I LOVE éclairs. They’re really simple to make, yet so incredibly delicious. Well, when I say “simple”, many things are simple to make – it’s making them well that’s difficult I guess :D Anyway, these are tasty enough for me to gobble up 5 in one-go, so that’s the only thing that matters really.
Éclairs usually have a layer of chocolate or a (very) sweet glaze on top, but I decided to use sheets of white chocolate with black sesame seeds as a garnish instead. I think this presentation gives the éclairs a more refined look, yet charming at the same time. It’s also less messy than trying to dip every éclair into the glaze – it’s hard getting the right consistentency! The glaze tends to be either overly runny or too thick.
Just some tips/notes about the recipe. When adding eggs to the pâte à choux, be careful not to add too much egg at once or you may end up with scrambled eggs in your batter. If you’re not into black sesame as much as I am, you may want to reduce the amount of toasted ground black sesame to 3 tablespoons instead of 4. And if you find the crème pâtissière (pastry cream) too thick for your liking, feel free to whip up 1/4 cup of 35% cream and fold it into the cold crème pâtissière. This will result in a lighter and thinner filling for the éclairs.
For the white chocolate on top, you need to temper couverture white chocolate. Spread it on parchment paper or an acetate sheet and sprinkle whole black sesame seeds on top. Using a knife, carve long rectangles when it is semi-set. If you don’t have couverture white chocolate, it’s okay to use baking chocolate in its place, and you won’t have to temper it either.
3/4 cups water
3/4 cups milk
¾ cup butter
4 teaspoons sugar
1 ½ cups flour
1 tbspn toasted ground black sesame
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1. Heat the oven to 375 F/190 C.
2. Put the water, salt, butter, and sugar in a roomy saucepan, bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour and ground sesame all at once, beating until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Return the pan to the heat for a minute or two and beat to dry it out a little. (Removing moisture will allow the paste to absorb more egg, which will ultimately make the puffs lighter.)
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Beat in the eggs, the equivalent of one at a time, until fully incorporated. (Do not try to add them at once because they can’t be incorporated quickly enough, it makes a total mess, and furthermore you may not need all of them.) After the third addition of egg, add only enough to make dough that will fall, glossy and heavy, from the spoon. Beat in the vanilla. Spoon the dough into a piping bag.
4. Mix a bit of milk into any remaining egg (if no egg left, use only milk). Have at the ready with a pastry brush for glazing. Pipe the dough into finger like logs on a non-stick baking sheet, leaving a good 2-inches/5 cm between them so they have room to expand.
5. Brush the tops with the glaze and press any snouts down with a fingertip. Bake until puffed up, light, dry, and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, so they can breathe all around and will keep their shape and not go soggy.
:: recipe from Food Network with modifications
Black sesame pastry cream
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk (whole or 2%)
4 tablespoons toasted ground black sesame
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)
1. In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. (Do let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch (corn flour) together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk, ground black sesame, and vanilla bean just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. (The vanilla bean can be washed and dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the sugar a vanilla flavour.)
3. Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). (Stir in vanilla extract if using instead of a vanilla bean.) Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
:: recipe from Joy of Baking with modifications