Move aside macarons. There’s another French treat in town that’s ready to stake its claim as the hottest dessert: the delectable éclair.
Just ask Johnny Iuzzini, the James Beard Award-winning chef who’s headed the sweets menus of Michelin-star restaurants like Daniel and Jean Georges, and has been tapped by The Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts to develop a series of specialty éclairs in response to the growing trend. “Now more than ever, pastry chefs are putting their own creative spin on the classic French pastry, which allows for greater versatility when combining flavors and textures,” he says.
You can find his gourmet delights at all the hotel’s locations, and in addition to standbys like coffee, chocolate and vanilla, each will serve an additional flavor that’s driven by ingredients from local farmers' markets. For example, in San Francisco, you’ll find gorgeous blueberry and corn-filled shells that are dipped in honey glaze and topped with almonds, fennel pollen and fresh honeycomb.
Up for a challenge? Take this culinary trend head-on by making them yourself! Here’s a recipe for Coffee-Cardamom Éclairs with Chocolate Glaze from the pages of Iuzzini’s upcoming book Sugar Rush (available Sept 30). To up their cuteness, make them mini (2-inches) and sprinkle them with ice cream toppings to add color and texture. (The accouterments also help cover up any blemishes if your glaze is looking less-than-perfect.) These puppies will make you everyone’s favorite guest, guaranteed.
Read on for the delicious recipe!
Makes about 1 dozen 4-inch éclairs
½ cup plus 2 tsp whole milk
½ cup plus 2 tsp water
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1¼ cups bread flour
4 to 5 large eggs
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 cups pastry cream or flavored whipped cream, for filling (recipes follow)
Shiny Chocolate Glaze, for dipping (recipe follows)
1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
2 In a large saucepan, slowly bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined and evenly moistened.
3 Return the pan to medium-low heat and stir continuously for 3 to 4 minutes to dry out the mixture. The dough should pull away from the sides of the pan, and a skin should begin to form in the base of the pan. Transfer the dough to a standing mixer bowl and use the spoon to spread the dough out in a thin layer against the sides of the bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes, until cool.
4 Attach the paddle to the bowl and turn the mixer on to low speed. Add 2 of the eggs and mix until completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Turn the mixer back on to low and add another egg; mix until incorporated. After 3 eggs, the dough should hold a peak when you pull the paddle out of the dough but should immediately fold over onto itself. If too firm, add the fourth egg and mix well. The dough should now be smooth, elastic, and firm enough to pipe and hold its shape but not runny. You can test it by putting a heaping tablespoon on a plate. The dough should collapse slightly but still hold a rounded shape. If the dough is still too firm, beat another egg in a small bowl until combined and add about half of it to the dough; mix on low speed until incorporated and check the consistency. If the dough is still too firm add the remaining ½ egg and mix well; if it seems runny, refrigerate the dough for 15 to 20 minutes before piping.
5 Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a 7/16-inch star tip (Ateco #825).
6 To pipe, hold the piping bag at a 90-degree angle away from you and start squeezing the bag. When the dough starts to flow, pull the bag up and over the point where you started (as if creating an S) toward you and pipe 3 ½ -to- 4-inch long cylinders. When long enough, stop squeezing and lift the bag straight up and over the dough, which will leave a point at the closest end.
7 With a wet finger, press the points into the dough where you stopped piping; the surface of the puffs should be very smooth, and the éclairs should have rounded ends with no point. Use a wet finger to mold any misshapen éclairs. Spray a light coating of cooking spray over the surface of the puffs or éclairs. Put the pans in the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 325°F, and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pans and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes, until deep golden brown and the puffs or éclairs feel hollow.
8 Cool the cream puffs or éclairs completely on the pans before filling or freezing them.
9 To fill éclairs, poke a small hole in one end. Attach a small plain tip to a pastry bag, fill it with pastry cream or flavored whipped cream, and insert the tip into the hole in the puff. Squeeze the pastry bag gently until the puff feels heavy and you see cream beginning to leak out of the hole around the tip. Place the filled puffs upright on a serving plate or tray, cover, and refrigerate for no more than 4 hours, until ready to glaze or serve.
10 To glaze éclairs, the glaze must be very cool and thick. Dip a spoon into it and hold it upright- the glaze should hold fast and not run. If it drips, let the glaze stand for a few more minutes. To glaze the éclairs, grasp the éclair parallel to the glaze. Holding on to the sides with your fingers just below the halfway point, dip the top third of the éclair into the chocolate, and hold it over the bowl so that the excess glaze drips off. You can rotate the éclair slightly in your hand to help get excess glaze off the top. Set the éclairs upright on a tray. Once the glaze has set, cover and refrigerate the éclairs for up to 1 day until ready to serve.
COFFEE-CARDAMOM PASTRY CREAM
Makes about 2 ½ cups
2 cups whole milk, plus more as needed
½ cup coffee beans, crushed
15 cardamom pods, crushed
½ cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
1 In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, coffee beans and cardamom pods to a simmer over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass measuring cup and press on the solids in the strainer with a rubber spatula to remove all of the milk. Replace any milk that has evaporated with fresh milk so you have a total of 2 cups again. Return the infused milk to the saucepan.
2 In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, until the milk is very hot and steaming but not boiling.
3 Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
4 In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until well mixed and homogenous. Whisk the sugar mixture into the eggs until lightened and fluffy.
5 While whisking, pour about a third of the hot milk over the yolk mixture and whisk very well until combined. Add another third of the hot milk and whisk well. Whisk in the remaining milk and pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Return the pan to medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil. Once it is bubbling, whisk the mixture vigorously at a boil for 2 full minutes.
6 Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, a little at a time. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a small baking sheet or cake pan, pressing the cream in the strainer to remove any cooked egg bits. Spread the pastry cream into a thin layer on the sheet; lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Cool the pastry cream to room temperature; refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
7 When ready to use, transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to loosen it. Pastry cream should be used within 3 days.
COFFEE-CARDAMOM WHIPPED CREAM
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups cream
½ cup espresso beans, crushed but not powdered
15 cardamon pods, crushed
1 vanilla bean, scraped
¼ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 Combine the cream, coffee, vanilla bean seeds and pod. Whisk gently together and allow to infuse in the refrigerator overnight.
2 Strain through a fine mesh strainer, whisk in the sugar and taste. Add more sugar is you prefer sweeter.
3 Whip to desired consistency.
SHINY CHOCOLATE GLAZE
Makes about 2 cups
4.25 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
1 cup simple syrup
6 tbsp plus 2 tsp dark cocoa powder
1 Put the chocolate into a medium bowl.
2 Bring the simple syrup to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in the cocoa powder until dissolved; return the mixture to a boil.
3 Make a small well in the center of the chocolate and pour about a quarter of the syrup into it. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture in small circles in the center of the bowl until the chocolate liquefies.
4 Add another quarter of the syrup and stir in tight rotations in the center of the bowl, slowly working outward to pull in more solid chocolate; mix until smooth in the center. Add the syrup in 2 more additions, stirring from the center out, pulling in more solid chocolate, until the glaze is very smooth and shiny.
5 Let stand until room temperature before using.