There are countless variations on the recipe for chocolate eclair filling, but I like to make mine with a thick custard and cream mix.
- 100 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 40 g unsalted butter, roughly chopped, plus extra to grease
- 6 egg yolks
- 120 g (¾ cup) icing sugar
- 60 g plain flour, sifted
- 500 ml (2 cups) milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
- ½ lemon, zested
- 100 ml thickened cream, whipped to soft peaks
- 130 g unsalted butter
- 150 g (1 cup) plain flour
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 4 eggs
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 5 minutes
To make pastry cream, whisk the yolks and sugar until thick and pale, then whisk in the flour a little at a time. Heat the milk and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat until just below boiling point, then, whisking constantly, add it to the egg mixture. Return mixture to the saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly for 3 minutes or until mixture is smooth and thick. Remove pan from heat, remove and discard vanilla bean, then stir in lemon zest. Transfer to a bowl, cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Preheat oven to 225°C. To make the choux pastry, heat the butter and 300 ml water in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, bring to the boil, throw in all the flour and sugar at once and beat rapidly with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and continue beating for 2 minutes or until dough forms a smooth ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. It’s important to cook the dough without browning it. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool. Transfer the dough to a bowl and beat in the eggs really well, one at a time. You can use an electric mixer with a beater blade attachment if you have one.
Grease 2 oven trays. Transfer choux mixture to a piping bag with an 1 cm-diameter nozzle attached. Pipe 20 8 cm logs onto prepared trays. Keep them small and delicate because they will more than double in volume. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce oven to 180°C and swap trays. Cook for a further 20 minutes or until golden and firm. You can leave them to cool in the oven with the door ajar to allow them to become crisper if you like, or transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, fill a small saucepan one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, place over pan and stir until chocolate has melted (don’t let bowl touch simmering water). Keep warm.
To assemble, whisk the chilled pastry cream until smooth, fold in whipped cream, then transfer to a piping bag. Slice the éclairs horizontally and dip the top halves in chocolate. Allow to set for a few minutes. Pipe pastry cream onto each base and sandwich with tops. Serve éclairs within an hour or two.
Photography Alan Benson.