Let me start off by saying I am not a Valentine’s Day person. However, I really couldn’t resist tying in Valentine’s day with these pastries given the timing, the chocolate and the subtle touch of pink. These éclairs are a bit fussy. Once all the bells and whistles are complete I think I went through eight bowls and saucepans. But you can consider these very special I’m-sorry-I-love-you éclairs. It has been a while after all.
Where have I been? Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time in piles of boxes! Slash— in a construction zone. R and I bought a condo and moved in January! Like all great love stories it happened very quickly. Love at first sight you could say. We bought the first condo we saw. We have been doing some updates, but as of this week we are more or less settled. And I have to tell you I am absolutely smitten with the place.
Éclairs have been on my baking bucket list for a while. It’s not my usual, simple, style of baking but they are just so freaking delicious. I made my first choux pastry last summer when I made profiteroles for ice cream and it went surprisingly well. So my confidence was high and my sights were set on the latest, trendiest pastry (in Toronto, at least).
Also, it is finally citrus season! I have been not so casually perusing the citrus stand at my grocer for a couple weeks and finally — blood oranges! I got really lucky finding ones that were true to their name and very deep in colour. My kitchen looked like a slasher film after juicing them. It was a blood orange massacre.
I used A Cozy Kitchen’s recipe for the blood orange curd. It came out a beautiful blush colour and was delicious on its own. It was pretty miraculous that it made it into the recipe at all. I then, very simply candied the blood orange peels so that I would have a cute garnish. And the basic chocolate éclair and pastry cream recipes came from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.
The final result is a cute, tasty pastry with a creamy centre flecked with vanilla seeds that blushes ever so slightly. When you take a bite, the vanilla and blood orange cream-curd mixture gives you a flavour à la Creamsicle. And the candied orange peels taste like orange jujubes. It’s basically my childhood in French patisserie form. OK that’s the extent of my French vocabulary. I’ll be off now. Happy Valentine’s Day! Treat Yourself!
- Peel from one orange, membranes removed
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
- Pinch of salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
- ½ cup butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups flour
- 4 large eggs
- 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon golden corn syrup
- Make the Blood Orange Curd according to A Cozy Kitchen's recipe, saving the peel of one orange.
- Very finely cut the orange peels into 1-inch long strips. Place the sliced peels in a small saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and discard the water. Repeat this step two more times.*
- In another small saucepan, combine the sugar and water bring to a simmer stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once simmering reduced the heat to low and add the sliced orange peels. Allow the peels to simmer away for 30 minutes. Swirl the sauce pan once or twice to ensure all the peels are coated in the syrup. Once finished, drain the syrup and allow the candied peels to dry completely on a wire rack (about 4 hours).
- In a medium saucepan whisk together the milk, ¼ cup of the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean and seeds. Bring the mixture to a simmer and remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup of sugar. While whisking the egg mixture, very slowly pour in the hot milk mixture. Once combined well, pour the mixture back into the saucepan, cooking on a medium-high heat just until the mixture thickens, about a minute or two. Remove the vanilla bean.
- Transfer the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, adding the pieces of butter. Once the butter has melted and the pastry cream mixture has cooled slightly it is finished. Cover with the plastic wrap directly on the cream to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- In a medium saucepan melt the butter along with the sugar, salt, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and using a wooden spoon stir in the flour until combined. Return to the heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture pulls away from the sides and a thin film coats the bottom of the saucepan, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low. Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each egg is combined before adding the next. Be sure to scrap the sides and the bottom of the bowl as you go. The pastry batter should be able to form soft peaks when it is finished.
- Put the pâte à choux into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip. Pipe the pastry onto two parchment-lined baking trays in 3-inch long lines. Leave an inch in between your pastry lines.
- Bake in the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350°F and cook for another 25-30 minutes until golden brown on the outside. Once removed from the oven, allow the shells to cool completely on a wire rack.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat whisk together the cream and corn syrup. Once bubbles begin to form, remove form the heat. Add the finely chopped chocolate and allow it to sit and melt for a few minutes. Whisk until combined and allow to cool.
- Combine the blood orange curd and pastry cream together in a medium bowl. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip.
- Using a skewer poke holes on either end of the pastry shells big enough to fit the tip of your pastry bag. Pipe the cream-curd mixture into your pastry shells from either end so the filling is even.
- Dip each éclair halfway into the chocolate glaze allowing the excess to drip off. Set éclairs on a wire rack, decorating the top with a single piece of candied blood orange peel. Set glaze in the refrigerator, store up to 1 day.
- *This step helps remove the bitter taste form the orange peels.