Salted caramel and chocolate éclairs: nothing too extreme flavour-wise, but two flavours that are nonetheless stunning together. A white chocolate crème pâtissière and a little salted caramel make a lovely filling here but you can, of course, use whipped cream.
While a topping of dark chocolate would be excellent to use, I prefer a sticky, rich chocolatey glaze éclairs, with a good shine.
A little bit of smoked Maldon sea salt in the glaze, perhaps witg tge merest flake here and there on top, works well with the richness of the éclairs.
Basic Choux Pastry (makes approx. 40 small choux balls or about 15 éclairs.
- 125ml water
- 50g butter, unsalted, cut into cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 75g strong plain flour (gives firmer, crisper choux)
- 2 large eggs, beaten – at room temperature
(1) Preheat the oven to 190C (fan) and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
(2) Heat the water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan gently until the butter is melted. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil.
(3) Once the water has come to the boil add the flour and mix well until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Turn down the heat and keep beating for another minute or two. Remove from heat and let it cool for a couple of minutes.
(4) Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. You can use a wooden spoon or a hand-mixer. The paste will look unsightly to begin (slippery and it might seem as if it will not come together) with but with beating and after a few more additions it will become smooth and glossy (as in picture below).
(5) Put the choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round or star nozzle and pipe pastry onto the greaseproof, ensuring they are well spaced. You can stick down the greaseproof with a bit of the pastry to stop it sliding about when piping. A wet finger can be dabbed over the ends to give smooth ends. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until well risen and golden brown (about 12-15 minutes or so for small choux balls).
NB: turn the temperature down to 160C after 20 minutes if they are getting too dark.
(6) Remove from the oven, pierce the sides of each pastry to allow the steam to escape (so that they do not become soggy as they cool). Leave to cool and then slice horizontally with a serrated knife. Alternatively, make a hole at one end or underneath and pipe cream inside.
NB: For crisper éclairs, return the baked éclairs to the oven once they have been sliced horizontally for another few minutes to dry out: this is not, however, essential.
(7) Fill with whipped cream or the crème pâtissière, drizzle over some salted caramel and top the éclairs with the mirror glaze (see below) or melted dark chocolate. Sprinkle over just a little smoked sea salt, if using, and a small piece of edible gold leaf.
White chocolate crème pâtissière:
- 4 egg yolks
- 70g caster sugar
- 30g plain flour, sifted
- 350ml full-fat milk
- seeds from one vanilla pod
- 60g white chocolate, cut into small chunks
(1) Whisk the egg yolks, vanilla seeds and the sugar for a few moments until pale. Add the flour and whisk in well.
(2) Heat the milk in a pan until it comes to the boil. Pour it slowly over the egg mixture, whisking all the time to give a smooth mixture. Return to the pan over a low heat and bring back to the boil, whisking all the time. Let it bubble very gently for a couple of minutes before removing from the heat.
(3) Transfer to a bowl and add the chocolate, beating it well until it has melted and is incorporated. Allow to cool until ready to use.
Chocolate mirror glaze:
- 150ml double cream
- 100ml water
- 120g caster sugar
- 60g cocoa powder
- 3 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes and squeezed
- generous pinch of smoked sea salt, optional
(1) Put the cream, water, sugar and cocoa powder into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil and let it simmer gently for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl.
(2) Let the mixture cool a little for about 5 minutes. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and stir into the mixture until the gelatine has completely dissolved. Leave at room temperature to slightly thicken and stir in the smoked salt. Now either spoon over the éclairs or dip the top halves of the cooled pastry them into the glaze. Leave for about 10 minutes or so to slightly set and then repeat if necessary.