– Yay for Christmas pastries! These chocolate mint eclairs will ring your jingle bells. –
When the holidays roll around, I turn to my staple Christmas sweets: cookies. Some candy. The occasional seasonal pie at dinner. While these tried and true favorites are always appreciated, have you ever thought about doing something a little different? Why not try Christmas pastries? I mean, seriously. WHY NOT?
A lot of folks cringe when they think of making pastry at home, believing the process is complicated, and that pastry projects are riddled with pitfalls at every turn. While some pastries can be finicky—making homemade puff pastry is certainly not on my “top ten fun things to do”—others, such as eclairs and cream puffs, are surprisingly easy to make, even for the home baker.
This year, why not try Christmas pastries?
Pâte à choux, the French term for the dough used to make eclairs and cream puffs, is a simple, versatile pastry dough. It consists of only four ingredients: butter, flour, eggs, and water. When piped into shapes on a cookie sheet and baked, the little mounds puff up to create a light, crisp pastry that can be filled with almost any filling you can think of. There are no limits when it comes to devising creative desserts with choux pastry. They also make perfect savory treats when stuffed with cheese or meat-based fillings, or you can add a little shredded cheese to the dough and enjoy them fresh out of the oven.
One of my favorite uses for choux-based Christmas pastry is éclairs – they’ve been my favorite dessert since I was a wee lass of four or five years old; the epitome of decadent in the dessert world. For Christmas, I’ve topped the classic pastry with a delectably mint ganache, making for a fabulous holiday treat that stays true to its roots. For decoration, you can scatter the still-wet ganache with holiday sprinkles, the the snowflake ones I’ve got in the photo. You can also try crushed candy canes, colored sugars, or just leave them plain.
- 1/2 cup butter, cut into 1-inch slices
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup flour
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, cut into chunks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped finely, or 12 ounces of chocolate chips
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons mint extract
- Center two racks in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425°F (218°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a pastry bag with a large, round tip. If you don't have a pastry bag, a zip-top bag with a corner snipped off will work just fine.
- Combine butter, water, sugar, and salt in a pot and bring to boil over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and stir quickly with a wooden spoon. Stirring constantly, cook the dough for about 2 minutes, or until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan and there is no more water pooled at the bottom. Remove from heat and let sit for 2 minutes, stirring four or five times to keep the dough from sticking to the bottom of the hot pan.
- Transfer the dough to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time. After all eggs are added, keep beating until the dough is a uniform consistency; it should be sticky and form soft peaks.
- Spoon the dough into a pastry bag or large zip-top bag with a big corner snipped off. Pipe the dough onto the prepared baking sheet in 6-inch long strips, about the width and length of an Italian sausage. Make sure to leave 2-inches of space between the pastries.
- Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C) and bake for another 30 minutes, or until pastries puff up and are a gorgeous golden color. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Once completely cool, cut the éclairs in half length-wise using a serrated bread knife.
- While the pastries are cooling, prepare pastry cream.
- In a heavy-bottomed 3-quart pot, whisk the milk and egg yolks together. Set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt.
- Set the pot of milk and yolks over medium flame, heating just until bubbles form around the edges and the surface starts to steam. Sprinkle in the flour mixture, whisking quickly to break up any lumps. Bring the pastry cream just to a boil, stirring constantly, and reduce heat to low. Cook until the cream thickens and heavily coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.
- Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until fully incorporated. Let pastry cream cool completely before using.
- Pour chocolate into a metal mixing bowl. Find a pot large enough to comfortably accommodate the metal mixing bowl without the whole bowl dropping inside. Set the bowl with the chocolate aside. Fill the empty pot halfway with water and set over medium heat to boil. Once the water is at a boil, reduce flame to low so that the water stays hot without boiling away.
- Add whipping cream, butter and mint extract to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly, heat the cream to just about boiling, but don’t let it actually come to a boil. You should see bubbles forming around the edges of the pot. If you’re using a thermometer, the temperature of the cream should be about 180°F (82°C)
- Set the bowl of chocolate into the pot of boiling water, creating a double boiler. Immediately pour hot cream over chopped chocolate and whisk until completely smooth. Remove chocolate from heat and allow to cool for a 5 minutes.
- Remove the top half of the éclairs and spoon pastry cream into the bottom portion of the puff pastry. Replace the top and set the pastries on a cooling rack with a piece of foil spread underneath.
- Drizzle the éclairs with warm ganache, scooping up any extra icing from the foil and pouring it back into the bowl. If the ganache begins to harden, set it back over the double boiler and stir until it warms up and loosen a bit.
- Sprinkle the drizzled éclairs with crushed candy canes, colored sugar, or other festive sprinkles.
Nutritional analysis is based on getting 10 eclairs from recipe.
This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.