I finally had the opportunity to sink my teeth into the famed salted caramel eclairs from L’eclair de Genie in Tokyo last week. And all I can say is, Christophe Adam is a pastry genius. It was delicious. And all I could think of after that was, I need to make me some salted caramel eclairs.
This recipe from a blogger I have been following seems perfect for the occasion. She has also provided very detailed instructions on making the pastry cream and pâte a choux. The salted caramel pastry cream is absolutely scrumptious. In fact, it was a wonder they made it into the baked choux, as I was so tempted to just eat them up by the spoonful. The choux pastry recipe is from Dominique Ansel’s Secret Recipes. I topped the eclairs with some leftover glaze from my earlier carrot cake entremet, as well as some streusel. Good stuff.
Makes approximately a dozen mini eclairs
For the pâte a choux
68g whole milk
75g unsalted butter, cubed
3g granulated sugar
2g fleur de sel
98g bread flour, sifted
150g eggs (roughly 3 large)
1) Place water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
2) Take saucepan off heat and dump the flour in, all at once. Stir until it comes together and put in back on low heat. Stir continuously until a dough is formed, and a thin film forms at the base of the saucepan.
3) Transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high using a paddle attachment until dough has cooled slightly.
4) Beat the eggs and add a quarter at a time, making sure the eggs are incorporated fully before the next addition.
5) Test the batter before adding the last quarter of the eggs. Bury a rubber spatula into the batter and pull it up. The batter should fall off in a lump, leaving a ‘V’ trail on the spatula. If batter is too dry, add more eggs. You may not need to use up all the eggs.
6) Fit a pastry bag with a large French piping tip. Then fill the batter into the pastry bag. Secure the top of the piping bag, and allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
7) To bake, preheat convection oven to 200C.
8) Remove batter from the refrigerator, and pipe 3.5 to 4-inch strips onto parchment lined baking trays.
9) Place piped choux into oven and immediately switch off the oven. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Then, turn on the oven to 170C. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the tray around. And bake for another 12 to 15 minutes until choux is lightly browned and crisp.
For the streusel topping
25g salted butter, softened
25g brown sugar
25g ground almond
25g plain flour
1) Add all the items into the bowl of a stand mixer, then, using the paddle attachment, mix until fully incorporate.
2) Pat into a roll, wrap in cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.
3) Pre-heat a convection oven to 170C.
4) Using a large-toothed grater, grate the frozen dough onto a parchment lined baking tray.
5) Bake in pre-heated oven for 10 to 12 minutes until browned, crisp and crumbly. Allow to cool to room temperature and store in air-tight container.
For the salted caramel pastry cream
270g whole milk
15g + 90g fine granulated sugar
40g egg yolks (approximately 2)
150g unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
scant half teaspoon fleur de sel
1) Heat the milk in a saucepan until little bubbles just start to form around the edge of the pan. Take off the heat but keep warm.
2) Whisk together 15g sugar with egg yolks and cornstarch.
3) Put remaining sugar into a deep and heavy-bottomed saucepan and make a dry caramel by heating it on medium heat until it turn a dark caramel. Do not stir.
4) Pull caramel off the heat and pour in the warm milk slowly. It will splatter so be very careful. If chunks of caramel hardened, just put the caramel milk back on low heat and stir to dissolve.
5) Temper the egg yolk mixture by pouring in the hot caramel milk in slowly while whisking.
6) Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and allow to cook on low heat while whisking continuously until it has thickened.
7) Remove pastry cream from heat and stir in the fleur de sel.
8) Allow the pastry cream to cool until approximately 50C. Then, add the cubed butter, and using a hand blender, blend the pastry cream until smooth.
9) Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film, pressing the film tightly onto the surface of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until required.
1/2 portion of caramel glaze
1) Fit a pastry bag with a Bismarck piping tip, and then fill the bag with the salted caramel pastry cream.
2) Take an eclair shell and poke 2 holes on the bottom of the eclair. Fill the eclair generous with the pastry cream. You will know the eclair is full when the pastry cream starts to back flor when you are piping.
3) Once all the eclairs are filled, heat the glaze in a saucepan until runny, then, pour it onto a plate. Dip the top of the eclair into the glaze and allow the excess to drip off.
4) Top eclairs with baked streusel.
As I had 2 trays of piped choux, I experimented with the baking times using Dominique Ansel’s method (baked at 175C convection for 20 minutes) and Pierre Hermé’s method (used above) and realised I liked the later a bit more. Although, I think if I’d bake a few minutes longer using Ansel’s method, it should probably yield the same result, and it is much simpler.
Both Ansel and Pierre Hermé’s original recipe uses plain flour. But I have always been a fan of using bread flour for pâte a choux, mostly due to the bad experiences I had earlier on when I used plain flour. I find the baked choux is a lot more sturdy with bread flour and I have not had issues with the baked shells caving in, even when I don’t poke a hole and allow them to dry in the oven.
Another tip on filling the eclairs – if you refrigerate the pastry cream and it has thicken considerably, use a hand blender and give it a few blitz to soften the cream to make for easier piping. I did the first few eclairs with cold and thick pastry cream, and it was quite an exercise.