I love all things French.  All of them.  And their pastries are real high on the list… just behind their wine and their food and their nonchalance.  My absolutely lovely friend Heidi Ryder gave me this beautiful book, Sweet Paris.  Because I love France.  Because I love pretty pictures.  Because she knew there would be some sweets in it for her pretty face icon smile The Eclair Mission: Attempt 1, The Complete & Utter Failure

Clearly, I made my first attempt from this book on one of the toughest pastries included… the éclair.  And it was a disaster.   Well, a delicious disaster, but a disaster none the less.   The pastry didn’t rise.  It was dense and not airy at all.  The filling was lumpy.  I ran it through a sieve and it was fine… but that shouldn’t have happened!  The ganache was delicious, but ganache is always delicious.  So I’ll take the win on the ganache, but it’s not really the most thrilling victory… how can you go wrong with chocolate, sugar and butter!?

I’ve done some research and I think I’m figuring out what went wrong.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be attempting a few other recipes, combining a few different methods and, fingers crossed, coming up with some worthy of the most nonchalant Parisian.

Eclairs 0001 The Eclair Mission: Attempt 1, The Complete & Utter Failure

These guys were so sad and lifeless the filling had to sit on top icon sad The Eclair Mission: Attempt 1, The Complete & Utter Failure
Eclairs 0002 The Eclair Mission: Attempt 1, The Complete & Utter Failure
Eclairs 0003 The Eclair Mission: Attempt 1, The Complete & Utter Failure
Eclairs 0004 The Eclair Mission: Attempt 1, The Complete & Utter Failure

At the end of the day, sugar & chocoalte with my morning coffee isn’t the worst way to start a day.  Or get through a day.  Or end a day.

If you want to make your own attempt, and tell me where I might have gone wrong, this is the recipe I followed word for word.


Classic French Chocolate Eclairs


For the Choux Pastry

2.25 fl oz water

2.25 fl oz whole milk

2 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar

pinch of fine sea salt

3.5 oz plain (all purpose) flour, sieved

4 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.  Put the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Take off the heat and slowly fold in the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Return to a medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the eggs, beaten, one at a time until you hae a smooth, dropping consistency.  Spoon the mixture into a large piping bag fitted with a 0.5 inch plain nozzle and leave for 5 minutes or so to cool and stiffen slightly.

Pipe 10 large, sausage-shaped eclair shells about 6 inches long on to the baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart to allow room to expand.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.  Do not open the oven door during baking, or they will collapse.


For the Chocolate Filling

1 vanilla pod

12 fl oz whole milk

6 egg yolks

3.5 oz caster (superfine) sugar

1.75 oz heavy cream

1 oz all-purpose flour, sifted

1 oz corn starch, sifted

1 oz bittersweet dark chocolate

0.5 oz unsweetened cocoa powder

Slit the vanilla pod lengthwise with a small sharp knife and scrape out the seeds.  Add them, along with the pod, to the milk in a suitable saucepan.  Bring almost to the boil, being careful not to let it burn, then fish out the vanilla pod.

In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar until creamy.  Add the cream, plain flour and cornflour, and whisk well until smooth.  Slowly pour the hot milk into this mixture, whisking constantly.

Return the milk mixture to the saucepan and bring almost to the boil once more, whisking all the time to prevent any lumps from forming.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes over a very low heat, while continuing to whisk, then pour the mixture into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent a skin from forming.  Set aside to cool.

(If you prefer a vanilla filling, skip this step!) Melt the chocolate in a separate heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until there are no lumps.  Pour the melted chocolate into the filling spoon in the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.  Then leave to cool completely.

Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a 0.5 inch nozzle.  Using the tip of the nozzle, pierce the underside of the eclairs in three places along the length and gently squeeze in the filling as evenly as possible.


For the Glaze

5.5 oz bittersweet dark chocolate

2.25 unsalted butter

1.75 icing (confectioners) sugar

2 fl oz water

Melt the chocolate in the same way as above.  When melted, add the butter and sugar, whisking continuously until it looks shiny and creamy.  Remove from the heat, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then dip each éclair in the icing and smooth over using a spatula.  Wait until the icing hardens before serving .


3 Responses to “The Eclair Mission: Attempt 1, The Complete & Utter Failure”

  1. Amanda Rae says:

    um, i guarantee you that i would screw up any recipe that was specific down to .25 of an ounce!! but i hope you perfect this because i would totally cheat for an eclair!!

  2. Dana says:

    I could eat a whole bowl of that ganache if it makes you feel any better :)

  3. Heidi R. says:

    Oh but they’re so pretty, though! And so are you!

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