These are something that the hubbie has been asking for now for a while. I do not personally like eclairs or cream puffs, but I aim to please around here. It was also something on my list of things to tackle. After watching a special on Pate a Choux by Alton Brown, I was ready to try and manage these little guys.
Thanks to everyone for all the kind words in my last post, you are an amazing group of people! For those of you that follow the space program, I am sure you saw the Shuttle did not launch last Friday and it has been delayed to no earlier than November 30th. I will keep you up to date, but if you are interested in all the details of the problems the Shuttle engineers have been having, I prefer Spaceflight Now. They have daily updates on the status of the Shuttle mission.
Chocolate Cream Puffs and Eclairs
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp hot water
To prepare the cream puffs or eclairs, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium saucepan bring water and butter to a roiling boil. Stir in flour and reduce heat to low. Continue to stir vigorously over low heat until the mixture forms a ball, about a minute. Remove from heat and beat in eggs. With a spoon continue to beat until smooth. To form cream puffs, drop 1/4 cup of mixture on prepared baking sheet. To form eclairs, fill a prepared pastry bag with mixture and form a line 4-5 inches long and 1-2 inches wide, think "finger-shaped". Bake for 35-40 minutes or until puffed and golden, remove from oven and let cool away from drafts.
To prepare cream filling, mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add in milk and stir continuously over medium heat until mixture thickens and begins to boil. While stirring, let mixture boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add half of milk mixture to slightly beaten egg yolks. Mix, then place milk and egg mixture into the saucepan with remaining milk. While continuously stirring, bring to a boil over medium heat and let boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add in butter and vanilla. Pour mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on surface, and let refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill.
To prepare chocolate frosting, melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Once chocolate is melted, remove and add in powdered sugar and water. Beat until smooth and spreadable.
To fill cream puffs or eclairs cut off the top third of each and fill with cream filling and replace tops. An alternative to filling cream puffs would be to inject the cream filling. To do this, use a sharp object to create a small hole in side of cream puff or eclair, then using a prepared pastry bag inject the cream filling. While chocolate is still warm, spread over filled cream puffs and eclairs.
I found that my cream filling was a bit on the runny side, to cure this I lowered the amount of milk required in the recipe. This is why I injected the cream filling rather than cutting the tops off. If you like a thicker cream filling be sure to boil until it has thickened to your liking. When chilling your pastry cream, be sure to place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream, otherwise it will form a thickened crust on the top and no one wants to eat that!
I used a pastry bag to make both the eclairs and cream puffs, this allowed an evenly distributed circle and finger shape. After forming the shapes, slightly dampen your finger and smooth out any leftover points made by the pastry bag, you don't want a pointy cream puff! For filling these guys, I found if I didn't pre-cut a small hole that when I tried to shove the pastry tip into the cream puff it would crack the surface. You can use any sharp object to create an entry point, first thing I saw was my meat thermometer!
This recipe is slightly adapted from BettyCrocker.com