I have never made eclairs before. Or really any French pastry for that matter, despite my very prevalent French heritage. But late is better than never! You must know that eclairs are quite possibly one of my favoritist desserts ever, next to maybe Napoleons. There are a number of things you can make with choux pastry, so I thought if I could get this airy light pastry down, then I could open up a whole host of doors in my burgeoning gluten free cooking endeavors. This feat was not without its trials, emergency calls to my mother on the phone, finding a new cookbook (well new to me) that has become my pastry bible, and a few missteps here and there, but the overall result was fantastic. They are not perfect by any means, but I know how to improve them. Those useful tips I made sure to include in this recipe. Also, take a look at this pictoral step by step guide for gougères. Same basic principles with the pastry, so you can see what it’s supposed to look like at each step of the way.
Gluten Free Pâte à Choux (Making the Pastries)
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
enough to make the total 1 cup of quinoa flour
1/2 tsp. xantham gum
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick butter cut into tbs. pieces
1 tsp. sugar
3 eggs and 1 beaten egg
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Mix flours and xantham gum together in a small bowl. By the way, this is going to become my standard GF mix I think. I have had really good success with it on a number of occasions.
2. In a medium saucepan (I used my brand new 2 qt. copper saute pot which worked like a dream!) heat milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a simmer. Do this on no higher than medium heat! This is important when heating milk/dairy products, you don’t want to burn it. Stir with a wooden spoon every now and then to keep that film from forming on the top.
3. Once simmering, add in your flour mixture all at once, stirring constantly. Then turn the heat down to med-low, and keep stirring until the dough comes together and is smooth, and then stir for one more minute. Remove pan from heat and let sit 5 minutes, not more.
4. Use a sturdy whisk or an electric mixer, and add in each egg one at a time. If needed, add in some of the beaten egg too. Then keep mixing for a little bit more until it all comes together. It will be a sticky gooey mess.
5. Fill piping bag with the dough/batter, and I didn’t use any tip here. I just used the open fitting, because every reference I could find said you wanted to pipe the batter out at 1/2″ thick. Pipe out about 4″ long and 3/4″ wide for elcairs, or make round swirls for profiteroles onto a well buttered baking sheet. You can see for the eclairs it took a few pipings to make each one:
But note, this is more complicated than it sounds. Learn from my mistakes! I found that the more height = more puff here. My mom had told me when she made cream puffs, that it was always best to have a bigger base. Well, those are the ones that collapsed. So don’t be afraid to give your pastries some height! I also think that is why my profiteroles overall turned out better than my eclairs.
6. Next, take the rest of the beaten egg, and very gently brush on an egg wash. This is what is going to give the pastry that nice golden brown color. Just be careful to not overdo it or squish your pastry too much.
7. Bake in preheated 375F oven for around 25 min. But start checking them every 5 min at around the 15 min mark. Also, do NOT use a dark colored baking sheet. You will burn them. You want to make sure that when they are baked, that they are fully cooked too. So it’s ok to let them brown a bit, just don’t let them burn. I forgot that my oven tends to be wacky, and my centers weren’t necessarily as dry as I would’ve liked them when I pulled them out. This is why some of my eclairs collapsed. But overall, it worked out well.
8. Let them cool while you make the custard and the ganache.
Crème Pâtissière (French Pastry Cream)
This is your typical classic recipe for French pastry cream, just using GF flour instead. Nothing really creative or fancy here, I learned how to do this by reading my mother’s Masters of French Pastry book by Healy & Bugat, which is really a super informative book. I am going to have to do a lot more with this book. Caution though, this is NOT a beginner’s book. If you want step by step instructions about every caveat to making things, this is not for you. This book assumes you have a particular set of skills & techniques down already.
1/4 vanilla bean – yes, use a real bean. It is leagues better!
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour (I used my GF flour mix from the puff pastry recipe)
1/4 cup cornstarch, though I used arrowroot powder
1. Cut bean in half and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and pod to a medium pan. Add in milk. On med to med-high, bring milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally for the same reasons as in the puff pastry.
2. While milk is heating, beat the rest of the ingredients together with a whisk. Once milk is simmering, add half of it to the egg mixture and stir until fully incorporated and smooth with the whisk. Then add the entire egg mixture back to the pan with the rest of the milk.
3. Stir constantly with the whisk, but bring it back to a simmer. Then reduce heat and keep simmering for a couple of minutes. The recipe then said to strain this through a sieve. I don’t own a sieve, and so at this point I pulled out the bean pods and didn’t worry about it because my mixture was pretty smooth.
4. Remove from heat and let cool to room temp. Give it a stir with the whisk every few minutes so that you don’t get a film forming on the top.
For this I used the recipe in the original blog post. It’s pretty much your basic ganache recipe, but I increased the chocolate content by over 50% and used an entire 12 oz. bag of chips. For the light corn syrup, we find as long as we use Karo brand, no one in our family reacts. This may or may not be the same with you if you are gluten sensitive.
So because my eclairs kind of collapsed since they were still too moist inside, instead of traditional eclairs I assembled eclair sandwiches out of two of them. This worked fine. The profiteroles held up better, though some of them I turned into sandwiches too. Here you can see what I mean, this is a profiterole I sliced with a serrated knife (yes, I know it’s blurry sorry):
Just LOOK at those air pockets!! Yes, this IS gluten free!! I know amazing isn’t it? THAT is what cooking gluten free should be like in the ideal world. Now if I can just make GF bread look like that on the inside….
But I digress. You can see how the centers really are too moist. Oh well, live and learn. Next time I will sacrifice one to be a test to cut into before deciding to pull the whole batch out of the oven.
So what you are supposed to do, is slice each pastry in half with a serrated knife so that you don’t squish it. Then hollow them out, fill with cream, add the top, and cover with ganache. Since some of mine collapsed, I went the “sandwich” route, and used one for the top and one for the bottom. Know what? They were still yummy. And that’s what I have photographed up top. My eclair and profiterole sandwiches. Eating one totally put me in a happy place all day