If you know me then you know that I put salted caramel in to EVERYTHING. It’s a major part of my life according to one of my friends. This time was no exception, why have plain, boring éclairs when they have the potential to taste so much better? I mean I only made subtle changes but I definitely think it’s worth it if you’re trying to impress.
Éclairs are made from choux pastry, the same stuff that makes profiteroles and churros and it sounds much harder than it is. I experimented this time and used strong white flour instead of plain flour for the higher gluten content and hopefully stronger structure. It worked, the éclairs were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and there were no collapsed éclairs – success. Collapsed éclairs occur for a couple of reasons, usually under-baking and opening the oven door during baking. Éclairs have no rising agent and rely on steam to puff them up so they can be pretty unpredictable. Set aside a couple of hours one cold afternoon and bake up a batch. Experiment with flavours and fillings as much as you like 🙂
Makes 10-15 éclairs
75g butter, evenly cubed
100g strong white flour, sifted
3 room temperature eggs, lightly beaten
For the filling:
1 small pot double cream
Salted Caramel sauce (M&S do a great one)
For the topping:
100g good quality milk and dark chocolate
First, line two baking trays with baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 180°FAN. Then sift the flour on to a square of baking parchment and set aside. Using a large saucepan, heat the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar over a medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is simmering. When it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and immediately beat in the flour. Keep beating until the mixture comes away from the sides. Return the pan to the heat and cook the flour out for a couple of minutes.
Transfer your choux mixture in to a separate bowl and let it cool slightly before beating in about half of the eggs, using an electric mixer. Make sure the mixture is fully combined before adding the rest of the eggs. You should be left with a thick, glossy batter.
Place the batter in to a piping bag fitted with a wide nozzle. Pipe lengths of the mixture on to the tray leaving a couple of inches between each one. Lightly run a fork along the top of each eclair to create ridges (this prevents cracks forming during baking).
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until deep golden brown. Then remove them from the oven and poke a small hole in the side of each éclair to allow the steam to escape. Turn the oven off and put the éclairs back in for 10 minutes and after this, leave them to cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.
For the filling, you need to whip up your small pot of double cream, and add a couple of tablespoons of salted caramel sauce and icing sugar to taste. Be careful not to over-whip, you want soft, velvety lashings of cream inside your éclairs, not sweet butter. I added a few squirts of golden syrup to my cream as it gave a nice caramel colour. The éclair shells are fairly salty so counteract this by having a sweet filling.
There are a couple of ways you can fill your shells, you can either poke a few holes on the underside of the eclairs and fill them that way or you can slice the choux bun in half lengthways taking care not to cut the whole way through and pipe your cream across the whole length. I find that the latter method produces a much neater result as you can see the nice piped line of cream and there’s no unattractive spewing cream from any one end.
For the topping, you can either make a chocolate ganache or just melt the chocolate and stir in the butter. I just melted the chocolate because I liked the contrast in texture between the éclair shell, cream and hard chocolate. But it’s up to you.
Decorate with any remaining salted caramel sauce and eat as soon as possible!