The Éclair

When Mike was a wee lad in Hawaii, his father worked as a truck driver for a local bakery. He frequently brought home left over goodies for the fam. They were predominantly cakes and donuts, the standard issue fare. Subtle in the background, however, is a faint memory of Mike's first éclair. It stuck with him because anytime we've been to a pastry shop, they are the first thing he scopes out.

This past September, while we were in Portugal, there were tons of pastelarias.  He tried several éclairs in hopes of rekindling the magic. Unfortunately, we were in the wrong spot to enjoy French cuisine. Portugal is famous for their custard and it is reflected in their renditions of other European desserts. Every éclair we bought was filled with custard instead of the traditional pastry cream. Not going to lie... he was pretty disappointed. The éclair would have to wait another day.

I decided that day would be this Valentine's Day. We tried to do the whole cute, secretive thing but it was impossible- we're on the same wave length. So, we shook hands and agreed that he would make dinner and I would help, while I made dessert and he would help. We rolled up our sleeves and attacked.

The first attempt at the pasty cream bombed. It was more akin to soup in consistency. It is recommended to make the pastry cream a day ahead to give it time to cool down.  It seemed like a gamble to try again with the same recipe on such short notice. I did a little research and it felt like a million factors could have contributed to the soup-like result. After watching a very helpful tutorial on The Joy of Baking, I decided to give their version a shot.

To quote Mike, the end result was "fantastic." The choux pastry (the body of the éclair) was puffy and light perfection. We both marveled at how the middle hollows out while baking to create a secret compartment for the filling. The pastry cream was thick, slightly sweet, and had a hint of vanilla. I was naughty and added half a vanilla bean to the mix. Plus, it firmed up quite nicely in less than an hour. The ganache topping is thick and easy to manipulate with a beautiful sheen. I'm a little nutty and try to avoid using corn syrup whenever possible so I substituted with honey. All together, it was a killah éclair!

A note for the other newbies out there, I have found three different ways to pipe in the pasty cream. The first is by simply slicing the choux pastry in half, piping in the cream, and placing the top back on like a sandwich. The second method involved poking holes at each end or the bottom and piping the cream through these make-shift portals. The third method, which was my favorite, is to slice open the top like a zipper, gently pipe in the cream, and then seal/hide the incision with the ganache. The choice is yours! 

The recipe can be found on The Joy of Baking! I highly recommend watching their instructional video. It helps you to understand what to look for as you bake. This resource is a God-send for anyone (like me) who has never made an éclair before. Happy belated Valentine's day!

PS. Thanks my wonderful sous-chef and master chicken masala maker! I love you, husbun!