Christmas Wreath Éclairs

Why not plan ahead and make a batch of these delicious éclairs and freeze the pastry shells now? A perfect dessert over Christmas and luckily, they are not too tricky to make! I have given this classic a bit of a twist by veering away from the traditional shape to make these pretty wreaths, just in time for the upcoming festive season. They will defrost in about an hour, whip up the cream, drizzle over the chocolate icing and serve!

Tip – For younger taste buds, try using a lighter, sweeter chocolate icing in place of the dark – Mix 150g icing sugar with 3 tsp cocoa in a bowl. Stir in 4-5 tsp of water and 1 tsp liquid glucose, aiming for the consistency of double cream.

eclairs

Makes 6

50g unsalted butter, softened, in pieces, plus more for the trays (optional)
pinch of fine salt
½ tsp caster sugar
80g plain flour, sifted
2 eggs

FOR THE FILLING
250ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp icing sugar

FOR THE DARK CHOCOLATE ICING
150g dark chocolate,
finely chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp icing sugar

TO DECORATE tiny gold edible stars

TOOLS large piping bag fitted with 1–1.5cm nozzle

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Line two baking trays with baking parchment, or butter two trays well.
Put the butter and 125ml of water, the salt and sugar into a pan and place over a gentle heat until melted, then increase the heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the pan. Reduce the heat to very low and beat for 30 seconds to dry the mixture a little, but not too much or the éclairs will crack in the oven. Cool for three or four minutes. Set one egg aside, place in a bowl and break it up with a fork. Crack the other egg into the mixture and beat it in. Gradually add the remaining egg, beating hard after each addition. You may not need it all. The dough will become shiny and fall from the spoon.
Spoon it into the piping bag, and pipe six 10cm diameter circles on the baking trays. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake for 15–20 minutes, until crisp. Slit the side of each and leave to cool.
For the filling, whip the cream to soft peaks, then add the vanilla and icing sugar. Split the éclairs in half and pipe in the cream.
For the dark icing, place a heatproof bowl over simmering water; the bowl should not touch the water. Place the chocolate, 2 tbsp of water and the butter in the bowl and melt. Sift in the icing sugar, mix and cool slightly. Spread your choice of icing (see TIP for light chocolate icing) over the éclairs, allow it to set slightly and finally sprinkle with stars.

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