There are some treats that need no words to describe their worth. It’s quite evident. Eclair is one such pastry that has been a childhood favourite and most of us have still not grown out of it. The very mention of it always makes us drool – the sweet memory of biting into the chocolate glazed choux pastry which then makes way for the light cream filling. The French sweet, which is also referred to as cream puff, was considered to be bread for the duchess – pain a la Duchesse. The word ‘éclair’ means a ‘flash of lightning’, probably stemming from the fact that it is a quick eatable, and cannot be resisted for too long.
Eclair is said to have been created during the 19th century by a famous pastry chef called Marie-Antoine Careme. Across the globe, éclair and its variations are known by different names – Long John Doughnuts in North America, Danish in Denmark, etc. The first English recipe for éclairs was published in 1884 in Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs D.A. Lincoln.
Today, apart from traditional eclairs, pastry chefs are offering some interesting options of new-age eclairs with even more sinful fillings. Not too fond of cream? No problem. You can try butter caramel, mint, blueberry, blackcurrant, passionfruit, salted caramel, Nutella, orange and so much more! You will even find them decorated with colourful fruits, jellies and toppings like strawberries, bananas,confetti, mango and so on. Renowned Chef Anjali Pathak says, “Some interesting fillings you can explore are Lemon Curd Meringue, Coconut Cream, Dark Chocolate and Candied Orange, Espresso and Marscapone, Caramel Corn and Raspberry, Cinnamon Apple Pie and Cream.”
Tricks to Making Eclairs
Tempted much? The question that now arises is whether it is easy to attempt making at home. The answer is yes, but you do require a little patience to perfect the skills. It is usually the making of the choux pastry that is tricky.
Chef Guillaume Lejeune, Director of Pastry Studies, Academy of Pastry Arts says, “Eclairs these days have become a more sophisticated looking product. They are even baked into perforated moulds to give it a new dimension. An easy way to enjoy this treat is to slice the éclair midway, fill it up with cream patisserie and top with fresh fruits. You could also dip it in various nut glazes to add some crunch.”
He further adds, “But making the perfect choux pastry is not as easy as it seems.” Choux pastry is a light dough with a hollow centre, which is filled up with cream or custard. It is made with butter, flour, eggs and water. First water and butter are boiled to increase moisture content, and then the flour is added while stirring the mixture continuously to cook it till it forms a dough. It is then cooled and eggs are added to achieve the desired consistency, followed by baking at low heat, where the steam created during baking puffs up the pastry.
Chef Anjali Pathak says, “Choux pastry uses a cooked mix of butter, water and flour called a panade. If the panade is too warm before eggs are added your choux won’t rise evenly. Also don’t be tempted to peek into the oven before the choux pastry sets. It won’t rise properly.and your pastry may collapse.”
Here’s a recipe for you to try – Chocolate Eclair
Chef Guillaume Lejeune also shares some tricks to keep in mind while making eclairs:
- Use a wooden spoon instead of a whisk while cooking the mixture.
- While cooling the mixture use a paddle and make sure you do not incorporate too much air.
- Eggs should be added gradually upon cooling till the mixture is glossy.
- Pipe the mixture at room temperature and bake continuously at a low temperature.
If you are a sweet lover, and you enjoy baking, then take up this task and try perfecting éclair making at home. Once you get the hang, we bet you are going to look for more reasons to bake them every now and then.