Like so many, I have become absolutely obsessed with The Great British Bake Off. My husband and I began binge watching it over the Christmas holiday and have now completed five seasons. We are completely hooked and it has awoken in me a deep desire to bake every possible French pastry or classic British dessert. A quick text was sent to Carmi and the questions were posed, first, “are you watching British Bakeoff?” second, “What do you think about trying out a few of these classic recipes and show how easy they are with the right tools (Ankarsrum Mixer)?” Lucky for everyone Carmi was completely on board so be on the lookout this year for some classic desserts.
With that said, our first offering is one I was excitedly nervous to try. Pate a Choux (pronounced Shoo) is the pastry dough used for several different creations. Cream Puffs, Profiteroles and today’s recipe, Eclairs. I really struggled in deciding if this needed to be a recipe that went live before Valentine’s or should we stay on our predetermined timeline. Clearly I chose to stay on our regular schedule and that was because I was excited to let you know our plans for the year. With that said, lets dive right in!
One thing that everyone needs to know about me is that I am NOT a baker. Yes, I am a BREAD baker but pastries and desserts are not my thing. Yeast dough is totally my jam along with regular entree type dishes. For me, this recipe is WAY out of my comfort zone but I took the stance of, “if I can do this, ANYONE can do it!” And boy was I right. I started off searching the web, reading countless recipes. I compared ingredients lists, instructions, baking temperatures and times and finally decided to give it a try. I was blown away that on my very first try, the results were amazing and my family was absolutely raving about the finished product. Once I realized that the technique (though a bit wordy and with several steps) was easy to master, I set out to come up with the perfect recipe. For me, the perfect recipe would consist of the following:
1) Ingredient measurements that are easy to remember when you don’t have the recipe right in front of you. (Because you never know when you might be in a food competition and need to whip up a good Choux dough. haha)
2) A recipe size that resulted in enough pastries that everyone was satisfied but I wasn’t left baking in several batches.
3) A recipe that worked just as well with store bought white flour as well as my freshly ground wheat flour.
Imagine my excitement when I nailed all three points! Today I will share a basic Choux dough which we will shape into Eclairs, fill with a vanilla whipped cream and top with a simple chocolate ganache. Needless to say, no one at my house has complained about recipe taste testing of late.
So what is Choux dough exactly? Choux dough is a very classic French pastry dough. It is made of water, butter, flour and eggs (with a pinch of salt). There is no leavening agent (yeast or baking soda, baking powder) but the dough puffs in the oven as the water in the dough evaporates. It truly is an amazing sight. With the evaporation of the water, you are left with crispy on the outside, hollow in the center (which is perfect for a creamy filling), buttery pastry that will impress anyone you are willing to share with. Today I am filling with a vanilla whipped cream but typically they are filled with Creme Patisserie. I felt that Creme Patisserie would be a post all its own so we will tackle that another day. We will top these with a simple chocolate ganache that is beyond easy using the Ankarsrum Whipping Bowl.
I did make my first batch using the Ankarsrum Stainless Steel bowl with the roller and scraper and though it turned out great, I decided to give the whipping bowl with multi-wire balloon whisks a try and found I prefered the results from the whipping bowl. If you want to give it a try in the stainless bowl, the mixing directions will actually be the same when it comes to speed and time, just use the roller and scraper in place of the whisks. This recipe is possible to make without a stand mixer but my question is, “if you have an Ankarsrum, why wouldn’t you want to let it do all the work for you?”. There is one other tool that made this recipe super easy. As I mentioned above, watching the bake off has awoken my inner baker so I knew it was time to invest in some good pastry bags and decorating tips. I found this set on the King Arthur Flour site and I couldn’t be happier. Not only are the bags a fantastic quality, but the basic set of tips included allows you to do just about anything. My absolute favorite part is that each tip is coded with either “A”, “B” or “C”. On the pastry bag, there is a line indicating where to cut the bag for the tip being used. No more guessing if you’ve cut the tip of the bag large enough for the tip to fit securely. Please note, a gallon size zip top plastic bag with the corner cut can also be used if you don’t want to worry about pastry bags and tips.
One last tip before we get started. I highly recommend that before you start making this recipe, get everything laid out and ready. Not only the ingredients but also your pastry bag and baking sheet. I lined my baking sheet with parchment paper and went ahead and drew 3 (4 inch) lines so that I had a reference when piping out my dough. Once I drew my lines, I flipped my parchment paper over (didn’t want ink or pencil lead to get on my dough) and spritzed it with water. This extra moisture on the pan will help your choux dough puff and crisp even more.
Oh, one more tip. Once you have piped your choux dough, you may notice that each end has a bit of a “tail” sticking up. That is totally normal but you don’t want to leave these tails. If left, you run the risk of these little points burning before the rest of the dough is fully baked. Just dip your finger in a bit of water and smooth down these little points. You will find that choux dough is very forgiving with a bit of water so smooth away if you like. Just remember, it is totally normal for them to each have a look all their own so don’t worry too much about your piping skills. “Homemade” looking is what we are going for here.
Once the Choux dough is baked, it is very important to transfer immediately to a cooling rack and to also poke a hole in either the bottom or end of the dough. This will allow any steam still trapped inside to be released and will help your choux not to deflate while cooling.
I hope you enjoy making this recipe for your friends and family. We are excited to share many more recipes with you this year so be sure to subscribe to our blog. As a subscriber you will receive a bonus recipe every month along with being automatically notified when a new recipe has gone live on the blog. If you have questions about this or any of our other recipes, we would love to hear from you. Enjoy!
Pate a Choux Dough – Eclairs
Prep Time: 7-10 minutes
Bake Time: 25-35 minutes
Cool Down Time: Bring to room temperature before filling with cream
Yields: 12 (4-5 inch) Eclairs
1 cup (240 g) warm water
1 stick (115 g.) room temperature unsalted butter, cut into cubes
pinch of salt
1 cup (120g) all purpose flour, sifted (equal amount whole wheat flour may also be used)*
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Set up Ankarsrum mixer with the plastic whipping bowl, fitted with the multi-wire balloon whisks. Be sure all of this is set up before you begin.
Place eggs in a small bowl or large measuring cup (for easy pouring), whisk lightly and set aside next to the mixer.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water, butter and salt to a boil. It is important to use warm water and soft butter as you want the butter to be completely melted before the water begins to boil. Once boiling, remove from heat, add the flour ALL at the same time. Begin stirring (a wooden spoon or flat heat resistant spatula works best) vigorously until all of the flour is incorperated. Return saucepan to medium heat and continue stirring vigorously for 2-5 minutes. You want to make sure the flour is completely cooked during this process and you are looking for the pot to begin looking a bit oily. The butter in the dough will begin to come to the surface of the dough making it look greasy. Once you see this, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough directly into the Ankarsrum whipping bowl.
Turn mixer on lowest speed and allow to mix about 1 minutes. This will slightly cool the dough before you start adding the beaten eggs. Turn speed up to about 2 o’clock speed and add about 1 egg. Allow dough to fully incorporate the egg before you add the next bit. Continue doing this until all of the eggs have been added (should only take a minute or so). Turn speed knob to the 6 o’clock position and allow dough to whip about 1 minute. You will notice the dough will go from looking grainy to smooth and shiny. Once this consistancy is reached, turn machine off and remove whisks and whipping bowl from the Ankarsrum base.
Spoon Choux dough into prepared pastry bag, fitted with a large circle tip or a bag with the corner cut to give a medium size opening. Pipe 12 (4 inch) ropes onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet that has been spritzed with water. Smooth down any pointy tips in the dough with a bit of water on your finger.
Place baking sheet in preheated oven and set timer for 25 minutes. It is key that you do not open the oven door in the first 25 minutes. You do not want any steam to escape the oven. After 25 minutes, you are wanting a golden brown eclair with a hard shell. Most ovens will require an additional 5-7 minutes.
Transfer baked eclairs to a wire cooling rack. Create a small hole in each pastry to allow trapped steam to be released. Allow to completely cool before filling with cream (recipe below). Once filled with cream, top with chocolate ganache (recipe below) allowing some to run down the edge.
Serve right away or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Whole Wheat Version:
For whole wheat choux dough, I used freshly milled hard white wheat. I used the exact same amount (1 cup or 113 g.) as when I used store bought all purpose flour. I did sift my wheat flour but this was NOT to remove the bran. Sifting the flour helps with the texture and consistency of the flour. Once I sifted the flour, I flipped my sifter over and added any bit of bran left in the sifter into the bowl with my flour. If you’re going to go to the trouble of grinding your own grain, don’t minimize the health benefits by sifting all the good stuff away. 🙂 The texture of these eclairs were amazing and no one even guessed they were made of 100% freshly ground whole wheat flour until I told them. Enjoy!
Vanilla Whipped Cream:
1 cup (230 g.) heavy whipping cream, needs to be very cold
2 oz. (57 g.) cream cheese, completely soft
1/4 (28 g.) cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. (15 g. ) vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Position plastic whipping bowl onto the Ankarsrum mixer base, fitted with the multi-wire balloon whisks. Add the whipped cream and begin mixing on the lowest speed. Add cream cheese and continue mixing on low until there are no lumps in the cream. Turn speed to a medium speed and slowly add in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Slowly increase speed to highest speed and whip until stiff peaks are formed. The Ankarsrum is a very powerful machine and this should only take about 2 minutes. Turn machine off and transfer whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a medium size tip.
You may need to make the hole in the eclair a bit larger so that the tip of pastry bag can be inserted into the end of the eclair. Gently fill cream just to the end of the eclair. Set eclair aside and continue filling until each one is filled with cream. Set aside and top with chocolate ganache if desired. If you prefer, dust each eclair with a bit of powdered sugar if you don’t want chocolate ganache.
1 cup (230 g.) heavy cream
1 cup (170 g.) semi sweet chocolate chips
For a mocha espresso ganache, add either 1 tsp. espresso powder or 1 tsp. coffee extract to the whipping cream before heating. Proceed with the recipe as usual.
Position plastic whipping bowl onto the Ankarsrum mixer base, fitted with the multi-wire balloon whisks. Pour chocolate chips into the whipping bowl.
In a small saucepan, bring heavy cream to a simmer. Do not allow to boil.
Remove from heat and pour warm cream into Ankarsrum whipping bowl over the chocolate chips. Turn machine on the lowest setting. Allow to mix until all chocolate has melted. Slowly increase speed to about 5 o’clock on the speed knob. Turn timer knob to 5 minutes. Continue mixing until chocolate has begun to cool. The cooler it gets, the thicker the ganache will become. To easily be able to ice eclairs, you want a slightly thick ganache but still runny enough that it will flow over the eclairs. Spoon ganache over each eclair.