Making these brought back childhood memories of my mum ferociously beating choux pastry in a saucepan. While a bit of elbow grease is needed, the first bite makes it all worthwhile.
100 grams butter, chopped roughly
1 cup water
200 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
two large baking trays lined with baking paper
piping bag with a 1½cm piping tip
Chocolate Crème Patissiere
1½ cups milk
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 tablespoons cornflour
80 grams dark chocolate, melted
100 ml cream
150 grams dark chocolate, chopped roughly
1 teaspoon neutral oil, such as rice bran
½ cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
small baking dish lined with baking paper
Eclairs: Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Heat the butter, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook for 3–4 minutes or until the butter has melted and the mixture just starts to simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2–3 minutes or until the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball. Cook for a few more minutes, beating constantly with the wooden spoon until the mixture starts to leave a little residue on the base of the saucepan.
Remove from the heat and add the eggs one by one, beating vigorously after each addition until well combined and the mixture forms a glossy dough. It should drop in a heavy mass from the spoon. It may seem sloppy to start with and not inclined to mix together but persevere, it will happen.
Spoon half the dough into the piping bag. The easiest way is to fold the sides of the piping bag down and rest it, tip first, in a large glass before filling it. Pipe 10cm lengths onto the lined trays, leaving 5cm between each one to allow for spreading. You should have about 28–30 éclairs.
Bake for 25–30 minutes until puffed and golden – do not open the oven during cooking or they will collapse. Remove from the oven and pierce the sides with a small knife to release steam. Leave to cool on a wire tray.
Chocolate Crème Patissiere: Heat the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it just starts to simmer.
While the milk warms, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, flour, cocoa and cornflour until completely smooth.
Once the milk is simmering add the melted chocolate to the milk and whisk until combined completely.
Add half the hot chocolate milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour this mixture into the remaining hot milk and continue whisking over the heat until you have a custard that is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and pour into a container. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill.
Ganache: Heat the cream in a small saucepan until just simmering. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Leave for 3 minutes then add the oil and whisk to combine. If necessary return to the heat briefly, then whisk again until smooth. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.
Praline: Heat the sugar and water in a small, heavy-based saucepan. Cook over a medium heat without stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and caramelised, turning a golden colour. It will start to caramelise from the outside. As it starts to ‘turn’ you can give the pan a gentle swirl to encourage it. The amount of time varies, but it can be more than 5 minutes. Keep an eagle eye on the caramel as it can move from golden and perfect to black and bitter very quickly.
Once you have a light golden liquid pour it onto the baking paper, as it will continue to cook with its own heat. Leave it to set hard. Once the praline is cold you can whizz it in a blender or smash it into chunks with the end of a rolling pin for a fine or chunkier result.
To assemble: Split the éclairs lengthwise then either pipe or spoon the chocolate patissiere onto the bottom half. Put the tops back on, spoon over the chocolate ganache and sprinkle with praline.
Best eaten the day of making but can be frozen unfilled. Makes 28–30