Light and crisp choux pastry shells are filled with a caramel-y creme brûlée pastry cream and glazed with a vanilla-bourbon maple frosting. Then, they're topped with a creme brûlée diplomat cream (stable whipped cream) and garnished with a light, yet crunchy, caramelized pecan candy.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line your baking sheet(s) with the oven-safe silicone baking mat(s). Lightly mist them with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
Over medium-low heat on the stove, combine your butter, the cup of water, salt, and sugar. Let it simmer until the butter melts and the salt and sugar have dissolved. When the mixture starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat, add in the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until it combines into a paste. Then, set the pan back on the heat.
Continue mixing the dough over the heat until it forms into a ball shape and pulls away from the edges. This step releases moisture from the dough. You will know your dough is ready to move on to the next step if you take a small dinner/soup spoon and stick it straight into the center of the dough. If it stands on its own, the dough is good to go. If it falls, keep stirring over the heat until more moisture evaporates and it passes the test.
Remove the mixture from the heat. Let it cool off slightly, no more than a few minutes. Add four eggs (8 oz) into the dough one by one (or, approx. 2 oz at a time), mixing after each addition with a silicone spatula. With each egg, your dough should become smoother until it is glossy and shiny. Depending on how accurately you measured your flour, you may need to add a small amount from the fifth egg. After the fourth egg, if your dough looks glossy, but you're not sure it has reached the proper consistency, complete these two tests to check: 1) Drag your clean finger straight through the middle of the dough. If it leaves a "valley" that doesn't fall in on itself, it's good to go. 2) Place your silicone spatula in the dough with the handle pointing up. Stir the dough a bit, then pull the spatula straight out, keeping the handle pointed up. Look at the dough on the end of the spatula — it should hang off and form a V-shape. If so, you don't need any more eggs. If your dough doesn't pass either test, add a small amount more of egg, test, and repeat until a glossy consistency is achieved.
Next, fit a piping bag with the French Star tip. Place the choux dough in the piping bag and, with the tip angled at 45-degrees, pipe twelve, six-inch-long eclair shells on the prepared baking sheets (if your dough makes a few more, that's fine too.) Be sure to keep at least two inches of space (or more, if you can) in between so they have room to expand in the oven. Apply slightly more pressure to the piping bag on the ends of each eclair (think of a slight "bone" shape) so that the eclairs don't puff more in the center. It also helps to "twist" the bag away, otherwise just pulling the bag straight off can also pull the whole shell out of place. Dip your finger in a bit of water and use it to smooth out any points at either edge, otherwise, those spots will burn. (Not the ridges along the top from the piping tip, but just any sharp, small pieces that remain from pulling the piping bag away at the edge.
Place the baking sheets in the preheated oven, and, right before closing the door, mist the eclairs a few times with water. It doesn't need much, just two or three sprays depending on how large your mist nozzle is. Bake for ten minutes, but do not open the oven yet (or at all, during the process.) Once the ten minutes have passed, reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue the baking for twenty more minutes, or until the choux pastry shells are a nice golden brown color.
Once the shells are finished baking, remove them from the oven and immediately transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Then, as soon as you can handle touching them, quickly use a toothpick to poke two holes on the bottom of each eclair. I like to poke one near each end, and eventually, fill through these holes. However, for now, they act as vents to allow steam to release so the shells can crisp up and not turn soggy. Let these shells sit aside to cool fully, while you move on to the next eclair component. (We'll address assembling the eclairs at the end.)
Choux Pastry Storage: I, and most bakers, recommend baking, filling, and serving your eclairs on the same day. They taste phenomenal that way. The shells are delicate and lose quality the longer they sit. However, if you MUST make them early, you can store unfilled eclairs in an airtight container at room temperature for two days. You can also seal and freeze them for up to a month, but, remember: for best quality, eat on the same day as baking. It's worth it!
Creme Brûlée Pastry Cream
Fill a large bowl up to halfway with ice and/or cold water. Set a clean, medium-sized bowl inside the larger one, on top of the ice. Place your sieve over top the medium bowl. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine three cups of milk with the sugar and salt over medium heat. Let it warm up and the salt/sugar dissolve.While that's heating, combine the remaining one cup of milk, the egg yolks, and the cornstarch in another bowl. Whisk it together thoroughly, then set this mixture aside.
Watch the milk pan closely, waiting for it to scald — but stir it every so often with a whisk so it doesn't burn on the bottom. As soon as you see little heat bubbles around the edges of the milk, pour a small amount (like a little drizzle) into the bowl with the egg yolks and starch. Whisk the mixture in the bowl constantly and vigorously until it comes together, or else the eggs will curdle. This is called "tempering." Whatever you do, don't stop whisking! Keep whisking while you slowly drizzle in a bit more milk. I like to add about half of the scalded milk to the tempering mixture, but it doesn't have to be exact. Then, place the pan back on the heat and dump the tempered bowl mixture into the pan. Whisk this constantly, letting it come to a boil. Once it bubbles and thickens, keep whisking for about two more minutes to allow the starches to set up properly. This will ensure the structure of your pastry cream holds after it cools.
Next, turn off the heat and remove the pastry cream from the stove. Run it through the sieve into the bowl you've set in an ice bath. This will help remove any impurities (like egg pieces that cooked) and facilitate the cooling process.
After you've sieved the pastry cream, add in the butter and compound flavoring. Mix it together with a spatula until it's combined.
Finally, cover the surface of the pastry cream directly with a piece of plastic wrap. In other words, press the plastic onto the top of the cream. Let it cool in the ice bath or in the refrigerator while you move on to the remaining eclair components.
Pastry Cream Storage: Pastry cream keeps for three days in the refrigerator. It does not freeze well.
First, put the heavy cream into the bowl you'll use for mixing and place it, along with the mixer whisk(s), into the freezer to chill for just a few minutes while you complete the next steps. Don't get distracted, because your cream shouldn't freeze — just chill.
Sprinkle your gelatin powder onto the water in a microwave-safe bowl. Let it sit to "bloom" for two minutes.
Then, heat the gelatin and water in the microwave in ten-second intervals, stirring in between, until the gelatin dissolves fully. However, don't overheat the gelatin or it can lose its ability to thicken and stabilize. Make sure there are no visible pieces of gelatin. If any foam forms on the top, skim it out with a spoon and discard. Set the gelatin aside to cool for a few minutes.
In the meantime, start to whip your cream. After about 45 seconds, add the powdered sugar, and keep beating until you reach the "soft peak stage." That means that your cream is just starting to hold together and whip up, but it's not yet at the traditional "whipped cream" texture.
Place a tablespoon or two of the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture and combine with a spoon. Similar to tempering the milk in the previous component section, we'll do the same here to avoid "shocking" the gelatin which could cause it to seize up.
Then, add the gelatin/cream mixture into the main mixer bowl of cream as well as the vanilla and continue beating until stiff peaks are achieved. That means that, if you take out the mixer whisk and hold it up, the "peak" or the top point of the whipped cream on the edge of the beater will hold its shape.
Finally, using a spatula, carefully add the reserved pastry cream to the whipped cream. Fold it in gently, only mixing enough to combine. Place the creme diplomat in a piping bag fitted with a coupler and put it in the refrigerator while you finish the next components.
Creme Diplomat Storage: Creme diplomat keeps for three days in the refrigerator. It does not freeze well. See Note C for more details.
Candied Pecan Caramel Shards
Spread your pecans on a baking sheet and toast them in an oven preheated to 350°F for eight to ten minutes, or until they smell fragrant. Let them cool, then chop the nuts into fine pieces.
Place the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and swirl the water slightly to moisten the sugar. Then, without stirring, heat the sugar over medium until it dissolves and darkens slightly.
Once the sugar starts to bubble, stir in the pecans, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and butter. Keep stirring the mixture gently with your spatula to combine all the ingredients, letting it cook and caramelize for one to two more minutes.
Place a piece of parchment paper or your silicone baking mat on a baking sheet (or another heat-proof surface) and pour the caramelized nut mixture onto it. Be careful, as it will be hot and sticky.
As the caramelized nuts begin to cool, you can use a spatula to smooth them out a little, if you want. I did so to make the texture look a little more even. Once the mixture is fully cool, use your bench scraper to make sharp and swift downward cuts, to section the candy into long, thin pieces. See Note D, below.
Caramelized Pecan Storage: Store the nuts in an airtight container at room temperature for one week.
Assembling The Eclairs & Vanilla-Bourbon Maple Glaze Instructions
Because the maple glaze begins to harden almost immediately, you should make this final portion of the recipe as you're assembling the eclairs. Here's how the process should go.
First, fit a piping bag with a medium-sized round piping tip, and fill it with the creme brûlée pastry cream. (See Note E for piping alternatives.) Then, flip an eclair shell upside down and place it in the palm of your non-dominant hand. Gently wrap your fingers around it, taking care not to squish it. It's important to hold the shell this way. Next, insert the piping tip into the top hole of the ones you poked earlier. Aim it down towards the center of the eclair and apply pressure to the bag, filling the eclair with cream. As the eclair fills, you'll feel the weight increase and the pastry shell will feel like it's slightly expanding against your palm and fingers— when you feel this pressure move towards the center of the eclair, stop, rotate the piping tip, and fill the top portion (from the hole to the end of the eclair) with just a tiny bit more pastry cream. Finally, flip the eclair around so the other hole is now on top and repeat this process. When you feel the eclair shell expanding in your palm, it's a good indicator that it's full and that the cream has reached the center from both sides. Don't worry if this seems tricky or unclear while you're reading these instructions for the first time — once you hold the eclair while filling it, you'll quickly understand how it should "feel." I always recommend starting with some of your uglier shells, that way you can have a few practice trials or even cut them open to compare the feeling with the amount of pastry cream inside. You'll get the hang of it, after all — practice makes perfect. Keep filling all of your eclairs in this manner, then move on to the next step.
Now that your eclairs are filled, it's time for the glaze! Choose a microwave-safe dish that is shallow, yet long enough to fit an eclair inside. I've found smaller glass Pyrex dishes work well, or even pie plates. If you don't have one, just make the glaze in any microwave-safe bowl and transfer it to a plate when you're ready to coat the eclairs.To make the glaze: soften the butter in the microwave until it's almost melted, for maybe 20 seconds or so. Then, add to it your syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and a cup of powdered sugar and mix until it's smooth. Let it cool for a few minutes. If it's still really runny, you can add some extra powdered sugar, but keep in mind that it will crust and harden as it dries. Once the glaze has cooled a bit and started to thicken or crust, give it one more stir. Then, dip your eclairs in, one by one, coating the tops with the glaze. You can use a paper towel to clean up any edges that drip, or just leave it be! The glaze will harden within a few minutes, so work quickly. You can microwave it for a few seconds if it becomes too thick to work with.
Once the glaze has set on the eclairs, fit your whipped cream piping bag with a fun tip and pipe on some garnish! You can get creative with it, or just stay simple and classy.
Finally, break off a piece of the pecan caramel and use it to garnish each eclair. The candy received such great reviews that I made sure to include a piece of it along every inch of the eclair. You don't want to skimp!
Maple Pecan Creme Brûlée Eclair Storage: Eclairs are best served as soon as possible. Trust me, you'll want to enjoy every bite ASAP! Otherwise, eclairs can become soggy and lose interesting mouth-feel and structure. However, if you must save the eclairs for later, keep them refrigerated in an air-tight container at all times.
A. Classic choux pastry recipes utilize a 2-1-1-2 weight ratio for the main ingredients: water, flour, butter, and eggs. In this case, that means 8 oz water, 4.25 oz flour (I've tried both 4 and 4.25 and a tad more flour has the best result), 4 oz butter, and 8 oz eggs. If you have a kitchen scale, please use it to measure your ingredients the most accurately. However, if not, you can use my converted measurements — just pay closer attention to the visual cues while making your choux.B. You can find Amoretti's Creme Brûlée Compound here. Remember to use the code LEXISROSEBLOG15 for 15% off at checkout. I wouldn't recommend replacing or substituting the compound, as it will negate the Creme Brûlée flavor component of this dish. However, if you do wish to alter the profile of the pastry cream completely, you can replace it with a flavoring of your choice. Pumpkin would be delicious this time of year! C. From my research, creme diplomat (or, diplomat cream) is basically a sweetened whipped cream or Chantilly, stiffened with cornstarch or gelatin, and combined with pastry cream. Though, depending on who you ask, it's very similar and/or also referred to as creme legere, which is simply pastry cream mixed with flavored whipped cream. Whatever you want to call it, we can all agree: it's delicious, light, and the perfect accompaniment to any fancy delicacy. However, if you want to save a few minutes, you don't have to add it. Though, I think the whipped cream adds a beautiful lightness to the taste of the eclairs and also a stunning visual!D. For this recipe, I played around with the idea of creating a caramel-y pecan brittle or a rock-hard caramel pecan candy as the topping. However, with the delicate, light nature of the components of the eclair, something as hard as brittle would be too jarring and difficult to eat. For that reason, I don't let the caramel pecan mixture come to a "hard-crack" stage, so it won't technically cut into razor-sharp pieces or break into shards. It's not a hard candy nor a brittle, but rather a crunchy yet light combination of textures that is perfectly complementary to these eclairs. Most everyone who tried this treat said that the topping was the best part — so unique and the perfect finishing touch. I just wanted to mention that so you aren't expecting a brittle-like rock-hard textured candy. E. If you plan to make a lot of eclairs, you may prefer to invest in a Bismark piping tip like this one. It allows you to insert the tip further into the eclair, so you can fill longer shapes without the risk of bursting (or empty middles.) However, I've never had issues using a medium-sized regular round piping tip on eclairs up to six inches. Alternatively, you don't have to pipe the pastry cream in from the underside at all. You could slice the eclair shells open (like a long hoagie roll) and then use a decorative piping tip to pipe on the pastry cream to the bottom half of the shell. Place the top portion of the shell back on like a sandwich!
Maple Pecan Creme Brûlée Eclairs https://lexisrose.com/maple-pecan-creme-brulee-eclairs/