The moments I cherish most in life are those seemingly insignificant ones that catch your breath, and suddenly your achingly aware that your life is about to change. Forever. This is precisely what happened when I was introduced to my Beloved of over 11 years at a fundraising event. It went a little something like this:
Boy swaggered towards Girl with a prologue so sweet it completely masked the smoothness of his delivery, which he then summated with the nonchalant, yet deliberate, offer of his business card.
In a hurried glance, Girl recognized the emblem on the card immediately and also made a mental note to conduct a background search on said suspect….uh Boy (spending half of her work days in court had clearly made the Girl leery of strangers). Although impressed with the title on his card and sensing it had the exact effect that Boy was aiming for, Girl summarily rejected it and curtly admonished: “I can’t talk to you, I’m suing your company.” Even as she heard herself say the words, she knew them to be meaningless, for the searingly sweet smile and tender eyes had already laid claim to her heart.
Eleven years and two precious children later, here we are, with Girl writing a love letter to her Boy in the most sincere way she knows how, by baking his favorite dessert.
So dear readers, while every single post on this blog is a part of me, this one is truly, deeply and utterly an expression of love. Éclairs encompass the trinity of pastry, a light and crispy shell, a silky creamy filling and intense chocolate glaze. This trifecta, much like falling in love, will make you sigh and swoon. Speaking of love, these are my husband’s favorite dessert and I hope you’ll love this recipe that I created especially for him, as much as he does.
An éclair is a French pastry that dates back to the mid 19th century. They are made with a pâte à choux (paht-ah-shoo) dough that is piped into an oblong shape. Pâte à choux is the same dough used for make profiteroles, or cream puffs. Once baked, the pastry has a crispy thin outside, and an airy, hollow inside. The traditional filling for éclair is a crème pâtissière, but any creamy filling would be delightful here. I am filling these with my husband’s favorite, this vanilla bean whipped cream. Once filled, the top is glazed with an icing or chocolate ganache. This recipe makes 40-46 petite éclairs.
Pâte à Choux Dough
1 cup water
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons/113 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (126 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs at room temperature, preferably organic
How to use them:
Preheat your over to 400° and position your oven rack to the upper third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, with a ruler set across the edge to assist you with piping the pastry in equal lenths. Prepare a pastry bag that is fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and set aside. In a medium pot, add water, butter, salt and sugar and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour. Stir the dough vigorously with a wooden spoon for approximately 2 minutes. The dough will be thick and sticky.Place the pot back on medium heat and stir for another 1-2 minutes until the dough comes together and forms a film across the bottom of the pan. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, and beat on medium low speed until it cools a bit, for approximately 2 minutes. With the mixer still on, add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition until fully incorporated. Initially, the dough will appear to have separated into large curdled pieces, don’t let that alarm you, it will eventually come back together. Scrape the bowl to incorporate well and beat for an additional minute.Fill the pastry bag with the pastry dough and twist the top of the bag to secure the dough in place. Pipe twelve 5-inch-long logs onto a baking sheet by piping forward and then quickly lifting up with a swift motion. Leave at least an inch of space between each one.Bake the éclairs for 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown. Believe me, I want to take a peak into the oven just as much you do when I’m baking, but please, please resist the urge to open the oven while baking these. Use your oven light and summon all of your patience to wait until they are perfectly baked.Remove the éclairs from the oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack. Once they are completely cooled, gently slice them in half using a serrated knife to prepare them for filling.
1 Pâte à Choux Dough recipe
1 pint fresh raspberries
While the pastry is cooling, prepare the vanilla bean whipped cream filling and chocolate ganache glaze. Wash and thoroughly dry your raspberries and prepare a piping bag with a 1/2 inch star tip.Fill the pastry bag with the whipped cream and begin piping in a line across the entire length on bottom half of the éclair halves.And since this is a love letter inspired dessert, I decided to add a single raspberry to seal it with a kiss! Place the raspberry in the middle of pastry and pipe a raspberry-sized dollop of whipped cream on each side of the berry.Pipe another line of whipped cream across the top. Gently dip the top half of the éclairs into the chocolate ganache. As you lift the tops out of the ganache, allow the excess to drip down for a moment.Gingerly, place the dipped half on top of the filled éclairs and serve immediately. If you would like to make these ahead of time, have all of the compenants prepared and simply assemble prior to serving. These petite éclairs personify love to me and I hope that with one taste, you will agree.