You can be creative and make éclairs in almost any flavour. I have infused the pastry cream here with the warm spices found in gingerbread. To garnish, crumble and sprinkle your favourite spiced holiday cookies before the glaze sets.
- Yield: 10-12 éclairs
¼ cup water
¼ cup whole milk
1 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup all-purpose flour
2½ large eggs, well whisked
Gingerbread pastry cream
1¾ cups whole milk
2 tbsp + 1½ tbsp granulated sugar, divided
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Glaze and garnish
½ cup white couverture chocolate, chopped
¼ cup whipping cream
¼ cup + 2 tbsp powdered sugar
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean
1 to 2 ginger nut, Speculoos or
Gold leaf (optional)
To make the choux paste, place water, milk, sugar, salt and butter in a medium pot and simmer over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Pour in flour all at once, and vigorously stir with a wooden spoon to form a dough.
Keep on medium heat and mix to dry out the dough (about 4 minutes). The texture should look like dry mashed potatoes. Take pot off heat and cool for 5 minutes. (This step is important because you are adding eggs next, and you don’t want them to scramble.) Add eggs in three additions, stirring thoroughly after each addition. The paste should be shiny after incorporating the eggs.
Place paste in a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round piping tip. Choux paste can be stored directly in the piping bag for up to 2 days in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pipe 4- to 5-inch-long lines onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Brush tops lightly with egg wash. Éclairs can be tricky to pipe into straight lines: when you pipe them, don’t apply too much pressure from the tip. Instead, move slowly and let the paste land on the baking sheet. You can practise, then, after piping, scrape the paste back into your piping bag and start over.
Bake for 5 minutes, then lower heat to 350°F and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until éclairs are golden brown. Éclairs are done when hollow inside and walls aren’t too wet. Cool completely before filling.
To make the filling, heat milk over medium heat in a small saucepan with spices and 2 tbsp of sugar. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then turn off heat, cover pot and let it steep while you prepare the egg portion of the recipe.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, remaining sugar, cornstarch and salt. Slowly pour in hot milk while continuing to whisk. Return mixture to pot, and turn heat down to medium-low. Keep whisking mixture for about 3 to 4 minutes to prevent it from burning. Pastry cream will start to thicken; when it starts to boil, it is ready.
Take pot off heat, whisk in butter and strain cream into a clean bowl. It will be thick, so use a spatula to push it through the strainer. (This will remove any impurities, such as eggshells.) Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Cool and store in fridge. Cream can be made up to 3 days in advance.
For the vanilla glaze, melt chocolate and whipping cream over a double boiler, being careful not to overheat. When melted, whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla seeds. Glaze is best used at room temperature; if too warm, it will melt off the éclairs.
Puncture three holes on the bottoms of the éclairs with a piping tip or a chopstick. Fill a piping bag with gingerbread pastry cream and, with a small piping tip (about ¼ inch), fill éclairs with pastry cream through the three openings. Clean the bottoms with your finger. Repeat with the rest of the éclairs.
To glaze the éclairs, make sure glaze is at the right consistency; it shouldn’t be too runny or too stiff. Try a test éclair and decide if you need to heat up the glaze or cool it down. Once you get the right temperature, carefully dip the top of an éclair, letting the excess slowly drip off. Clean off sides of éclairs with your fingers if necessary. Repeat with the rest. Finally, decorate with crushed ginger or Speculoos cookies, and gold leaf if desired.