While I was growing up my dad spoke lovingly of chocolate eclairs. I don’t remember ever having them. He said they were similar to the cream filled long johns that were once-in-a-while treats from George’s bakery in Mandan. He explained chocolate eclairs, but I really didn’t understand how they were different. I wish I would have asked him where he had eaten them. Maybe my grandma used to make them for her beloved only son? By the time I came along she did not bake much anymore. Maybe he discovered them in France during his Marine Corps service.
The word “eclair” sounded fancy and foreign. I tried one from a grocery store once, and found it very disappointing. The eclair itself was dry and tasteless, while the filling was some sort of whipped up chemical. Just awful. The idea of a delicious eclair seemed unattainable. I never really considered making them until I started seeing the recipe in old cookbooks. They were casually mentioned under cream puffs, as in “oh yeah, you can whip these up too”, and I thought “why can’t I?” So, I did.
The result was very delicious, and I can see why my dad was enthusiastic about them. I can also see why nobody makes them. They are a bit of a mess if you are clumsy with a pastry bag like I am. They also don’t keep very well, so unless you have enough people to eat them in one day, it would be a waste. On the other hand, if you are neat or very patient, you might have no problems making these as putting the filling into the eclairs was really the only difficulty. The result is very attractive and tempting. Perfect for a small gathering.
History:This particular recipe is from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book from the 1950s. Eclair means “lightning” in French and were developed by a French pastry chef in the early 1800s.
Time and Effort: Eclairs have 3 parts- the choux pastry “puffs”, the cream filling, and the chocolate frosting. Each part is fairly easy to make, and one could make the filling ahead of time. The time-consuming and difficult part is getting the filling into the eclair. I sliced them and used a pastry bag to fill them. I think a pastry bag with a pointy end may have worked better. I could have piped it through a hole in one end.
Worth including in your Repertoire: Based on taste and presentation, yes. However, they are a bit fussy and don’t keep well. They would be good for a special dessert or a small party.
Heat to boiling point in saucepan:
1 Cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 Cup flour
Stir constantly over low heat until the mixture forms a ball (about 1 minute). Remove from heat. Cool. Beat eggs in 1 at a time. (4 eggs).
Put the mixture into a pastry bag or a plastic bag with a corner opening cut in about 1″ wide. Pipe tubes of pastry about 4″ long and 1 ” wide.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. Should be lightly browned and dry to the touch.
Allow to cool.
Filling: Mix together in saucepan: 1/2 Cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 6 Tbls. flour,
stir in 2 cups whole milk or half and half. Cook over low heat, stirring until it boils. Remove from heat. Add a bit of the hot mixture into 4 egg yolks that have been previously stirred. Stir the hot mixture and the yolks and then add to the larger amount of hot custard. Blend it all and bring to boiling point. Cool and blend in 2 tsp. of vanilla. Cool.
Put filling into the baked eclairs. You may try to pipe through a hole in one end or slice the eclairs and add the filling.
Frost with “Thin Chocolate Frosting”.
Melt 2 Tbls. Butter with 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate.
Mix together with 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tbsp. hot water. Beat until smooth. If too thick add more water. Should make a shiny glaze.