I’ve been playing around with my old eclairs recipe to see if I can improve it and I think I’m getting there guys. 😀
I spent so much time working with choux pastry recipes over the last few years and I had really gotten the profiteroles/cream puffs down to a T, but eclairs were always that tiny bit elusive and temperamental. They were good, most of the time, but there were a few issues:
1. Occasionally the recipe failed if I piped them too long.
2. They required a touch of baking powder instead of entirely relying on eggs to rise (i.e. the ‘correct’ way to bake eclairs)… which made them quite puffy unlike the beautifully shaped slender eclairs you’d see in a Parisian bakery.
But I think I’m very close now! What do you think? They’re some of the best eclairs I’ve made so far. They’re mostly hollow inside, keep their perfect shape and have a lovely crisp outer shell. 🙂
But as usual, it’s a work in progress. I’ll keep updating this post as I perfect them even more. 🙂
WHAT I CHANGED
1. I ditched the baking powder and self-raising flour. Here I used ASDA’s gluten free plain flour.
2. I added a little more flour.
3. I upgraded the cooking method; I baked at a slightly higher temperature (200C instead of 190C) and I also placed a dish of boiling water on the shelf underneath the eclairs to improve the crisp texture.
4. I switched from milk to water. What I discovered was that using water requires you to add more egg in order to reach the perfect choux pastry consistency and this in turn helped provide more structure (preventing the eclairs from collapsing).
DON’T BE PUT OFF BY THE LENGTHY INSTRUCTIONS 🙂
They’re actually very easy to make! I swear!
I know there’s a lot of text in this post, but that’s only because I want to explain everything as clearly as possible to leave no room for error.
MY NOTES / TIPS for better gluten free eclairs:
Use a French star tip
… to pipe out the dough. It’s said to help the eclairs keep their shape as they puff up and it also helps prevent cracks. If you don’t have one, you can also add the ridges on top of your piped eclairs with a fork.
There are two ways to cook them.
A lot of recipes call for a big burst of heat to start with (220C for 10 mins) followed by 20-25 mins at a lower temperature (175C), but this method has failed a few times and left me with eclairs that collapsed. In my experience, cooking gluten free eclairs on a lower, constant heat (200C / 392F) for 30-35 mins has worked a lot of better. Ovens can vary a lot, give both a try and see what works for you.
Add the eggs in slowly, little by little.
The quantity of eggs you’ll need will vary depending on certain factors such as the flour blend you use, the size of your eggs and how much liquid is left in your dough before adding the eggs. Hence why I wrote 1 to 2 eggs in the ingredients list, as a guide.
Add as little or as much as you personally need to reach the correct consistency: it should be smooth and run very slightly downwards when you hold the spatula up, but still pretty thick and should not be wet enough to drip into the bowl (see picture collage further down).
Can I make these dairy free / without butter?
Yes you can! 🙂
Lard is an excellent substitute for butter. Don’t worry, it won’t taste ‘porky’ at all; the result is generally flavourless. In fact a lot of professional chefs use lard when baking pastries. It also helps pastries keep their shape and not collapse even more than butter.
But if you’re not keen on that idea, you can use dairy free butter.
Can I freeze them / choux pastry?
Yes you can! Instead of cooking a bunch of pastries and having too many to eat in one go, you can simply divide the dough into portions and freeze them individually (wrapped in cling film and put in properly sealable freezer bags). Some pastry chefs even swear by this.
You can also freeze cooked profiteroles and eclairs, but I’ve never actually tried it myself.
UPDATE (13.03.21): I made more eclairs!
This time filled with pastry cream (with a few Galaxy chocolate pieces thrown in there for a chocolaty flavour) + a basic butter and Galaxy chocolate icing, whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top. 😛
Oh and I made these huge. I wanted to test my new recipe by piping the eclairs even bigger/wider… With my old recipe, these would have probably collapsed… but nope! These rose beautifully, with perfect crisp shells that kept their shape. 🙂
- 50g all purpose gluten free flour (I used ASDA)
- ½ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp xanthan gum
- Pinch of salt
- 25g salted butter
- 75g water
- 1 to 2 eggs
- 150ml double cream
- 2-3 Tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Optional: 1 + ½ Tbsp cocoa powder
- 320g whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 20g cornflour
- 80g sugar
- 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
- Optional: the zest of 1 to 2 lemons for lemon pastry cream
- Optional: add some chocolate at the end for a chocolaty version
- 100g icing sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 20g honey (or syrup)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 10g butter
- 1-2 tsp milk
- Optional: cocoa powder to make it chocolaty (amount to taste)
BAKING TIME: 30-35 mins + 20 mins (in the oven with the door opened and heat turned off)
MAKE THE DOUGH (PART 1):
- Mix the flour, sugar, xanthan gum and salt together in a bowl and then ideally run it through a sieve (but if you don’t have one, it’s not the end of the world 😉 ).
- Add the water and butter in a non-stick saucepan/frying pan, turn the temperature up to medium/low and slowly melt the butter, stirring constantly. Then once you reach simmering point (a very light simmer), turn the heat off completely.
- Immediately add the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until the dough comes together. Then turn the heat back on and cook the dough briefly on low heat, mixing and mashing it constantly, to get a dryer dough / get rid of any excess liquid hiding in there. But be careful, you don’t want to overdo it and overcook the dough.
- Then transfer it into a bowl and let it cool down (this step is important as we’re adding eggs next and we don’t want the heat to start cooking them).
MAKE THE DOUGH (PART 2 – adding the eggs):
- Once the dough has cooled down/is lukewarm, add the eggs little by little (beaten in a bowl first) and mix with a spatula or an electric hand mixer (with mixing paddle attachments; those ones that look like hooks, not the whisks). At first it will look lumpy and not at all like dough, but this is normal. Keep on mixing until smooth. IMPORTANT: keep on adding a little egg until you reach the perfect consistency i.e. the dough should be wet enough to run very slightly downwards when you hold the spatula up, but thick enough not to actually drip into the bowl (like in the picture collage above). This quantity will vary for everyone depending on what flour blend you use, the size of your eggs and how much liquid is left in your dough before adding the eggs.
PIPE YOUR ECLAIRS:
- Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Transfer the dough into a piping bag with a large nozzle (ideally star shaped, *see TIPS above for more info) and slowly pipe it onto the baking tray into strips (about 1 inch wide and up to 5 inches long), leaving enough space between each eclair to allow for a bit of spreading. Note: add a bit of dough on each corner of the baking tray, underneath the baking paper, to secure it. This makes the piping process so much easier! 🙂
- Cut each strip of eclair dough with scissors to make the process easier.
- Wet your fingers and smooth any imperfections / round up the edges.
BAKE YOUR GLUTEN FREE ECLAIRS:
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C (392F).
- Fill a baking dish with boiling water straight from the kettle and place it on the shelf below your eclairs (the steam helps the eclairs crisp up).
- Bake for 30 to 35 mins, until your gluten free eclairs have turned a nice golden colour.
- Turn the heat off, open the oven door, remove the water dish from the oven, flip your eclairs upside down and let them sit in the oven until cool (for another 20 minutes or so). But first poke 3 holes at the bottom of each eclair to allow the steam to come out (I like to use a chopstick or skewer for this). This step is important to make sure the inside of the eclairs dry out, otherwise too much moisture can cause the bottom of the eclairs to collapse shortly after baking.
FILL YOUR ECLAIRS:
- Once fully cooked and cooled, fill your eclairs using a piping bag with a small nozzle (through the 3 holes at the bottom).
- Or you can cut an opening straight across each eclair which allows for more filling and is less of a hassle. 🙂
FOR A WHIPPED CREAM FILLING:
- Add the double cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a large bowl (along with cocoa powder for a chocolaty version) and whip with a hand held mixer (with whisk attachments) on medium/low speed. You can also use a normal whisk of course, but it takes ages. lol
FOR A PASTRY CREAM FILLING:
- Combine the egg yolks, cornflour, half of the sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl.
- Add the milk and half of the sugar into a sauce pan and bring to a light simmer on medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk.
- Pour some of the warm milk in the bowl and whisk until everything has dissolved, then add it back into the sauce pan with the rest of the milk and keep whisking (still on medium heat) until the cream has thickened. This should take about 1 minute.
- Then, ideally run the mixture through a sieve to get rid of any potential lumps.
- Add the butter right away (while the pastry cream is still hot) and stir until fully melted. If adding chocolate, go ahead and add the pieces at this stage too.
- Pour the pastry cream in a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate for a few hours before using. Note: to prevent a film from forming on top, press the cling film onto the surface of the pastry cream.
- Once ready to use, transfer the pastry cream into a piping bag and fill your eclairs.
FOR A SIMPLE ICING:
- Melt the butter in the microwave.
- Then stir in the honey, vanilla and a pinch of salt.
- Add the icing sugar and mix with a whisk, fork or spatula. Note: if your icing sugar looks old and a little lumpy, run it through a sieve first.
- Then add the milk very slowly, a quarter teaspoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency (like in the picture above). It should be smooth and relatively runny, but not to the point of being watery. Kind of syrupy.
- For a chocolate version, add a bit of cocoa powder and adjust the consistency with a tiny bit more milk.
- Cover the top of your eclairs in icing and let them rest until the icing is dry and set.
NOTE: for an even simpler chocolate icing, you can also simply melt a little bit of butter with some chocolate chips or pieces. Heat them in the microwave in 5-10 second increments, stirring in between until the chocolate is fully melted.
Hope you enjoy them! 🙂