These caramel éclairs are similar to the ones we enjoyed in Paris. The filling is a thick caramel custard and it's topped with a divine caramel glaze!
- 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 4.2 ounces (about 1 stick) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup 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 (1 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.
Eclairs are best eaten the day they are made but will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. They may start to get soggy overnight.
Sources: Choux pastry from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller; caramel cream filling from Bakers Royale; caramel glaze from Little Ferraro Kitchen