Chocolate eclairs

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These are such a decadent treat – even better because they are made with a handful of simple ingredients. I love my stand mixer as much as any other baker does, but these really work well with a simple wooden spoon and some elbow grease. Be prepared to beat the mixture really well – if your arm isn’t aching by the end, then you haven’t beaten it well enough!
This recipe is for the traditional cream and chocolate version but you can fill eclairs with any combination of ingredients – toffee sauce, Nutella, fruit, coffee cream … the list goes on and on! Just try and keep the centre to some kind of soft cream and the top to something more set in nature, otherwise they become very tricky to eat! Heather

Ingredients (makes 10 to 12)

  • 70g plain flour
  • 55g butter
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 120ml water
  • pinch of salt
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 200g chocolate

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6/200ºC. Grease and line a baking tray.
  2. Sift the flour into a bowl and leave to one side.
  3. Melt the water, butter and salt together in a large saucepan until the butter has completely melted; then bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, take the pan off the heat and add the flour. Beat this mixture hard with a wooden spoon until it is well combined (1 to 2 minutes).
  5. Return to the heat and continue beating for another minute.
  6. Tip the mixture into a bowl so that it cools slightly. Slowly add the eggs a bit at a time, beating really well between each addition until the mixture is shiny and paste-like. Eventually it should drop nicely off the end of the spoon.
  7. Put the mixture in a piping bag and pipe onto the tray into strips about 10cm long.
  8. Sprinkle tray with some water and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to
  9. gas 3/170ºC and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  10. The shells are done when they have browned and are crispy to the touch – they should have risen nicely too.
  11. Remove from the oven and pierce the shells with a skewer to make a small hole, so that the steam can escape when cooling. This should help them not to collapse as they cool.
  12. Once the shells are cold, they can be stored in an airtight box and will keep for a couple of days in a cool, dry place.
  13. To finish the eclairs, whip the cream until it is stiff and melt the chocolate. If you are using dark chocolate, you can add some cream to the melted chocolate to make a softer ganache which won’t set as hard as melted chocolate might.
  14. You can either slice the eclairs and pipe in the cream (as you would a bread roll to make a sandwich), or pipe the cream into a hole at one end (as you would when filling a doughnut).
  15. Liberally drizzle the chocolate onto the eclairs.
  16. Eclairs are best eaten the day the cream and chocolate are added as the moisture quickly softens the crisp shells.

Heather Brown is a food writer, photographer and stylist. A committee member of The Guild of Food Writers, Heather runs Dorset Foodie Feed, as well as working one-to-one with clients.

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