Despite there being a million people in the world called Claire, I have always felt chocolate eclair’s were somehow meant for me. Despite my mum’s enforcement of ‘optimal nutrition’ I was always allowed to slip m&s chocolate eclairs into the shopping basket on a weekly basis as a child. I then went on to squeeze most the cream out of them and feed them to my cat. Some things never change. These eclairs feature blackberry jam (shop bought), bay-infused crème pâtissière and a dark chocolate slicked over the top. Sorry, I did not do the neatest job ever with them but life is too short for neat chocolate. I would recommend storing them in the fridge overnight before eating, which gives the chocolate on the top a real crack when you bite into them.
For the crème pâtissière
250ml FULL-FAT milk
2 egg yolks
60g golden caster sugar
3 bay leaves
20g unsalted butter
For the choux pastry
50g unsalted butter
80ml FULL-FAT milk
130g plain flour
Other bits and bobs
~ 50g blackcurrant jam
150g dark chocolate (or milk might be nice)
dusting of icing sugar to serve
1. It is good to make the crème pâtissière a good while in advance so it has time to set in the fridge. Firstly whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl or jug until light and fluffy. Add the cornflour and continue to whisk until well absorbed. The cornflour is added to thicken the custard, if you feel you need a little more when its been cooking a while, you can add a small amount then too.
2. Heat the milk until scalding in a pan. Add the bay leaves and the vanilla pod (slit open with a sharp knife) to the heating milk to allow the flavour to infuse. Once scalding, pour half of the milk into the egg mixture, whilst whisking continuously. Pour the egg and milk back into the saucepan and continue to heat. Stir as you do this.
3. Add the butter in small cubes to the heating mix and continue to stir. The pan should be over a mid-high heat at this point. Continue to stir until the crème pâtissière begins to thicken. This may take around 5 minutes. You want it to thicken to the point where it sits nicely on the back of a spoon without sliding straight off.
4. Once thickened, transfer to a bowl. Once it has cooled, place cling film over the bowl and leave to chill until needed. I would recommend a couple of hours at least.
5. Grease and line a baking tray so you are all ready for once the choux is done.
6. Heat the milk and water together in a pan. Add the butter and stir until dissolved.
7. Once the milk is almost boiling, add all the flour at once and beat like a maniac. It will come together in a ball, but continue to beat, breaking the ball apart every now and again for approximately 3-4 minutes. The more you beat, the better your gluten build-up and the more rise your choux will have.
8. Leave to cool. Once cool, add 2 eggs, one at a time. It should be glossy, like a smooth double cream. At this point it would be a good time to put the oven on to preheat to 220•C.
9. Fill a piping bag with the choux and pipe lines of about 20cm in length and 3.5cm in width. You can alter this if you would prefer long skinny eclairs or you could even do round chocolate puffs if you would prefer. Leave some space between your pipings as the buns will grow.
10. Bake for 15 minutes at 220•C, then for a further 15 minutes at 160•C. They will be a dark golden brown, but don’t worry because you want them well baked to make a nice crisp pastry shell. AT NO POINT OPEN THE OVEN AS THIS WILL DISRUPT THE RISE.
My chocolate sous chef
11. Once baked and cooled, chop the eclairs in half using a sharp serrated knife. Spread some blackberry jam over the bottom on the case, then pipe a decent helping of crème pâtissière over the jam.
12. Break the dark chocolate into chunks and melt over a pan of boiling water. Dip the top halves of the eclairs in the liquid chocolate. Alternatively, you can pipe a smaller amount onto the top of the eclair for a drizzle like effect, which is probably much neater and the way I will do it next time.
13. Reconstruct your eclairs and leave the chocolate to set. Once set, either eat or chill in the fridge. I enjoyed eating mine straight from the fridge with a liberal dusting of icing sugar.