My family and I enjoyed some amazing caramel éclairs during our trip to Paris. This is my ode to those amazing pastries. These are filled with a caramel pastry cream and topped with a caramel glaze.
One of my husband’s favorite Parisian pastries is the éclair. He ate one at almost every patisserie we visited in Paris. His favorite éclair was the caramel éclair from Stohrer. This was the oldest patisserie in France and was founded in 1730 by Louis XV’s pasty chef.
Stohrer’s caramel éclair had a crisp yet sturdy pastry shell. It was stuffed to the brim with caramel pastry cream and topped off with a luscious caramel glaze. It was pretty much perfect. Since the éclair was so fantastic, we couldn’t stop thinking about it.
When we returned home to the US, my husband kept asking when I could make éclairs. I decided to make them for Mother’s Day. Sadly, the last time I made éclairs was 7 years ago – also on Mother’s Day. Rather than make the classic éclair, I tried to recreate the one from Stohrer.
I made the pastry cream the day before I assembled the éclairs. The cream stayed in my refrigerator until I was ready to fill them. I made the caramel glaze the day of. The choux pastry, however, was another story. I failed at making the choux pastry twice before I succeeded on the third try. You’ll want to make sure your dough isn’t too wet. It needs to be slightly dry before piping. And make sure you use a LARGE piping tip (or none at all – just cut a large hole in your piping bag or zip top bag). The second time I tried making the dough, the consistency was right, but my piping tip was too small.
Despite my comedy of errors, I finally made some éclairs that worked and tasted good. We gifted some to our neighbors who said that they were excellent.
- 1 and 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (33 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240 grams) water
- 4.2 ounces (about 1 stick or 120 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup (250 grams) eggs
- 3/4 + 1/8 teaspoon (2.5 grams) kosher salt
Caramel cream filling
- 1/3 cup corn starch
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 cup + 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups milk
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Flaky sea salt optional
Make the choux pastry
- In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter and salt and warm over medium heat. Keep stirring so the butter melts.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour and sugar and set aside.
- After the butter has melted, turn the heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Then remove the pan from the heat. Slowly add in the flour/sugar mixture and stir well for about 2 minutes. It will resemble a thick paste. Put the saucepan back on the stove (medium heat) and stir for another 2 minutes. The dough will be smooth and shiny.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for about 30 seconds. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Mix until the eggs are fully incorporated and the dough holds its shape (like stiff peaks when beating egg whites). Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- After the dough has chilled, transfer to a pastry bag with an open star tip. Pipe about 6-inch long pieces of dough onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Use the tip of a wet finger to push down on any parts of the dough that is sticking up.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Place the sheet pan into the oven and immediately lower the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the eclairs are beginning to brown.
- Lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for another 20 minutes. Then lower the temperature a final time to 300 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. The éclair shells should be light in weight and feel hollow. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Make the caramel cream filling
- In a medium sized bowl, mix together 4 Tablespoons of the sugar with the corn starch. Add the 4 egg yolks and mix well. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, mix together 1 cup of the sugar plus the water. Turn the stove to medium high heat and melt the sugar. Keep the saucepan on the stove until it starts to turn a deep amber color and almost begins to smoke.
- Once the sugar mixture turns a deep amber color, remove it from the heat and slowly add in the milk. Watch out, as the sugar will bubble up and fizz. The caramel may seize and harden, and that's OK. If it does this, put it back on the stove and keep stirring it to re-melt the caramel into liquid form.
- After the caramel has re-melted, add about half a cup of it into the bowl with the egg yolks. Mix well. Then pour this mixture back into the saucepan and keep mixing until it thickens drastically and resembles pudding.
- Add in the butter and vanilla and mix well. Then pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a medium sized bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can make this up to 2 days in advance.
Make the caramel glaze
- In a medium saucepan, melt the sugar over medium heat. It may start to clump and then re-melt. Keep heating it until it turns an amber color.
- Add in the butter, heavy cream, vanilla and salt and mix well. The mixture may bubble up so be careful. Keep stirring until you achieve a smooth (but pourable) glaze. Set aside.
Assemble the éclairs
- Take one fully cooled éclair shell and poke one end of it with a skewer or a chopstick. Make a hole all the way through the long end to the other side.
- Fill a pastry bag (or a zip-top bag if you don't have one; just cut a hole out of one of the corners) with the caramel cream and pipe it into the hole you just made in the pastry. Dip the top of the éclair into the caramel glaze. Set aside and repeat with the other pastries.