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Caramel Eclairs (Inspired by Simply Irresistible)

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Level: Intermediate

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I love movies and food. After watching ” Simply Irresistible” with Sarah Michele Gellar and Sean Patrick Flannery, I had to make some eclairs. I never found a recipe so I made up my own. It takes time, but it is well worth the effort. It’s in three parts because it is all from scratch. The caramel and cream filling can be made ahead of time to save time.

Ingredients

  • FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE:
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • ½ cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • _____
  • FOR THE PASTRY CREAM:
  • 6 whole Egg Yolks, Large
  • 1 whole Egg (large)
  • ¾ cups Plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • 3 cups Whole Milk
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter, Unsalted
  • 2 teaspoons Almond Extract (can Substitute Vanilla Extract)
  • ½ teaspoons Orange Extract (optional With Almond Extract)
  • _____
  • FOR THE ECLAIR DOUGH:
  • 1 cup Water
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • ½ cups Butter, Unsalted
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 5 whole Eggs
  • 2 Pastry Bags (1/2 Inch Tip And Smaller One For Filling)

Preparation

Homemade Caramel Sauce:
Important! Ensure all ingredients are ready to go in the pot before starting. Sugar cooks very quickly and burnt sugar tastes horrible (it smells even worse).

1) Heat sugar on high heat in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan (adding butter and cream causes sugar to bubble up pretty high, so you need high sides for making caramel).
2) Stir constantly with a whisk until all the crystals have melted and the liquid is a nice amber color. Immediately add in the butter. Whisk vigorously until the butter is melted.
3) When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and add cream (it will foam up quite a bit; don’t worry this is supposed to happen).
4) Whisk until caramel is smooth. Let cool 2-3 minutes in pan and pour into a glass container to store. Make sure caramel sauce comes to room temperature before storing in fridge. Stores in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Cream Filling:
Make sure you have a rimmed baking sheet set aside to cool your filling.
1) Mix together the egg yolks, egg, and the 2 Tablespoons of sugar.
2) Add the cornstarch and flour to the eggs using a whisk. Mix until smooth and pale yellow. Set aside.
3) In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk and remaining sugar. Heat and stir until the milk begins to steam.
4) Pour half of the hot milk into a measuring cup. While whisking the egg mixture, slowly pour the hot milk (from the measuring cup) into the egg mixture and whisk till smooth.
5) Pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk (this is to prevent the egg from cooking) and bring to a boil, still whisking to prevent scorching; you will have some great wrists and forearms after all this!
6) Remove from heat. Stir in butter and extracts.
7) Transfer the pastry cream to the baking sheet and spread in a thin layer. Cover the entire surface with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap into the surface of the cream (smooth out as many air bubbles as you can). Then put into refrigerator and chill for about 15 minutes. Use immediately or store in airtight container up to 3 days.

Eclair Pastry (the end is near I promise):
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
1) Heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter until the butter melts. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
2) Immediately add the flour and stir quickly with a wooden spoon, until smooth.
3) Set the mixture over low heat and stir constantly for 4 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 3-4 minutes.
4) Add 1 egg and beat it thoroughly into the mixture. Add 3 more eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5) Beat the 5th egg in a small bowl. Add this egg little by little, beating in between, until the dough becomes shiny and forms a string (by touching the batter with a finger and lifting away; a string should form). If it does not form a string when all of the egg has been added, add water 1 teaspoon at a time until it tests with a string.
6) Fit a pastry bag with 1/2 inch tip, fill with dough and pipe thick fingers of dough about 3 inches long. Dip a fork in water and lightly make crisscrosses on each finger.
7) Bake about 10 minutes at 425 and then reduce to 350 degrees F. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn off oven and prop door open slightly. Allow the eclairs to stay in oven for 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack.

If serving immediately, fill while warm. If you are waiting to serve them, use a skewer or chopstick (that’s what I have) and poke a hole in one end. Wiggle little to allow room to fill with pastry cream. And then don’t fill it until you are ready to serve it.

Putting it together:
1) Remove pastry cream from refrigerator and stir to soften.
2) Fit a pastry bag with a tip small enough to fit in the hole you made in the pastry. Fill bag with cream filling. Fill each pastry finger with cream.
3) Remove caramel sauce from fridge and warm to allow for easy dipping.
4) Dip the tops of each finger into the caramel sauce. Let excess drip off before turning over and dipping the next one.

Once all the fingers are dipped, sit back, take a deep breath, admire the beauty of all your hard work…then ENJOY!

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