Aoife Noonan's step-by-step simple chocolate éclairs

Make your own choux pastry, vanilla cream and chocolate glaze

Choux is a little different to other pastry; butter, water and milk are warmed together in a saucepan with sugar and a little salt, before adding flour to the hot mix and “cooking out”.

Choux is a little different to other pastry; butter, water and milk are warmed together in a saucepan with sugar and a little salt, before adding flour to the hot mix and “cooking out”.

 

If you could make a perfectly crisp little pastry, filled with a light vanilla cream and covered in a glossy chocolate glaze, you would never look at a profiterole the same way again.

Making choux pastry is one of those enigmas, but like most things, it is easy when you know how. The classic French pastry was invented in the 1500s and choux means cabbage in French, as originally, once piped and cooked, the individual round pastries looked like plump little cabbages. An éclair is a slightly elongated version.

Choux is a little different to other pastry; butter, water and milk are warmed together in a saucepan with sugar and a little salt, before adding flour to the hot mix and “cooking out”. The flour needs to be cooked on the heat for the water to evaporate and the starch granules to burst. This ensures a perfectly airy, well risen little choux. The hot mix is cooled slightly, before beating in eggs, and once the paste is a perfectly smooth dropping consistency, it is piped and cooked.

Well-risen and crisp

I have probably made hundreds of batches of this pastry. The perfect choux should be well-risen and crisp on the outside, with a soft, almost hollow centre. The airy centre allows the choux to be filled with wonderful different flavoured creams; here I’ve kept it simple.

I was once taught to lighten a crème Chantilly, that is a vanilla cream, with yoghurt. It reduces the richness of the heavy, fatty cream, adds a tangier note and a softer, less cloying texture.

The unfilled choux can be stored in a freezer for up to a month and defrosted, filled and glazed when you are ready to eat them. The filled éclairs will keep for a day, after that they will start to soften.

EASY CHOCOLATE ÉCLAIRS

Makes 20

Ingredients

For the choux pastry:
125ml milk
125ml water
½ tsp salt
1tsp sugar
115g unsalted butter, cubed
140g plain flour
3 large eggs (about 165g in total)

For the vanilla cream:
200ml cream
1tbsp sugar
½ vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla extract
50ml natural yoghurt

For the chocolate glaze:
200ml cream
20g unsalted butter
pinch salt
150g dark chocolate, finely chopped

Method

1 For the choux pastry: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Put the milk, water, salt, sugar and butter into a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat. Once all of the butter has melted and the liquid is just coming to a boil, take the pan off the heat.

2 Tip the flour into the pan, and beat the mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. Place the pan back on the heat and continue to beat until you have a smooth ball and the dough has come away from the sides of the pan.

3 Put the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix using the beater attachment for two to three minutes, until the mix has cooled slightly.

4 Add one egg, and continue to beat until it is fully incorporated. Repeat with the remaining eggs. The dough should be a smooth glossy paste once all of the eggs have been added. Put the paste into a piping bag fitted with a large star or plain nozzle. Keeping the piping bag at a 45-degree angle, pipe four-inch strips onto the baking trays, leaving two inches of space between each.

5 Bake the éclairs in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 160 degrees and continue to bake for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and prick the end of each with a skewer to release the steam. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, make two holes in the bottom of each éclair using the tip of a piping nozzle.

6 For the filling: Whisk the cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form. Fold in the yoghurt. Transfer the cream to a piping bag and place in the fridge until ready to assemble.

7 For the chocolate glaze: Put the cream, butter and salt into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk together until the chocolate is fully melted. Keep warm until ready to dip the eclairs.

8 Pipe vanilla cream into each éclair. Dip each éclair into the glaze, shake off the excess, and place on a wire rack to set.

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