I’ve already told you a bit of my New Year’s Eve adventures, so I’ve decided to also share the recipe for these delicious deconstructed Vodka Martini Eclairs with lemon zest and green olive powder (yup, how could I have missed that!?). I’ve packaged the recipe with a few tips on making éclairs. They’re not difficult, just timely.
100 recipes, and all confusing
Unfortunately none of my cookbooks contain any éclair recipe, so every time I made them, I had to follow recipes online. The only thing: when it comes to baking the choux pastry, they’re all different. Different temperatures, different time, and I’m not sure I did something wrong, but until I found my own technique, I kept failing.
How to get the choux pastry right
The choux pastry itself is not that difficult to make, however, if cooked for too long, the butter will separate and the éclairs won’t grow. I ruined two of the seven batches of the choux pastry I made for New Year’s Eve like that.
It’s not you, it’s the choux
When you start piping the éclairs, the pastry should not be very hard – basically, if you struggle shaping them straight, and instead feel like everything is a bit wobbly, it’s likely that the choux pastry is overcooked (so don’t start underestimating your piping skills, nothing’s wrong with them!).
So, how do you get it right?
There are two steps where you need to be careful: when you add the flour – again, don’t overcook it. Once the dough rolls into a ball and is no longer sticky, it’s time to add the eggs. I actually remove the pot from the heat when I add the flour, stir it and if it doesn’t incorporate properly, then I put it back onto the stove for a couple of seconds and stir well.
The second misstep is when adding the eggs. This is why I also remove the pot from the stove when adding them. If the pot is very hot or over high heat, the eggs will cook and you’ll end up with a choux omelette rather than choux pastry. When adding the eggs, remove the pot from the heat and stir well. At first it will look like a big mess, but as you stir, the eggs will slowly incorporate into the dough. The choux pastry should be sticky and smooth.
In order to avoid burning your fingers, let the pastry cool for a couple of minutes before starting to pipe your éclairs.
- For the choux, I used this recipe from the BBC.
- For the pastry cream, I used this base recipe to which I added my own flavourings.
- 50g unsalted butter
- 120ml water
- 65g flour, sifted
- a pinch of salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 350ml milk (1 mug)
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 4 egg yolks
- 65g sugar
- 15g flour
- 15g cornflour
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp vodka
- 3 tbsp Martini bianco
- 1 cup of icing sugar
- 1 tbsp milk (or water)
- ¼ tsp yellow food colouring
- 4 green olives
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- Preheat your oven at 180ºC.
- In order to make the choux, melt the butter and water on medium heat. When it starts simmering slightly, add the flour and salt (in one go), remove from the heat and stir well, until the pastry will turn into a ball and will no longer stick to the spoon/whisk or pot.
- Add the eggs and continue stirring until you obtain a smooth paste. Let cool for a couple of minutes.
- Add baking paper to your baking sheet and start piping the éclairs. They should be about 7-10cm long and very straight. Keep at least 1-2cm in between the éclairs as they will rise and you don’t want them to stick to each other.
- Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
- While the éclairs are baking, prepare the pastry cream. Mix the yolks with the sugar in a bowl until they become whiter in colour. Add the flour and salt and continue mixing until thoroughly combined.
- Heat the milk, vanilla and lemon extract until they start to simmer (don’t let them boil!) and stir constantly. Remove from the heat, let it cool for about a minute, then carefully add about half to the yolk, sugar and flour mix and stir well until combined. Be careful: if the milk mix is too hot, it will cook the yolks and the pastry cream will be ruined.
- Return the pot to the stove, this time on low heat and slowly add the yolk mix. Stir well for about 10 minutes, until you obtain a creamy paste. Add the vodka and martini a couple of minutes before the end. Once done, let the pastry cream cool before you start filling the eclairs.
- Preheat the oven at 160ºC and place the olives on a little tray. Let them dehydrate for about an hour, until they become hard and crumbly.
- Once cool, use a straw to pierce the éclairs and make space for the filling. Add the pastry cream to the piping bag and fill the éclairs with the thinnest nozzle of the piping bag.
- Prepare the icing by mixing icing sugar, milk and food colouring and add a thin layer of it to each éclair. You can either use a brush, or simply dunk the upper surface into the icing. Finally sprinkle some of the crumbled green olive powder and lemon zest onto the éclairs. Keep them refrigerated if possible. Enjoy!