Raymond Blanc's recipe for chocolate éclairs is full of tips and advice, including how to freeze.
Equipment and preparation: You will need a large piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm/½in fluted nozzle and a 0.5cm/¼in nozzle.
For the choux pastry
- 4 tbsp water
- 4 tbsp whole milk
- 50g/2oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- pinch sea salt
- 100g/4oz plain flour
- 4 medium free-range eggs, beaten
For the filling
- 20g/¾oz unsweetened chocolate, 100% cocoa solids
- 450g/1lb pastry cream (crème patissière), at room temperature (see Top recipe tip below)
- 1 tbsp strong cocoa powder, sifted
For the glaze
- 200g/7oz white fondant icing
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1-2 tsp water
Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
For the choux pastry, place the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over a high heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
Remove the pan from the heat and, using a wooden spoon, quickly beat in the flour until the mixture is completely smooth.
Turn the heat down to medium, return the pan to the hob and cook for about one minute, beating all the time, or until the mixture comes away from the edge of the pan.
Remove the pan from the heat and gradually beat in the eggs until you have a smooth, dropping consistency. (You are looking for the mixture to just drop from the spoon, not run off it; you may not need all of the egg to reach this stage. )
Transfer the paste to a large piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm/½in fluted nozzle and let the mixture to cool for about five minutes in the bag to stiffen slightly before you begin the piping.
Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper and pipe on 12 éclairs, each about 15cm/6in long. Alternatively, for a more professional and uniform finish, pipe four rows of pastry, each about 36cm/14in long, onto a non-stick tray and freeze. Cut the frozen strips into three and either defrost and cook as below, or bake from frozen and add five minutes to the cooking time.
Bake the éclairs in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden-brown, then transfer to a rack and leave to cool.
For the filling, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water or the chocolate will burn.
Pour the melted chocolate into the pastry cream, mix in the cocoa powder and whisk together to a smooth consistency. You could chill the mixture at this point for 30 minutes, then whisk again before you fill the éclairs, to give a creamier mouth-feel to the filling.
When you are ready to fill the éclairs, transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a 0.5cm/¼in nozzle. Pierce the underside of each éclair four times with the tip of the nozzle, gently squirting a little of the filling into the éclair as you do so.
For the glaze, gently warm the fondant in a small pan over a low heat until it reaches body temperature.
Stir in the cocoa powder and enough of the water to make a smooth paste, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm/½in nozzle.
Pipe the glaze onto the top of each éclair, removing any excess with the back of your finger, then place in the fridge for the glaze to set before serving.
The éclair cases can be baked in advance and frozen. Defrost for one hour then fill them with the pastry cream. Alternatively, you could freeze the éclairs uncooked and cook them straight from the freezer when required, in which case add five minutes to the cooking time. The pastry cream
(or crème patissière) can be made up to three days in advance and stored in the fridge.
Alternatively flavour the pastry cream with coffee or vanilla extract instead of chocolate and do not add the cocoa powder to the glaze.