A Fresh Twist on Chocolate Éclairs

Sweet treats: dark chocolate eclairs
I don't know about you, but when I think of classic French desserts, I think of chocolate eclairs. These flakey, puffy pastries filled with rich custard and topped with a decadent chocolate ganache are sure to please. Sometimes though, it can fun to mix things up with a more contemporary version of old favorites. 
One way, is by flavoring the pastry cream inside the eclair.  Personally, I love vanilla, but there are so many ways to update the cream. Try strawberry, or chocolate cream.  Even mixing in a bit of matcha is really delicious and the bright green color that it turns the cream is a vibrant surprise and a really beautiful twist on the chocolate eclair.
Much like any classic dessert, the éclair has come a long way from just being filled with vanilla pastry cream and coated with the chocolate ganache. Bakers from all over have put a twist on this classic. From matcha-flavored to Bourbon Vanilla with Wild Strawberries, these sweet and airy pastries can handle flavors of all kinds (very much like chocolate itself!).
The key to making an excellent éclair is mastering the pâte à choux. It is more than just a regular pastry and needs a little more love and attention than the average. The recipe for pâte à choux changes slightly depending on what it will be used in a savory or a sweet dish. (recipe below)
sweet treats: chocolate eclairs
Recipe for the Perfect pâte à choux  (adapted from Pastry Chef Online)
Ingredients:
1 cup water
3 1/2 oz. unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt (for use in a savory preparation, increase salt to 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon of sugar (for use in a savory preparation, decrease sugar to 1 teaspoon )
5 oz. all purpose flour
4-5 large eggs
Instructions:
  1. Combine water, butter, salt, and sugar on a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, add the flour in all at once and stir until the dough forms smooth ball.
  2. Cook the balled dough for 1-2 minutes more then transfer it to an electric mixer and beat with a paddle attachment on medium speed. Beat the dough until cooled enough so that when the eggs are added, they won’t cook and leave with you with bits of scrambled eggs in your pâte à choux.
  3. Add the eggs to the cooled mixture on at a time. Make sure that the egg is completely incorporated in the dough before adding another one. Once completely mixed, your dough should be runny but very smooth and shiny. The dough should have peaks that slump over when you turn the paddle upside down.
  4. Place the dough in a piping bag and pipe away. Bake these beautiful pâte à choux  in a 450 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes (for smaller servings) or 12 to 15 minutes (for larger ones). Here’s where the extra love and attention comes in: turn the oven’s temperature down to 375 degrees until the pâte à choux is deep golden brown and crisp on the outside. This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. And voila, You have a great start to you éclairs!  
Fillings can range anywhere from the traditional vanilla to something more fruity. For something more fitting to the summer season, try this Raspberry Éclairs adapted from Taste.com
Recipe for the crème pâtissière:

Ingredients:

120g fresh or frozen raspberries

1 tbs icing sugar mixture

2 tsp rosewater essence (you can substitute this with almond extract or vanilla extract)

2 cups double cream or whipping cream

Instructions:

  1. Mash the raspberries with the icing sugar and rosewater essence in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until firm peaks form.
  3. Gently fold the raspberry mixture into the whipped cream until combined.

To assemble:

You can partially split the pâte à choux horizontally and spread the raspberry filling in the middle.

  1. Or you can put the filling in a pastry bag and insert the tip into one end of the éclair and pipe the filling in.
  2. Top the éclair with dark chocolate or even white chocolate ganache. Top with almonds, chocolate shavings, or whatever you’re in the mood for. Enjoy!


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