Chocolate eclairs are a place that a lot of people don’t want to go to, but with care, a little patience and following instructions closely everyone can have success. I have taught this to hundreds of teenagers doing their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award residential section, at the Yorkshire Wolds Cookery School, with I would say about 99% success. I chose the recipe for them as they had to really watch the demo carefully and read the recipe thoroughly, and most of them got it spot on!
I have shown two different types of topping and filling, but of course as usual once you have the basic choux pastry done you can do with it as you please. I sometimes use a savoury filling for canapés, such as a smoked fish pate, chicken liver pate or a cream cheese and herb mixture.
If you want to go all out you can make a Croquembouche, (French wedding cake), but be very careful as the profiteroles are stuck together with very hot caramel, and don’t do as I once did. When working with hot caramel you have a bowl of iced water ready to dip your fingers into in case you get any caramel on them and it cracks off immediately. I was not concentrating and dipped my fingers back in the caramel instead of the cold water, that was a very painful experience!
Makes approximately 32
For the choux pastry
50g cold butter cut into cubes
150 ml cold water
65g plain flour, sifted onto a sheet of baking parchment
For the dark chocolate eclairs
100ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp brandy
100g 70% cocoa dark chocolate
For the white chocolate and raspberry eclairs
100ml double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
40g raspberries, mashed and sieved
100g white chocolate, melted
30g pistachios, finely chopped
Preheat an oven to 220C
To make the pastry, put the butter and water into a small pan on to heat allow the butter to melt, then bring to the boil , making sure that the water comes to a rolling boil.
Remove the pan from heat, tip the flour from the baking parchment into the pan all at once, and beat the mixture until it forms a soft ball
Allow to cool slightly
Gradually add the eggs, beating well, with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer, between each addition to give a smooth shiny paste
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with 1cm (1/2 in) plain nozzle and pipe into about 32 small éclair shapes about 5cm long, leaving enough room between each one to allow them to spread
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes
Reduce the heat to 170C, do not open the door
Cook for a further 20 minutes until well risen and a deep golden colour
Remove from the oven and make a small hole in the bottom of each éclair to allow steam to escape. (This will also be where you pipe the filling). Place back on the baking sheet hole side up.
Lower the temperature again to 140C and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes to really dry out
Cool on a wire rack.
Melt the dark chocolate and white chocolate in separate bowls over pans of just boiled water.
Whip the cream with the icing sugar and brandy until stiff enough to pipe and place in a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle
Fill half of the eclairs with this cream and set aside.
Whip the remaining cream and icing sugar for the white chocolate eclairs until it forms soft peaks, fold in the raspberry puree, using the same piping bag that you used for the first 16 eclairs, now fill the remaining with the raspberry coulis. Set aside.
Dip the first half of the eclairs in the dark chocolate and allow to set.
Dip the remaining in the white chocolate and then dip into the pistachios
Allow all to set and then arrange on a serving plate with the other afternoon tea items.
The eclairs will keep in the fridge for 2 days, and in the freezer for up to a month. When defrosting, take out of the freezer and put immediately on the serving plate you intend to use.