When I studied in France many years ago – I was enamored by the Patisseries. This was over twenty years ago, when the dollar was very strong – and it cost less than a dollar for a beautiful looking éclair – or a tarte au fraise, one of my older daughter’s favorites. So – every week I would treat myself to a different pastry in the shops – I wanted to make sure I was able to try each and every one by the time I left. I actually think I came pretty close. Still – the one that I kept coming back to was the éclairs. There were a few different varieties, but it didn’t matter to me – it was not the filling that I craved, it was the pastry. It was not sweet, and the outside was just slightly crisp, while the inside was soft and egg-like. Just amazing.
Now when I visit France, I am still just as enthralled with the Patisseries, but the pastries cost much more than a dollar – and now it is my daughter who is on a mission to try as many as she can. I usually just get a couple of bites of whatever she chooses – which is fine by me – there is so much good food to eat in Paris – I have to save room for everything. She is definitely into the éclairs as well – and would you believe, we actually have a favorite spot? It is on the Isle St. Louis, and their chocolate éclairs are the best I have had. They serve them fresh and cold, and the filling is just as bit as delicious as the pastry.
I am not sure why it has taken me so many years to make these – but for some reason it has. I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and decided it was finally time. I have a friend who thinks these are a snap to make – she whips them up all the time – well, she must have some seriously strong arms. That was the hardest part – mixing in all those eggs. Once I got past that part – the rest was pretty easy. I may have taken them out of the oven a little too soon, because mine deflated slightly – but it didn’t matter a bit. They were amazingly delicious, I was smiling from ear to ear. So – the next time I need a little taste of France, I guess I can just whip these up – pretty soon I will have monster arms too…then maybe I could fly myself to France and get the real thing? Good thing I have another trip planned.
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- Powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Two pastry bag tips, 1/2-inch and 1/2-inch open star
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit 1 large pastry bag (or a plastic freezer bag with 1/2-inch cut from one bottom corner) with plain 1/2-inch tip.
Bring milk, butter, 1 tsp. sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium sauce-pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add flour all at once; reduce heat to medium-low. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a dough forms and pulls away from sides of pan, 1–2 minutes. Continue beating vigorously until a thin dry film forms on bottom and sides of pot, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl.
Add 1 egg and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until egg is incorporated and dough looks dry again, about 2 minutes. Repeat with 4 more eggs, adding one at a time and stirring vigorously to incorporate before adding the next. Dough should be smooth, shiny, and thickened.
Spoon dough into prepared pastry bag; pipe out 2 1/2-inch-diameter rounds on prepared sheets, leaving 2 inches between rounds.
DO AHEAD: Freeze the piped dough rounds on the baking sheets, then transfer to resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 1 month. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing apart (do not defrost) before continuing with recipe.
Arrange racks in upper and middle thirds of oven and preheat to 450°. Whisk remaining egg with 2 tsp. water and brush dough rounds all over with egg wash.
Transfer baking sheets to oven; turn oven off. After 10 minutes, heat oven to 350° and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate pans front to back and top to bottom; continue baking until deep golden brown all over, about 10 minutes longer (puffs will deflate if removed from oven before fully baked). Transfer puffs to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Using a serrated knife, gently slice the top quarter off each puff; transfer tops to a plate. With your finger, gently push down the soft film of cooked dough inside each puff.
Prepare a second pastry bag (or freezer bag) with 1/2-inch open-star tip. Beat heavy cream and remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Spoon whipped cream into prepared pastry bag. Fill each puff with cream, finishing with a generous ring of cream on top. Dust tops of cream puffs with powdered sugar; place atop puffs.
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