Today: Eclairs are classic and elegant -- adding a citrusy cream makes them the perfect dessert to tackle on a gloomy January day.
Eclairs are made from a classic French pastry called pâte à choux, which is also the base of cream puffs and delightfully cheesy gougéres. Making pâte à choux requires little more than a good saucepan, a wooden spoon, and a strong arm, but it is one of those recipes that feels like magic. I remember making cream puffs with my mom when I was about ten and marveling over how the heat from the oven turned the paste we made on the stove into little pockets, perfect for stuffing with all sorts of good stuff. I used to fill them with ice cream, but this time of year a hefty spoonful of tart lemon cream is the way to go.
In these cold months, we all need something to brighten up our spirits, and citrus fruit is just about the brightest, sunniest thing around. One of my very favorite citrus recipes is Tartine Bakery’s Lemon Cream, made with sweet and floral Meyer lemons if I can find them. I stumbled upon the genius recipe about a year ago and have made it countless times since. It is sweet, tart, and creamy all in perfect balance, and I love finding ways to tuck it into all sorts of desserts -- like this fresh take on eclairs.
Meyer Lemon Cream Filling
Makes 12 to 18 eclairs
One batch of Tartine’s Lemon Cream made with Meyer lemons
1/2 cup heavy cream
Prepare the lemon cream according to the recipe and cool completely.
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the lemon cream. Keep refrigerated while you prepare the other components.
Meyer Lemon Glaze
Juice and zest of one Meyer lemon
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Whisk the juice, zest, and sugar together until smooth. You want a fairly thick glaze that will not run down the sides of the eclairs.
Pâte à Choux
1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 egg for egg wash
Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Heat over medium until the butter has melted completely.
Remove the pan from the heat and add in all of the flour at once. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
Add in the eggs one at a time, stirring to incorporate each egg completely before adding the next one.
In a small bowl, beat the additional egg with one tablespoon of water. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag with a large round tip (or a bag with the corner cut).
Pipe even strips about 1 inch by 5 inches long. Smooth any peaks or rough edges with a wet finger and brush the strips with egg wash.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely before filling.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a bismark tip with the chilled lemon cream mixture. Fill each eclair with a few tablespoons of the cream, then dip the top in the Meyer lemon glaze. Garnish with candied citrus peel (I used kumquats). Alternately, slice the top third off of each eclair, fill the bottom with a few tablespoons of lemon cream, replace the tops, and drizzle with glaze.
Enjoy immediately -- these treats are best the day they are made.
Photos by Yossy Arefi