Eclairs on My Mind

A little while ago I mentioned Nadiya, a chef/baker from the U.K., and her new shows on Netflix. One of her episodes had Joakim Prat as a guest spot. His specialty, as I had mentioned, is eclairs. After watching him work, and seeing his results, I got the bug to try to create my own eclair flavor profile.

With today being my last day of vacation, I had planned on using it to see if I could bring what was in my head onto the plate. I had envisioned a strawberry, banana, chocolate flavor profile. Part of the filling had to be my homemade strawberry jelly and a banana purée.

First thing this morning, after my Sunday check-in with my mom, I started making Joaquim’s choux pastry dough. I was very excited yesterday when I found his recipe online. Figured may as well use the master of eclair’s recipe if at all possible.

Because the eclairs are supposed to be a certain length and certain width, I used a marker with edible ink to mark off the correct length and correct spacing. The thing is, in researching the “correct” size for an eclair, it depended on the person speaking as to what was the appropriate size. I settled on three inches.

A few months ago, while shopping at Michael’s, I had found a large size star piping tip. I’m glad I bought it as it is the correct tip to use for an eclair. Unfortunately, the coupling I thought was the correct size was not the correct size. It is a pretty big tip, so I just squeezed it in as tight as I could into the end of the pastry bag, and it worked. I was able to do the piping, but am still working on how to flick it at the end for a clean smooth end. Luckily, I saw on a cooking show to just wet a finger and push the tail back in to place without the dough sticking to my finger.

After they baked, I cut a slit in the top to let the steam escape. This is supposed to help keep the baked eclair from getting too soggy as it cools. I think it may have had an effect, but have no way of knowing for sure. While they cooled, I made what I thought would be the chocolate cream to shape on top of the filling.

Since I wanted to make sure of my flavor profile, I shaved the top off of one eclair to then build the fillings. Before doing them all, I figured a taste test was in order. When it was finished, I called my official taste tester, my husband, in to give it a try. He was good with it, and so was I, except for one thing. The chocolate cream just wasn’t cutting it. It would pipe as I wanted, but it wasn’t what I wanted it to actually look like in the end. It just wasn’t firm enough.

I decided to go ahead and make a chocolate buttercream icing as I know it will pipe well. Funny thing is, when I went to gather the ingredients, I was out of heavy cream. I cannot remember the last time there was no heavy cream in the fridge. An unplanned trip to the store ensued, with the first store being closed due to Easter. At the second store it felt like they were hiding the heavy cream. It took a few minutes to locate it in which a minor panic was setting in, they did have it in the end.

Back home, I finished cutting the tops off of the remaining eclairs and pulled out some of the inner pastry. Before starting on the chocolate buttercream icing, I got the strawberries ready by cutting them into thin slices, pulled out the homemade strawberry jelly and put in a piping bag, and grabbed the banana purée. After making the buttercream, it was time to assemble.

First, I placed a thin layer of the strawberry jelly. The banana purée was then placed on the jelly. Although the chocolate cream wasn’t going to work for the topping, it was perfect to round out the filling. I next star piped the chocolate buttercream into five separate stars across the top of the filling. The final step was placing the fresh strawberry slices in between the chocolate buttercream stars.

Here is the final result:

In the end, I put 22 of the eclairs together. Enough to share with some of my neighbors. Although I love to share what I bake, sharing them this time also served a practical purpose. With the fillings in place, the eclair shell will become a little soggy over time. Putting them in the fridge doesn’t really help overall.

They looked like I had envisioned, and they tasted like I had hoped. When biting into them, there was just the hint of the strawberry jelly and banana purée mixed with the two types of chocolate. The fresh strawberry on top was a nice texture and flavor with each bite.

It was fun making them, and fun sharing them. Now my brain has already started thinking about what I would do differently next time, and what flavors I might incorporate.

Can’t wait!

P.S.—Thank you Joakim for the recipe and the inspiration!

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