Strawberry Basil Éclairs
I don’t know why I decided to make an éclair. To be completely honest, I don’t even like them, at least not the traditional variant. The weirdly-textured ganache topping, the often far-too-bland custard filling and the choux, which is essentially a glorified roux–that’s probably why they rhyme–, are just not on my list of things I love in a sweet treat. That and everyone else seems to love them. Almost everywhere you go, there is an éclair. People giddily jump in your face to offer you what they think is the world’s best gift. “Did you hear? There are éclairs here! Right over there! Don’t believe me? Go take a look! Like seriously delicious éclairs. I’ve had two already. Don’t tell anyone though,” and then they laugh as if their inability to control their appetite is the funniest thing in the world.
I am done with the classic éclair. I am done with people hoarding them in the pink boxes they get from some overly trendy bakery. I am done… wait a second. What is this? I don’t have to go with the weird chocolate top? I can add other stuff to the inside too?
These are the thoughts that run through my mind as I flip through the lovely pages of Martha Stewart’s website. In between my daydreams of one day building an empire as big as the queen of crafts herself, I stumble on a recipe for a strawberry and mint variation of the éclair. I am intrigued to say the least. I happen to also have another twenty tabs open with various other strawberry recipes, but I become so enthralled with the idea of a new–to me at least–éclair that I closed them all.
While I love Martha Stewart, I rarely ever use her recipes outside of inspiration. I have a goto custard recipe and a goto pâte a choux recipe so I didn’t need to use hers–I use variations on recipes by Bo Friberg and his books. In fact I quickly lose interest in the strawberry and mint combo as well and decided to use basil instead. I’ve never tried basil with strawberry but I had a feeling they’d be delicious together. My research on the internet seemed to agree with my assumption. I decided to throw a little lemon zest in there too for good measure.
Éclairs, like profiteroles and such, do require a few parts but each part is fairly easy. The custard I use is a quick bavarian cream and comes together quickly–you also don’t have to worry about cooking it slowly to avoid cooking the eggs. The choux is a simple dough that is nearly impossible to overcook and if you follow a few steps should come out perfect. That just leaves the macerated strawberry mixture which is as easy as mixing sugar, chopped strawberries, basil chiffonade and lemon zest together. All parts can be made ahead of time up to a day or two even but once you assemble it, you should eat it right away.
So, what did I, a boy who hates traditional éclairs, think about this recipe? I loved it! I’m seriously fighting the urge to have my second–to become that éclair-obsessed addict pushing éclairs in your face. The combination of strawberry and basil is so interesting and nuanced. Together with the custard it is a delicious treat sitting in a crispy cup of scrumptiousness. Should you try it? You bet!
The base of an éclair, like its sister pastries, is the choux. It’s a light dough that if baked correctly becomes a big hollow shell. It is pretty much made to hold deliciousness inside. If your first batch of of choux doesn’t come out, don’t let it get you down. Learn from it and try it again. I messed up my first batch today–not only did they deflate from undercooking but a few looked way too phallic to make them a treat I’d want to eat, share or blog about. Be sure to watch them as they bake so they don’t get too brown. Otherwise you’ll want to leave them in as long as you can because it is easy to under bake these guys.
For this recipe I suggest making the strawberry mix first and leaving it in the fridge while you prepare the rest. I would then make the custard and let that cool while you bake and cool the choux. Once the éclair shells have cooled you can assemble everything. By this point depending on if you are in a rush or not will take about and hour or two. Like I said above though you can make the parts and keep them until you want to assemble everything for about a day or two. With the choux you can either freeze the dough after you’ve piped it, or you can bake them and then keep them in an airtight container. The rest should be refrigerated if you are going to do it ahead.
Strawberry Basil Éclair
Strawberry Maceration Ingredients 1 lb strawberries, hulled & chopped finely 2 tablespoons sugar Zest from 1 lemon 1 tablespoon basil leaves, chiffonade Quick Bavarian Cream Ingredients 1 pint whole milk 1 ounce corn starch 4 ounces granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 eggs 2 ounces unsalted butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup heavy cream 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract Pâte a Choux Ingredients 4.5 ounces bread flour 1 cup water 3 ounces unsalted butter 1/4 teaspoon salt 4 eggs Strawberry Maceration Instructions 1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate at least one hour. Quick Bavarian Cream Instructions 1. Place the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to the scalding point. 2. In the meantime whisk together the cornstarch, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until smooth. 3. Slowly pour 1/3 of the milk into the egg mixture to temper the eggs, stirring constantly. Pour the tempered mixture back into the remaining milk in the saucepan. 4. Stirring constantly with a whisk, bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for another 30 seconds and remove from the heat. 5. Add the butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir until it is combined and the butter is completely melted into the mixture. 6. Allow to cool completely. 7. Whip the cream and remaining vanilla to stiff peaks. 8. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard. 9. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use. Pâte a Choux Instructions 1. Preheat the oven to 425F. 2. Sift the flour into a bowl and set aside. 3. Heat the water, butter and salt into a heavy bottomed pot/sauce pan to a full roiling boil. 4. Add the flour quickly while stirring with a heavy wooden spoon. Try not to add the flour all at once though. 5. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, for 2 or 3 minutes over medium heat. The dough will pull away from the sides and form a ball. 6. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and allow it to cool slightly. 7. Once the dough has cooled add the eggs 2 at a time mixing at medium speed or until the eggs are mixed in completely. 8. The dough should be slightly shiny and still be able to hold a shape once all the eggs are mixed in. 9. Place the mixture into a large plastic bag or piping bag. If using a plastic bag, cut the corner of the bag off leaving a one inch hole. 10. Pipe the dough onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Each piped dough should be about 3 to 4 inches long and an inch wide. If there are little points sticking up or out, wet your fingers and press them down. 11. Bake immediately in the preheated oven at 425F for 12 minutes or until puffed up and beginning to brown. 12. Reduce the temperature to 375F and bake for another 20 minutes. Prop the door slightly open for 30 seconds after reducing the temperature to help the oven adjust. Do not open the door all the way. 13. Once finished, each éclair shell should be a golden brown and puffy. Cool on a cooling rack until the shells are cool to the touch. Assembly Instructions 1. Slice each choux shell in half so there is a top and bottom. 2. Add a layer of the quick bavarian cream. 3. Spoon some of the strawberry mixture ontop of the cream. 4. Place the choux shell on top. 5. Sprinkle everything with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
While there are a few steps involved this is a recipe I definitely suggest trying. If you want you could easily make and freeze the piped choux on day one, prepare and chill the bavarian cream on day two and then make the strawberry mixture and assembly the éclairs on day three if you want to keep your workload down each day. Otherwise you can get everything done in an hour or two. I made this while I watched Terminator 2.
Do you have a favorite éclair recipe? Have you used basil and strawberry together before in another recipe? I’d love to hear some other ideas!
Oh and did i mention in the time I wrote this post I had my second éclair. Enjoy!