Pate a choux, the dough used to make eclairs and cream puffs, can be extremely tricky to get right. It's a staple in most bakeries though, and with good reason. There are limitless opportunities for fillings and toppings and it's hard to go wrong. Cream puffs traditionally are filled with sweetened whipped cream and eclairs usually are filled with pastry cream.
Pate a Choux recipe:
1 cup AP Flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 T granulated sugar
1 pinch of salt
5 1/2 T butter
Will yield 10 eclairs or 25 small cream puffs
Sift the flour and set aside. Boil the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt. Remove from heat and pour in the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly over low-medium heat until the starches release from the flour and cooks at the bottom of the pan, creating a light golden brown layer at the bottom of the pan (about 8 minutes). Transfer the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix the dough for a few minutes, allowing the steam to release and the dough to cool. Add eggs one at a time, mixing fully after each time. Mix about 6-7 minutes. To test if the dough is ready, lift the paddle out and if the dough forms a V shape of at least 3 inches, it is ready. While the dough is mixing, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and line 2 sheet pans with parchment or silpat. When the dough is ready, scrape into a pastry bag with either a star or plain tip. Pipe into oval shapes about 3 1/2 inches long for eclairs, or for cream puffs, pipe into roses about 1 1/2 inches long. Transfer into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375. Bake for about another 10 minutes until they start to turn golden. Reduce again to about 300 degrees and bake until a deep golden brown. Allow to cool completely and then using a serrated knife, cut in half lengthwise. Alternatively, you can make a small cut at the bottom of each eclair and using a pastry bag, fill with whatever filling you decide to use.
Brown Sugar Pastry Cream:
1 cup whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup of brown sugar, whisked to remove any clumps
4 T cornstarch, sifted or whisked
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 T butter
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium sized saucepan, whisk together the yolks, brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla until uniform. Slowly whisk in the milk a third at a time and then place over low heat. Using a spatula, continuously stir, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan. Cook until thickened then remove from the heat and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the butter until fully incorporated. Place plastic wrap directly over so a skim layer does not form and then allow to cool completely.
Strawberry Jam recipe:
About 1 pint of strawberries, washed, trimmed and quartered
1 lemon, squeezed
About 5 T of sugar, or to taste
Combine the strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Cook over low-medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. To test when the jam is ready, take a cold plate and spoon about a teaspoon out on it, allowing it to cool. If it is still runny, the jam is not ready. When ready, take off the heat and allow it to cool completely.
Vanilla Whipped Cream recipe:
1/2 cup of heavy cream
About 4 T of powdered sugar, or to taste
Vanilla Extract to taste
Using the whisk attachment, whip together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Avoid over whipping since you will be piping it out which can further agitate the whipped cream.