Introduction: Fancy Mini Eclairs for Valentine's Day
Maybe you're giving your loved one(s) a wonderful and romantic night in with heart-felt DIY gifts. If you're talented in the kitchen, or just want to show off by making something that sounds hard but is really quite easy, then this Eclair Instructable is for you.
I haven made a few Instructables that will lead you easily to this final product. You will need:
1 X recipe of Pate a Choux
1X recipe of Pastry Cream
Dark or milk chocolate, per your preference.
Additionally, you will need several pastry piping tips. A long injection tip will do nicely, a plain round one in the smallest circumference that you have, and another tip two times as big. Tip # 802/Wilton 12. If you do not have a tip, I will give you an alternative way to make and fill your eclairs.
Make sure your pastry cream is properly chilled before starting this Instructable. I recommend having this dessert ready no more than 4 hours before you are going to serve it.
Step 1: Mise En Place!
As I mentioned before, make and chill your pastry cream before beginning this.
Make your Pate a Choux and place it in a pastry bag fitted with your tip # 802/Wilton 12. If you do not have a pastry bag, you can use a coupler and a ziploc. If you have neither bag nor tip, use a small cookie scoop. If you have no scoop, use two spoons.
I use a coffee press to hold my pastry bag as I fill it. Anything cylindrical and hollow should do the trick.
Put your heavy cream in a pot. If you are using blocks of chocolate, chop and measure 4oz. If you are using chips or pastilles, skip the chopping and just measure. Set aside.
Have a small bowl of water ready.
Prepare your sheet pans with parchment paper. Place a dab of Choux batter under the paper at each corner to prevent it from moving around as you begin to pipe. If you have a convection oven this will also prevent the paper flying around and ruining your work.
Heat your oven to 350F/175C degrees.
Step 2: Size Matters
Since these will be mini eclairs, keep in mind the size as you begin to pipe. They will rise nearly an inch in the baking process .
Pipe 3 inch lines of Choux in even, alternating rows. As you begin to pipe, notice the size of the top of the line and adjust your pressure on the pastry bag to stay nearly the same width. The final baked product will have a hourglass shape if you do not. As you are nearing the end, stop squeezing the bag and pull forward a little creating a small tail. If you cannot maneuver this, have no worries, I will tell you how to ensure your tall tails will stick up as you stop piping.
If you are using a scoop, follow the same guidelines for straight, alternating rows. These will not be eclair-shaped, they will be cream puffs. Or if you'd like to still use a fancy name, Profiteroles. If you are using two spoons, use the bowl of water and dip the spoons in the water before scooping the batter. It will help with sticking. Scoop with one spoon and use the other to scrape the batter down and onto the parchment. Re-dip the spoon.
If your shapes are looking a little rough, you can dip a finger into the water and smooth down any long tips or spiky bits. Choux is very forgiving.
Note in the pictures how the rows alternate. This is to allow sufficient air flow between the product as it bakes so that each bakes evenly.
If you are having trouble or are not liking the way your shapes are coming out, use a spatula (not the one with slots to flip eggs or pancakes) to scrape up the dough and put it back in the bag/bowl. You can work the batter a few more times this way; but remember, the longer you work with it, the tougher it will become and the less desirable your product will look and taste.
Bake your Choux for 15 mins, then reduce your heat 25F/15C degrees and bake another 5. You want to dry out the shells so they will withstand being filled and dunked in chocolate. They should be very brown. Please keep an eye on them as every oven, even in a professional kitchen, is different.
Step 3: Hot Chocolate
When your eclairs and Puffs are done baking, and are cooling, make a simple Ganache.
A simple Ganache has a 1:1 ratio of cream to chocolate. Ganache has an insane number of uses.
Heat your cream until it is very hot, but do not scald or boil. Remove from the heat and pour in all of you measured chocolate. Let it sit for a minute. With a whisk or spoon, begin stirring slowly from the middle of the mixture. It will look streaky and broken. This is because chocolate and liquids don't like to mix well at first. However, with Time, Temperature and Agitation you will soon find yourself with a smooth and wonderful product. Keep stirring making sure not to slosh, you are creating an emulsion here just like when you make mayonnaise or salad dressing. When it has been combined and no longer looks streaked it is done and can be put aside.
If the chocolate has not completely melted, return it to low heat stirring constantly until it becomes smooth and there are no un-melted pieces.
Step 4: Fill 'Er Up
Retrieve your pastry cream and prepare another bag with your injecting tip or your smallest tip. Use only a small amount of pastry cream at first until you are comfortable
The eclair shells should be cooled by now. To fill them, either poke a small hole on the end or two in the bottom (flat side) of the eclair. You can do this using the tip itself or a paring knife. With the tip inside the eclair, pipe in some pastry cream. I caution not to be zealous with this procedure because your eclair could explode. Also, for cleaner presentation, do not overfill. The pastry cream will end up coming out if you do. Fill each eclair in this manner.
For the cream puffs of Profiteroles, you can fill them the same way.
If you do not have a pastry bag and tip, cut the tops off of your shells whether they be eclairs or cream puffs. Using a spoon, fill the cavity with pastry cream. One of the pictures shows the cream puff as it should be cut and the darker picture illustrates the cavity inside the shell that you will be filling.
Once you have filled each shell by your preferred method, arrange them on which ever platter or plate you will be serving them on. This is crucial for the product if you have cut the top off, as it minimizes finger prints on the ganache and messy presentation. Once you have arranged them, test the ganache to make sure it has not cooled and begun to set. If it has, gently heat it again. Dip the top of each product in the ganache, gently shake off the excess and then place it on the plate again, or on top of its mate.
You are done. If you would like, you can keep these uncovered in the fridge until serving time. If you will not be serving them for several hours but want them to be closer to room temperature, then keep them in the fridge to avoid time and temperature abuse (the pastry cream is perishable) and remove them about an hour before serving.You will need to time this to coincide with the starter or the entree depending on how fast or slow you want to take things.
If you have leftover shells you do not need to keep them in an airtight container. You can use them one more day, but they do not keep well for longer. You want your baked goods to be enjoyed as fresh as possible, but if you have a hankering the morning after, just dip the unfilled shells in chocolate and eat with a little spoonful of pastry cream. Baked Choux tends to be hygroscopic and will suck up any moisture around it making it floppy and rubbery.