I kinda sorta love eclairs. Like really, really love eclairs. When I saw that the delightful duo over at Love & Olive Oil had proposed eclairs for Aprils Kitchen Challenge I was very excited about having an excuse to make them.
If you have any set ideas about what an Eclair should be like then please look away. This is not the éclair of pastry chefs. Instead this is a riff on the kind of éclair I grew up eating in Karachi – the one that had a pillowy whipped cream centre and a smooth chocolate dipped top. My reinvention of this éclair ties in three of my favorite flavors – coffee, cardamom, and caramel.
The combination of coffee and cardamom is reminiscent of Arab style coffee with a bitter depth tempered by the mellow sweetness of the cardamom. The caramel filling on top has the traditionally lovely chew of caramel, but with a little more heft to it thanks to the addition of roughly ground cardamom seeds.
There seems to be this notion that éclairs are complicated to make. Two words: Not true. Time consuming, yes. Complicated, no. There are three components to an éclair – the choux pastry, the filling (usually pastry cream) and the smooth ganache like topping. Each component of a traditional éclair can be made in advance and they actually meld together quite well if you make them a day or several hours before serving.
I almost did not post this recipe because the pictures are so bad *hanging my head in shame*, but I never got a chance to make it again and wanted to post this before the deadline. Let's just say these are a zillion times yummier than they look!
8 tbsp butter
1 cup water
1 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup flour
3-4 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
4 tbsp butter
½ cup cream
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp salt – add more if you like the salted caramel taste
Coffee & Cardamom Whipped Cream
2 cups whipping cream
½ cup sugar
½ - 1 tsp cardamom (to taste)
1 ½ - 2 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium sized saucepan and bring it to a boil. Take it off the heat, add in your flour all at once, mix to incorporate. Put it back on the stove, stirring continuously until the dough pulls together and away from the side of the pan. This takes about a minute. Then transfer your dough into a mixing bowl and with the mixer on start adding your eggs one by one, beating for a minute between each addition. By the time you add your third egg the batter should still be thick but slide off your beaters in ribbons. If that isn’t happening add in your fourth egg.
Now on to the piping part. This dough can be a little unforgiving as every little bump gets amplified. In essence you just need to pipe out a 2.5-3 inch straight line, an inch and a half apart on your baking sheet. Then pop it into the oven and bake for 16-18 minutes until the shells are puffed up and golden. DO NOT open your oven more than you have to, the high heat is key here.
Here is what works for me:-
- It is easiest to fill the dough with your piping bag standing up in a tall mug or glass since the dough is sticky and needs a little help getting in your bag.
- Putting something horizontally across my parchment lined baking sheet, you can use a ruler, the box your parchment came in, or whatever is handy. The purpose is to give yourself a marker and make it easier to pipe exact lengths so that your éclair dough is the same sized.
- Fix your piped lengths before they go in the oven, trim off the little ‘tails’ with a lightly greased butter knife.
- I reuse my parchment paper because then I can pipe the exact same lengths over and over. There are probably lots of good reasons not to do this, but it works for me.
Spread the sugar in the bottom of a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat and FOCUS. When the sugar starts to change color then swirl the pan gently and wait for the sugar to turn amber. IMMEDIATELY pour in the cream and whisk furiously until it is incorporated and the bubbling has subsided. Add in the butter, vanilla extract and ground cardamom. Taste, add a little more salt if needed and set aside to cool. It will solidify some as it cools, just remember to warm it and whisk it smooth before final assembly.
Whip the cream until becomes fluffy and a beater when lifted from the cream creates soft peaks. Add your sugar, vanilla, cardamom powder and diluted instant coffee granules and whip till the same peaks become stiff.
Warm your caramel topping and set aside. Fit a piping bag with any tip (the tip helps to pierce through the eclair for filling) and fill the bag with the whipped cream. Use the icing tip to score a hole in the éclair on one side and then squeeze the icing bag to fill the éclair with cream. When it starts to ooze out you know you’re done but if you look closely then you can ‘see’ it fill. Once you finish filling the éclairs dip the tops into the caramel topping, working quickly to minimize dripping. Refrigerate until ready to eat. They will last in the fridge for 2-3 days.