It all started with the egg yolks.
A few days ago, I was commissioned to make a pan of s’mores fudge bars by a lovely co-worker of mine (my first sale!), and the recipe uses egg whites to make the marshmallow topping. I absolutely hate wasting ingredients, and I wondered what I could do with the 2 egg yolks left over. A cake, perhaps?
So I went to work looking for a recipe. Apparently, I’m not alone in not wanting to waste ingredients. Cakes weren’t a prevalent choice of recipe, but here was mini eclairs for two! Was this something I really wanted to take on? I scanned the recipe and, what do you know? I just happened to have the exact amount of heavy cream it called for, another ingredient I was trying to find a use for! From then on, it was pretty much kismet. 😉
For the pastry cream:
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. flour
pinch of salt
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla
For the eclair:
1/3 c. water
3 T. unsalted butter at room temp
1/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg, beaten
For the glaze:
1/2 c. chocolate chips or chunks
1 tsp. vegetable shortening
First make the pastry cream. In a small pot, heat the cream until the tiniest bubbles appear at the edge. Do not boil.
Meanwhile, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add egg yolks and whisk together. The mixture will be crumbly. Very slowly pour the warm cream into the yolk mixture while continuing to whisk. This process is called tempering the eggs, and you pour it slowly so that the yolks don’t cook while their temperature rises to that of the cream’s.
Pour the entire mixture back into the pot over medium heat. Whisk constantly while it starts to simmer. Once it noticeably thickens (bubbles will have a hard time getting to the surface), continue to cook and whisk a few more seconds. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. I whisked it in, which ruined the beautiful texture…but I’ll get to that in a sec. Scrape into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly to the surface of the cream. Chill in fridge for at least 3 hours.
After I added the vanilla, the mixture started to come apart. When I was pressing the plastic wrap to the top, a butter-like liquid was soaking through and I freaked out. I combed the web for tips on what to do; most people said to just wait the three hours to see if it thickens. So I did. And it worked! So don’t freak out if your cream separates.
Now, the eclair dough! In a small pot, stir together butter and water over low heat until butter melts without boiling water. Remove from heat and add flour, sugar and salt all at once. Stir until combined. Put pot back on burner (over low heat for gas stovetop, heat off for glass) and stir until dough pulls away from sides of pot, about 1 minute. Scrape dough into a bowl and mix on low until it’s only warm. Or let it sit out until warm…that’s what I did! Add egg and beat until dough turns pale yellow, about 2-3 min. Lay some parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat!, onto a cookie sheet. Put in piping bag and pipe 6 mounds, about 2 inches lengthwise with a 1-in opening on the bag. Alternately, you could use a spoon, but the piping bag is much easier and makes the mounds prettier!
Bake at 400* for 10 minutes, then open the oven door for 5 seconds and change the temperature to 350*. Bake another 18-20 minutes. When done, turn oven off and remove pan. Use a thin knife to poke a hole in the side of the eclair to release steam. Return to oven and let cool for 30 minutes with the oven door ajar. (I used a strategically placed wooden spoon.)
Next, slice eclairs in half horizontally. Fill with chilled pastry cream. For the chocolate, place chocolate chips and vegetable shortening in a small bowl. Microwave in 10 second intervals until melted, or set up a double boiler using a metal bowl and a small pot of water. Carefully dip tops of eclairs into chocolate. Chill until set for 15 minutes. Voila! A lot of words, an easy recipe and 6 delicious mini eclairs you just made yourself.