I know that the thought of making eclairs sounds tough, and there is potential for a messy kitchen and too many pans and bowls used. But, they're just soooo good! And to be honest, after the first time you make them, and as long as you're not in a rush, it really isn't that difficult of a recipe. All the ingredients are most likely already in your kitchen, you don't need any special tools or pans, and each part of the recipe can be made quickly, you just have to wrap your head around making 3-4 different parts to create the whole. If you try the recipe, good luck, I know you can do it! Also, feel free to substitute any part; if you have your own custard recipe you like, or a chocolate glaze, or anything like that. The actual pastry recipe is one that I love, and it has never failed me. Others have, which is why you shouldn't be discouraged. Just the other day I made them, and used a different recipe for the pastry shell (choux pastry), and it flopped. So, you may get it on the first try, something I cannot say for myself!
½ c. butter
1 t. sugar
½ t. salt
1 c. water
1 ¼ c. flour
4 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white
2 c. whole milk (or 1 ½ c. milk, ½ c. cream)
1 T. vanilla
½ c. plus 2 T. sugar
5 T flour
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 c. heavy cream
5 T. powdered sugar
4 oz. chocolate
4 T. butter
For Choux Pastry:
In a medium saucepan, bring butter, sugar, salt, and water to a boil. Take off heat; with a wooden spoon, quickly stir in flour. With pan back on the heat, remain stirring until the mixture pulls together and forms a film on the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes.
With and electric mixer, mix on low speed until the mixture has slightly cooled, a couple minutes. On medium speed, add whole eggs, 1 at a time, then beat remaining egg white in a separate bowl and add. Mix until completely combined, and continue to mix for 1 more minute. Make sure to scrape down the bowl after adding each egg.
With a pastry bag and a 1 inch round tip, or just with the bag, if you don’t have the right size tip; pipe dough onto a baking sheet with parchment paper. For smaller éclairs, pipe about 3 inches long, about an inch wide (you’ll be able to make about 18). For larger éclairs, pipe about 5 inches long, and about 1 ½ inches wide (you’ll be able to make about 12). Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower over temperature to 325 and bake for 35-40 more minutes. The éclairs can be fairly golden, and you don’t not want to under cook these!! The éclairs will collapse.
For Pastry Cream:
In medium saucepan, bring the milk, and vanilla to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk in the egg and egg yolks. Slowly add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly. Continue to boil the pastry cream, whisking constantly, until thick, about a minute. Pour pastry cream in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until cool.
In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, mix for just another 30 seconds or so. Add about ¼ of the whipped cream to the pastry cream.
For Chocolate Glaze:
In a medium bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave, whisk in butter until smooth.
After pastry shells have all been split in half, add a generous portion of pastry cream to all, then with a pastry bag, and no specific tip, pipe a generous amount of the whipped cream on top of the pastry cream. Dip the top half of the shell in the chocolate glaze and place on top of the whipped cream layer.