Éclairs with Mocha Pastry Cream

I am a lucky girl in so many ways.  One of them is that I have a lot of really wonderful friends who are incredibly encouraging of my love for cooking and baking.  (I’m sure this has absolutely, positively nothing to do with the fact that they often reap the benefit of said hobby.)  It also turns out that some of them are pretty talented in the kitchen as well, and I thought it would be fun to all get together and have a baking day with the girlfriends.  Finding one day that worked for four doctors was the biggest obstacle, but once we got past that, we had a blast!

Each of us chose one recipe that we wanted to make and I must say, all the choices were fantastic!  I had everyone send me their recipes in advance so I could have the ingredients and necessary equipment ready for them.  Before they came over, I prepared makeshift stations with the equipment and ingredients that each of us would need.

Julia made chocolate toffee shortbread bars.

Shanon made raspberry mascarpone macarons.

Ashley made crab-filled ravioli.

And I chose these éclairs filled with mocha pastry cream.

Once everyone arrived, I served a simple lunch of fontina mac and cheese, salad, and a fruit, cheese and cracker platter.  We all enjoyed lunch and girl talk, and then we got busy in the kitchen!  I’m sure you can imagine my excitement at having 3(!) KitchenAid mixers working all at once.  This was a super fun day and I’m already looking forward to doing it again when our schedules will allow.  I highly recommend coordinating a baking day with friends – it is quality time to spend together while sharing in an activity that everyone enjoys!

And as for my recipe choice, if you think I have an obsession with pastry cream…you’d be correct.  I’ve been wanting to make these éclairs for a long time and baking day seemed the perfect opportunity to try them.  These totally lived up to my expectations.  I mean, what wouldn’t be great about a pastry filled with a thick, smooth mocha-flavored cream with a chocolate glaze on top?  I wasn’t the only one who loved them.  Ben acted like I had given him the best gift in the world when I let him eat the last one 🙂

Éclairs with Mocha Pastry Cream
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Yield: 8 éclairs
For the mocha pastry cream:
1½ cups half-and-half
6 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar, divided
Pinch salt
1½ tsp. espresso powder
3 large egg yolks
2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the pâte à choux:
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tbsp. whole milk
6 tbsp. water
1½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (2½ oz.) all-purpose flour

For the glaze:
3 tbsp. half-and-half
2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (4 oz.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Once the mixture is warm, whisk in the espresso powder.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a  fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

To make the pâte à choux, whisk the eggs and egg white in a liquid measuring cup.  You should have ½ cup (discard the excess).  Set aside.  Combine the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice.  When it reaches a full boil and the butter is fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour until incorporated and the mixture clears the sides of the pan.  Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the pan (the mixture should register 175-180˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.

Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open to cool slightly, 10 seconds.  With the machine running, gradually add the reserved eggs in a steady stream.  When they have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process 30 seconds more until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.

Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.  Fit a pastry bag with a ½-inch plain tip.  Fill the pastry bag with the pâte à choux.  Pipe the paste into eight 5 x 1-inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart.  Use the bake of a teaspoon dipped in water to even out the shape and smooth the surface.

Bake 15 minutes without opening the oven door, then lower the oven temperature to 375˚ F and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8-10 minutes longer.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cut a ¾-inch slit into the side of each éclair to release steam.  Return the pan to the oven, turn off the oven, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Dry the éclairs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist and crisp, about 45 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the glaze, place the half-and-half and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, until the mixture just begins to steam.  Whisk together thoroughly, add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely smooth.

To assemble the éclairs, add the pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip.  Pipe the pastry cream through the slit in the side of each éclair to fill it completely.  Dip the top of each éclair in the chocolate glaze.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow the glaze to set.  Serve within several hours.

Source: Baking Illustrated

56 Responses

  1. This looks like soo much fun! 3 KA’s together. Wow 🙂 Your eclairs look delicious! Oh, and you’re a doctor? Wow! My mom’s one, and she sure can’t manage enough time for a blog!

  2. What a blast everyone must have had! BTW, are all three Kitchen Aids yours? (just curious!)

  3. These look SO GOOD. I love choux pastry and that pastry cream sounds amazing,

  4. What a fun girl’s event! When I have a kitchen large enough to accommodate more than 1 person comfortably (my husband & I currently live in a small Boston apartment) I am definitely going to host a cooking get-together with friends. Love this idea.

    I think I could eat that mocha pastry cream by the spoonful ;). Actually, I know I could!

  5. I’m just wondering how you managed to get 4 of those great KitchenAid mixers?

  6. I used to love having baking days with my mom and friends!! That might be a disaster in my tiny kitchen. How did you get all of the Kitchenaids in one place??

  7. Mmmm these look wonderful! And it sounds like you had LOTS of wonderfulness! Fun day!

  8. Those look divine and what a fun day. Me, well, I would be excited about just one kitchenaid mixer in my kitchen, let alone three. Alas, I don’t have the room 😦

  9. That looks like a lot of fun. I usually do this with my girlfriends around the holidays (cookie party)! Now I am really missing our baking day. Although, it is funny, because we have to monitor who has what appliance plugged in and when, so we don’t turn everything on at once and get stuck in a dark house looking for the fuse box.

  10. Oh no you did-unht. These looks fantastic, and – I’m sure a great time was had by all. The little workstations with cards are just adorable!

  11. 3 Kitchen Aids working together ‘sigh’! The eclairs look gorgeous. Must have been so much fun baking all together.

  12. What a superb idea…the thought of 3 mixers at once has us v excited. And pastry cream?! Mocha pastry cream?! Bring it on!!

  13. that pastry cream sounds divine – must try soon! What a fun day!

  14. How lucky you are to have a large kitchen to accommodate all those mixers! What a fun thing to do with girl friends! Will you be posting pics of the goodies the other girls made too? I’d love to see how those macarons turned out!

  15. How cool is it that each of you had a different color Kitchen Aid 🙂 Imagine the fun if you let others in the cooking club and the only requirement is that they have a diffrent color mixer than everyone else!

    I would love to have the recipies of the other ladies creations…although I am definately going to try yours! Are those going to be in another post?

    • Not in the immediate future because I didn’t get photos of the other finished products. However I want to try them all eventually so they will likely be posted some later time.

  16. Annie, I love your blog! You are so inspirational. I also love cooking and baking, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw THREE mixmasters – are they all yours?! 🙂 What a great idea for a day with the girlfriends. I will definitely be making these soon!

  17. A cooking day with friends? How adorable and fun is that?! Everyone’s recipes looked amazing!!! Although the crab ravioli seemed a bit out of place (I bet it was delicious, though).

    • I don’t think it was out of place at all. Just a day for us to all have fun in the kitchen, and tackle a recipe we wanted to try. Ashley had never made pasta so I helped guide her.

  18. How fun!! Sounds like a great time with yummy results…especially these eclairs. They look divine! : )

  19. Sounds like such a fun activity to do with the girls–and a yummy one as well!

  20. Your day looks like so much fun and the mini KIthcenAid army looks fabulous! I bet the feast afterwards was gorgeous – every choice sounded irresistible 🙂

  21. I need to plan this! Looks like so much fun 🙂 Also I love the macbook sitting on the kitchen counter. Thats how I do it too! Haha

  22. Wow those eclairs look to die for!! I love having girlfriends over to cook and bake. I have two great friends that we alternate hosting cooking theme nights. Our first production was Mexican, then Italian and in October, I’m hosting French night. It always ends up being completely over the top and tons of work but so rewarding in the end. Both our husbands and kids love it and we are convinced that the food is better than anything we get out. : )

  23. I didn’t know how eclairs could get better. But this is how. Thank you!!!

  24. Woot! Woot! Baking days rule!

  25. Those look so good. I use to have them a long time ago.

  26. What incredible eclairs those are, and it looks like you had such a fun day with friends! Those are super cute work stations, too, and what a thoughtful thing for you to put a lunch together as well. You’re super talented and such a good friend for hosting something like this. Awesome job, girls!

  27. Annie, I think I may be in love with you!! 😉
    I seriously love eclairs, but have never thought of making them with mocha pastry cream! These look delish! Thanks for posting.

  28. That looks like too much fun..

    I am trying out your tart recipe next week i cant wait.

  29. You’ve totally inspired me. Not just with that delicious eclair recipe, but the whole concept of inviting friends over for a baking day. For me, baking tends to be kind of a solitary activity, but it doesn’t have to be that way! You rock 🙂

  30. I bet you all had so much fun! What a great combination; baking, cooking, and friends! I love your blog!!!

  31. I love the different coloured kitchen aid mixers. When I move out I definitely know that I want one. What a great day that must have been. How can you go wrong with baking and friends?

  32. annie i have to say, i have been gathering a list of cooking blogs that gets longer and longer every day for awhile now, but yours is just such a consistent favorite. i wish i had some pals around here that were as excited about cooking as i am! i will never know how you find all the time, but i truly look forward to your updates and your gorgeous photos. YUM!

  33. What a great way to spend a day and those eclairs look divine!

  34. This is such a fun idea! I want your kitchen! And those pretty mixers! My own mixer is about 50 years old, so I’m always glad when it decides it wants to turn on at all 🙂
    Those eclairs are beautiful, and I’m sure they are absolutely delicious. Do you have any photographs of how the other recipes turned out? I am very curious to see those macarons!

    • No, I mentioned this in the comments above but I did not get photos of the other dishes. I do plan to make them all myself though.

  35. Oh my goodness! Those eclairs look SOOOO good!

  36. Can you please tell me if it is OK to use granulated instant coffee instead of the espresso powder?
    Thank you

  37. How nice to have friends who share your passion !!!! I loved your kitchen (mine is SO small =( Your pink KA !!! but the most important thing is that your éclairs look very professional…Congrats !!!!!!!

  38. oh my gosh the eclairs look so elegant and delicious!

  39. This is such a fun idea! I would love to have some of my best girlfriends over, sharing my favourite hobby. The eclairs look fantastic and the other goodies sound great too.

  40. I like the work stations setup….eclairs have always been my favorite…mocha cream….what could be better!

    Congrats on Top 9!

  41. This is a fabulous idea, I just need a bigger kitchen! But you are reading my mind of the eclairs, I have been dying to try eclairs!

  42. Wow, I only wish I had friends that had a passion for cooking/baking, most of them don’t even cook/bake at all so I have myself giving them tips more often that not, which is ok. Nice to have the space to do that as well. Those eclairs look heavenly 🙂

  43. Such a Great idea – baking day with the girls! Must be absolutely fun! I can’t believe you actually coordinate individual work space for each of the ladies to bake at your home! I don’t have a kitchen’s size that big to do that, so I’ll borrow your idea, but I’ll also have to convince one of the girls with bigger kitchen space to host this wonderful “party”!

    Interestingly enough, I just made pate a choux filled with chocolate whipped cream for the first time, last night! These beauties are so addictived to make!
    I bet yours taste divine!

  44. This is something I have been intimidated about for awhile now. I have a Roselyn Bakeries cookbook here that I bought after they went out of business.(Do you remember Roselyn?) My parents and I always adored their eclairs, but I have yet to attempt to make them. That cream you used looks amazing! You make me want to give it a shot.

  45. That sounds really fun! What a great way to get to sample a bunch of different treats and not have to do all the work=) But really, that mocha cream filling is what got me drooling! I love turning anything into coffee flavored. Love it!

  46. How fun!!! 🙂 I have baking days with friends too but we usually make the same recipe together. I love the idea of having different stations where everyone makes their own thing. You have 3 kitchenaids??!

  47. Oh and how could I forget to mention how gorgeous your eclairs look? Mmmm.

  48. When I saw your photo, I was inspired to make these for a friend’s B Day. The pastries turned out perfect. I experimented with different sizes and shapes. My cream filling, however, did not turn out. I don’t know what I did wrong, but by the time I got my act together and tried a second time, the pastry had molded! Ha, so they don’t keep for long, but who would want a day old soggy pastry anyway!

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