Here’s what we’re making this week: Christmas wreath eclairs
Cream filled choux pastry is a classic – add some chocolate and you’re in patisserie heaven. We’re big fans of chocolate eclairs at Country Homes & Interiors and we love this festive spin. Baking your own eclairs is not as difficult as you’d think and this recipe delivers the lightest choux every time. These eclairs are generously sized and we’ve included a choice of two glazes: a sophisticated dark one or a lighter and sweeter version aimed at children (seen on the plate with the fork).
50g unsalted butter, softened, in pieces, plus more for the trays (optional)
pinch of fine salt
½ tsp caster sugar
80g plain flour, sifted
2 free range eggs
For the filling:
250ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp icing sugar
For the dark chocolate icing:
150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp icing sugar
For the light chocolate icing:
150g icing sugar
3 tsp cocoa
1 tsp liquid glucose
To decorate: tiny gold edible stars
You will also need a large piping bag fitted with 1–1.5cm nozzle
1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Line two baking trays with baking parchment, or butter two trays well.
2 Put the butter and 125ml of water, the salt and sugar into a pan and place over a gentle heat until melted, then increase the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the pan. Reduce the heat to very low and beat for 30 seconds to dry the mixture a little, but not too much or the éclairs will crack in the oven. Cool for three or four minutes.
3 Set aside one egg, place in a bowl and break it up with a fork. Crack the other egg into the mixture and beat it in. Gradually add the remaining egg, beating hard after each addition. You may not need it all. The dough will become shiny and fall from the spoon.
4 Spoon the mixture into the piping bag, and pipe six 10cm diameter circles on the baking trays. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake for 15–20 minutes, until crisp. Slit the side of each and leave to cool.
5 For the filling, whip the cream to soft peaks, then add the vanilla and icing sugar. Split the éclairs in half and pipe in the cream.
6 For the dark icing, place a heatproof bowl over simmering water; the bowl should not touch the water. Place the chocolate, 2 tbsp of water and the butter in the bowl and melt. Sift in the icing sugar, mix and cool slightly. For the lighter icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Stir in 4–5 tsp of water and the liquid glucose, aiming for the consistency of double cream. Spread your choice of icing over the éclairs, allow to set slightly and finally sprinkle with stars.
*Recipe from Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (£25). Photograph by Dan Jones
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