Dark Chocolate (with Slightly Minty Undertones) Eclairs

Tomorrow is the Coolidge Open House.  It's a holiday tradition here in Vermont, where Silent Cal's "Summer White House" welcomes modern merry makers into the arms of a more simple and decidedly quaint Christmas wonderland.  And then there's me, with my high tech induction burner, flinging sugar whither and thither.

As is my custom, I demo a pastry or two for the wassailing crowds and sign a few books.  It's just lovely.

This year, I'm building a croquembouche for the sweet people of the Green Mountains.  But that's tomorrow, TODAY I'm piping out a little bit of choux paste for eclairs so that we may make merry a day early.

Why don't you join us?


For the choux paste

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons bread flour (I use King Arthur flour)
4 eggs (plus one held in reserve)
1 cup of ice cubes

For the pastry cream

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
tablespoon vanilla
pinch salt
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted (cut into small pieces)

For the glaze

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon egg white powder
4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 tablespoons cocoa powder


For the pastry cream

•In a saucepan, combine the milk and heavy cream.  Bring to a simmer.

•In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, combine the egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, salt and vanilla.  Whisk on high until light and fluffy.

•Turn the mixer speed to medium and carefully pour the hot milk/cream mixture down the sides of the bowl into the egg yolk mixture.  Whisk until combined.

•Transfer the custard back to the saucepan, scraping the sides of the bowl to get all the cornstarch into the saucepan.  Whisk over medium/low heat until the mixture thickens, to the consistency of mayo.

•Take the pastry cream from the heat and stir in the butter and chocolate.  Allow to sit for a minute to allow the chocolate to melt.  Whisk again until smooth and transfer to a large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, making sure that the wrap touches the surface of the cream to keep a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

For the choux paste

•Preheat your oven to 450º

•In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar.  Bring to a simmer.

•Dump all the flour into the saucepan at once and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot and becomes a smooth mass.

•Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl fit with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low for a minute to expel some heat.

•Whisk the 4 eggs together.  Add a little bit of egg at a time, allowing the egg to incorporate into the mixture completely until adding more egg.  Once the initial 4 eggs are added, check the consistency of the choux.  It should be very thick but soft.  You need to be able to pipe the mixture and it keeps its shape but you still want to add as many eggs as possible to give you lift in the mixture.

•If the mixture is VERY thick, whisk the last egg and add just half of it.  Mix until smooth.  If you feel that the choux won't be too runny by adding the remainder, add the rest!

•Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.

•Transfer the choux paste to a pastry bag fit with a large star tip.  Pipe 4 - 5 inch strips of choux, spacing a few inches apart on the parchment.  Take a little choux paste and put it under the edges of the parchment paper.

•Toss the ice cubes into your oven and shut the door for 5 seconds.

•Put the eclairs in the oven and turn the heat to 425º.  Bake for 15 minutes.

•Turn the heat down to 350º and bake for 30 minutes more.

•When you take the shells from the oven, make a tiny slit on either end of the shell to expel steam.

For the glaze

•Stir together the confectioner's sugar and egg white powder.  Add the peppermint extract and then a tablespoon of water at a time and stir until you have a smooth paste that just holds it's shape when piped.  Spoon about a tablespoon over each shell and allow to run down the sides just a bit.  Stir the cocoa powder into the remaining bit of glaze and transfer to a pastry bag fit with a small open tip and pipe stripes over the top of each shell.

To finish

•Transfer the pastry cream to a large pastry tip fit with a medium/small open tip.  Make a small hole where you made the initial openings in the shell.  Insert the pastry tip into the opening and gently pipe the pastry cream into the shell.

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