Éclairs is one of those things, like macarons, that as delicious as they are to eat, I would never consider making them myself – because surely there’s a reason why they are often left to the patisserie experts? But unlike macarons, éclairs are not actually that complicated or difficult to make.. Just very, very time consuming!
When I heard about the new cookery class concept Bake With a Legend, which provides fun and affordable classes to novices and keen bakers alike, with TV’s legendary baking stars (including Great British Bake Off bakers) teaching and mentoring the classes, I knew I would never find a better opportunity to master the art of the éclair!
I wasn’t wrong. With a little help from Glenn Cosby and Howard Middleton (from Great British Bake Off series 4), and a bit of Dutch courage, I finally learned to master the éclair!
The cookery class was in a fully kitted out kitchen in Wandsworth, and people were given their own cooking stations and kitchen islands to work from – but could pair up if they wanted to! We were handed our aprons, and a glass of Prosecco to ease nerves and break the ice, and watched as Glenn Cosby and Howard Middleton did a demonstration for us and answered some questions, then guided us step by step through the steps of making a chocolate and caramel éclair.
By the end of the lesson we got to take our éclairs home – not that anybody at home believed that I had made them myself!
Here’s how to make them at home:
Step 1 – Choux pastry
You will need:
- 120ml water
- 65g plain flour
- A pinch of table salt
- 50g salted butter
- 2 large eggs
Equipment needed: Hob, scales, saucepan, wooden spoon, disposable icing bag, baking tray, greaseproof paper, scissors, kitchen roll.
1. Put 120ml water in the saucepan with the 50g butter, the pinch of salt and stir until the butter has melted over a gentle heat.
2. Tip the flour into the saucepan in one go and stir the paste over the medium heat for three to five minutes.
3. Take the pan off the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time stirring until they are completely incorporated and the pastry is glossy and smooth.
4. Allow to cool.
5. Use some of the kitchen roll to oil the baking tray.
6. Spoon the cooled pastry into the icing bag and squeeze it down to remove the air.
7. Snip the end off the bag to leave a 2cm diameter hole
8. Pipe the pastry into 10cm strips using a little water to smooth down the ends.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack.
10. Once they are cool slice the éclairs lengthwise so that the top half is a shallower half and the bottom has room for the filling.
Step 2 – Dulce de leche crème Chantilly
You will need:
- 200ml whipping cream
- 50g dulce de leche (tinned condensed milk caramel)
Equipment needed: Whisk, mixing bowl, disposable piping bag
1. Whisk the cream until it is just beginning to leave the trail of the whisk on the surface of the cream, be careful not to over-whip it.
2. Stir in the dulce de leche and gently beat together until it is just incorporated.
3. Transfer the cream into the piping bag and rest in the fridge.
4. Pipe the cream into the bottom half of your éclairs.
Step 3 – Chocolate fondant icing
You will need:
- 100g white fondant icing
- 10g cocoa (good quality)
- 20ml water
Equipment needed: saucepan, scales, wooden spoon, wire rack.
1. Melt the fondant in a saucepan over a gentle heat.
2. Stir in the cocoa and water until you have a smooth paste.
3. Use a knife to spread the fondant over the top half of your éclairs.
4. Allow to set on the wire rack.
Step 4 – Almond Praline/Spun sugar
You will need:
- 200g caster sugar
- 100g flaked almonds
Equipment needed: saucepan, greaseproof paper, knives
1. Gently melt the sugar in a saucepan until all the sugar has melted into a golden caramel, you may need to swirl the pan to ensure that all the sugar is liquid.
2. Tip the flaked almonds into the caramel and stir gently until they are all coated in sugar.
3. Spread the praline into a thin layer on the greaseproof paper, you may need to thin it while it is still hot using more oiled greaseproof paper. Once the praline has cooled cut the praline into shapes and continue to decorate your éclairs.
When we finished our eclairs, it was time for the taste test…
Mine are officially GBBO approved!
Bake with a Legend was started by Josh Landy, founder of Play With a Legend (where sport fans can play a sport with their idol), and the baking class really is the ideal experience for hen-dos, birthdays, or even corporate events – and the perfect Christmas gift for cooking or baking fanatics! Each lesson is three hours long, takes care of everything from the ingredients to the apron, mentors you throughout the recipe, and at the end of the lesson you can take the recipe home with you to try again at home!