just store your shells in a ziplock bag.
How to fill eclairs:
Using a sharp tip of a knife, drill 2 small holes on underside of eclair shells. Fit a piping bag with a small star tip and stick into each hole. Pipe the pastry cream into the holes. Stop when you feel resistance. Note: you can also split the shells horizontallly and pipe the cream in; (I just prefer this way so that is how I do it). If you are not comfortable with this method then by all means you can split the shells and pipe the pastry cream.
How to glaze:
Once the eclairs are filled; dip the top into the glaze and then turn the eclair vertical to let the glaze “run” down the eclair; wipe glaze off with your finger to avoid running off off the end. Decorate as desired. To speed up drying time you can place in the fridge to chill.
White Chocolate Glaze
3 oz. white chocolate chopped very fine
1.5 oz. heavy cream
gel paste food colors (to generate pastel colors) Note: YOU CANNOT USE LIQUID FOOD COLORS AS THE GLAZE WILL SEIZE.
Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream to just a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir well to combine. If you still have tiny bits of unmelted chocolate place in the microwave and heat at 10 second intervals, stir until melted. Portion out small amounts of ganache and add just a toothpick prick amount at a time of gel color at a time to tint; stir well to combine. To achieve a color that is a bit more opaque you can add a tsp. of confectioners sugar and stir well. You may have to dip the eclairs 2-3 times if you want more of an opaque look.
Chocolate Glaze Option
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (chopped fine)
4 Tbsp. unsalted soft butter
Place chocolate in a small heat proof bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the soft butter until smooth.