It's mildly ironic that I pursued a career as a pastry chef while also being both a type 1 diabetic and not really preferring sweet things very much. But there's this fascination that I have with the way something transforms in pastry - from basic ingredients like flour and sugar and salt - into something incredibly magical and complex and with a structure. Nothing's really better representative than the classic eclair.
Honestly,we don't know much about eclairs. They pop up first in nineteenth-century France and those who know a thing or two about the subject suspect that the first chef to create them was Antonin Carême. They were originally called "pain a la Duchesse" and later took on the name "eclair" (the French word for lightning), likely due to the shape and shiny surface after confectioner's glaze was applied.
What we do know is that eclairs still represent pastry craft and require a rigid technique. While they have expanded to be topped and filled with just about anything, the shell is always made of choux pastry - firm and crunchy in exterior and soft and eggy on the inside.
227 g water
113 g unsalted butter (particular favorites are Plugra and Kerrygold)
3/8 tsp kosher salt (I recommend, and this recipe is formulated for, Diamond Kosher)
149 g all-purpose flour (note that this recipe is written for King Arthur)
4 large eggs
Preheat your oven to 425 F/218 C. Line two sheet trays with parchment paper or silpats.
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, and salt. Heat, while occasionally stirring, until the butter has fully melted and it comes to a full boil.
Remove the pan from heat and add the flour all at once. Stir aggressively. Return the pan to the heat and cook over medium heat while stirring continuously. Cook until the mixture smooths and it follows the spoon around the pan. This should take 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Allow the mixture to cool. Then place the dough in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on a low speed while incorporating eggs one by one. It's gonna look messed up and curdled for a hot minute but keep mixing until it smooths out to a nice velvet dough.
Fill a piping bag with pate a choux and fit with a size 6 round or star pastry tip. Pipe in even lines approximately 5 inches long. Allow 2 inches between each line.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until eclair shells are a dark golden brown and crispy-firm to the touch.
matcha pastry cream
1.5 cups whole milk
1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp powdered culinary-grade matcha
Heat milk in saucepan to just under boiling. Whisk together remaining ingredients (except matcha) in a large bowl. Slowly, while mixing, add heated milk to mixture. Once fully added, return mixture to pan over medium heat and whisk constantly until thickened. Strain into separate bowl. Mix in matcha. Spread out on silpat or parchment and cover with plastic wrap to prevent forming a skin. Once cooled, place in pastry bag and pipe into cooled eclair shells.
dark chocolate ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Melt chips over a double boiler. Mix in heavy cream. Dip tops of filled eclairs in chocolate. Sit in a cool place to allow to set.