Éclairs

Every year during my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I would take the train to get to school.

Every morning, at 9:10, I boarded the train at the Roxboro train station (gare in French), and we would sit on the unreliable public transit for 30 minutes until we arrived at Gare Centrale or Central Station. As you disembark from the train, you are greeted by bustling people, multiple languages, and a whirlwind of smells.

Montréal is a wonderful food city, and some of the best things it has to offer is pâtisserie. Pastry is an integral part of French culture, and while Montréal is not Paris, it comes not far behind on having wonderful bakeries and a plethora of options for those who are so inclined *raises hand*.

We had an awesome bakery near our house growing up and every time we had the option to go to the bakery and pick things up, be it for a family get together or simply for a treat, I always picked the traditional éclair. To me, it was perfect. It was sleek and shiny, with the tempered chocolate and the slenderness of the choux pastry. It was not that messy, and I could hold it in my hand and finish it within a few bites.

When I found out that I had to forgo gluten (and cried), I thought sadly about how I would never be able to consume éclairs again. There was no recipe for the glorious French dessert that could be converted to my new way of life.

 

Years later, I came across Patricia Austin’s book. Let me tell you this, she has figured quite a few things out and she re-introduced me to a love that I thought was lost forever to the gods of gluten.

I am not going to lie and say that these are simple to make, they are definitely not the hardest but they are time consuming.  However, you will not be disappointed.

Ingredients
Pastry Cream:
1) Milk Infusion
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
vanilla
2) Custard
1/4 cup + 1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp cornstarch
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature cut into walnut sizes

For the Puff Pastry Dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp water
7 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 flour (she suggests Steve’s gluten free cake flour) sifted
4 large eggs, beaten, at room temperature, plus more if needed

For Éclairs:
1 recipe cream puff pastry dough
1 recipe pastry cream
1 cup dark chocolate ganache melted

Instructions
For Pastry Cream:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk the ingredients together, place over medium heat, and cook until the milk mixture is near boiling.
2. Turn the heat off and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Make the custard
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the eggs and whisk them into the dry mixture. Using a hand or electric whisk, whisk the egg mixture until it is homogenous and well blended. Strain the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a small bowl.
5. Bring the infused milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly pour the strained egg mixture into the milk, whisking constantly, making sure to whisk around the inside edges and bottom of the pan. Continue whisking until all of the egg mixture is incorporated and the surface of the mixture begins to break large bubbles, about 4 minutes. At this point, remove the pastry cream from the stovetop and pour it into a medium heatproof bowl. Cool the cream to 140F, stirring frequently. Slowly whisk the softened butter into the pastry cream, mixing until it is creamy and homogenous.
6. Cover the pastry cream by pressing plastic wrap directly against its surface; this will precent a skin from forming. Place in the fridge until the cream is cooled. Once cooled, it will become firm and have a gelatinous consistency. When you are ready to use the pastry cream, beat it well to return to a smooth, creamy consistency. The pastry cream will keep covered in the fridge for up to 1 week.

For the choux:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough congeals to form a sticky, cohesive ball. Work quickly to prevent small lumps of flour from forming. Continue to stir for 1-2 minutes, until a light coating of dough forms on the bottom of the pan.
2. Immediately transfer the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for 30 seconds, allowing the dough to cool slightly.
3. Add the beaten eggs in four additions, one at a time, beating until each egg is incorporated before adding the next one. After the addition of the third egg, turn the mixer off and use a silicone spatula to thoroughly scrape the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl. When all the eggs have been added, scrape the inside of the bowl and paddle using the silicone spatula to release any buildup of dough.
4. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat briefly until the dough is uniformly smooth. The dough is the correct consistency when it is smooth, glossy, and slowly falls from a spatula, or you can remove the paddle from the bowl and the dough forms a softly hanging downward arrow shape. If the dough is too stiff, add additional beaten egg. 1 teaspoon at a time. The dough’s
final consistency should be able to hold a soft mound when piped.

For the éclairs:
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Preheat the oven to 400F (205 C).
2. Transfer the cream puff pastry dough to a pastry bag fitted with the star tip, then pipe 1-by-5-inch “fingers” leaving 2 1/2 inches between each one.
3. Place the baking sheets into the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 350F. Bake the éclair shells for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown. Do not open the oven during baking, as doing so could cause the éclairs to fall. Check for doneness by lifting one éclair and inspecting the bottom to ensure adequate browning. Bake the éclairs darker rather than lighter, as this will help create the hollow center for the filling. Remove the éclairs to a cooling rack to cool completely before filling.
4. When you are ready to finish the éclairs, fill your piping back with the pastry cream. Place the tip into each end and inject the éclair with the cream.
5. Melt your chocolate and make the ganache. Dip the éclairs into the chocolate and serve immediately!