During the Thanksgiving holiday, pumpkin or mincemeat pies are traditionally served for dessert but I’m not a fan of either. So this year, I put a spin on things and served chocolate eclairs instead. Needless to say, they were a big hit and thankfully, I just may have started a new tradition in our home. I’m celebrating Christmas with my parents in a few weeks and along with my children, a dozen of these pretties will be accompanying me on the trip.
I adapted my mother’s recipe for chocolate eclairs and for the filling, she uses packaged vanilla pudding mix rather than pastry cream. I too prefer using pudding over the thinner pastry cream, but wanted to make these extra special and opted for a home-made version. It took a couple of tries to perfect my recipe but the result was worth it… and in this case the very old proverb, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” definitely rings true!
I added one cup (6 ounces) of melted semisweet chocolate chips (I used Guittard) to the vanilla pudding. Using chocolate chips with at least 60% cacao will add the perfect balance of sweetness.
recipe: chocolate eclairs yield: 4 large or 8 small
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups vanilla pudding, recipe follows
1 1/2 confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 butter, softened
3T whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Eclairs are best assembled as close to serving time as possible as the pastry will remain crisper if it is not refrigerated. The vanilla pudding (filling) can be prepared ahead and kept refrigerated until the eclairs are ready to be assembled.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine 1/2 cup water and the butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Return to moderate heat and and stir constantly until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating hard until the dough is smooth.
Put the dough into a pastry bag and with a wide tip, pipe onto an ungreased baking sheet, into strips 2″ x 5″ (makes 4 large eclairs) or 1″ x 2,5 ” (makes 8 small eclairs).
note: two tablespoons can be used in lieu of the pastry bag – scoop out the dough and place on the baking sheet. Use the back of the spoons to shape dough in to the desired strip size.
Place baking sheet on center rack in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the eclairs are golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and place on a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes. With a serrated knife, carefully split the eclairs lengthwise and place on rack to finish cooling.
In a small saucepan, cream butter and add sugar, cocoa, milk and vanilla. Heat over low heat gently stirring until mixture becomes shiny, about 5 minutes.
Remove the tops from the cooled pastry shells and fill each bottom portion with a generous amount of vanilla pudding. Replace the top halves and drizzle with chocolate glaze. Serve immediately or may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 day.
recipe: vanilla pudding yields: 2 1/4 cups
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, and egg yokes and add to the mixture in saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and bubbles, 4-8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to whisk mixture for one minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter and vanilla until combined.
for chocolate flavored pudding: add 1 one cup (6 oz) of premium semisweet chocolate chips (melted).
to melt: heat chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at medium power (50% or level 5) for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave (caution – bowl may be hot!) and stir until bowl no longer feels warm. If needed, return to microwave and heat for 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes then stir in to vanilla pudding mixture.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour mixture through and with a wooden spoon, press the pudding through the sieve to remove any lumps. This extra step leaves the pudding with a smooth, creamy texture.
Press plastic wrap against surface of pudding (to prevent skin from forming) and refrigerate 2 hours or until well chilled. Remove pudding from refrigerator and whisk until smooth. Divide among four small bowls and serve.