For me, blueberries are a fruit laden with delicious memories of summers’ past. Hot July days of my youth were often spent picking plump, purple berries off the prolific bush on our farm and popping them directly into my greedy little mouth. Or, perhaps better yet, were our blueberry-rich annual summer trips up to Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park. Mom would arm us with little tin pails as we hiked the hills, cool, salty sea breezes on our faces, in search of plump blueberries and good, lazy summer fun that filled our days and spilled over into happy, deep dreams each evening.
All these years later, blueberries from Maine (and now peaches from South Carolina), are still the fruits of summer in my mind. These delicious eclairs, adapted from my upcoming book, The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs (Gibbes Smith, October 2013) are a beautiful way to put them to use.
Lemon Blueberry Cream Eclairs with a Chocolate Glaze
(Yields 12 to 16 standard-size éclairs)
(Photo by Alexandra Defurio)
A purée of fresh blueberries blended into a rich pastry cream give the filling for these beauties a regal purple color. The mild flavor of the berries is lightly enhanced with fresh lemon juice. Fresh, sugar-coated berries sit atop a ganache glaze to provide an enticing clue as to what’s inside. You could easily substitute the same quantity of fresh raspberries or blackberries using the same method for a color and flavor variation. Just switch out the garnish to match the corresponding berry-enriched filling. Make the pastry cream and the ganache ahead, so they can chill and set up, or borrow from a previously prepared batch.
These will chill nicely for several hours before serving. They are superb with a cold glass of Champagne or sparkling wine garnished with 3 or 4 fresh, frozen blueberries to serve as edible ice cubes.
This is basically a three-part process, that’s easy when approached as follows. First, prepare the choux and bake the eclairs. These will store wonderfully in the freezer in a plastic freezer bag for several days. The day before serving, prepare the pastry cream and ganache. Finally, the pastry cream is finished with a cooked, fresh blueberry puree, piped into the fresh eclairs, a topped with ganache and sugar coated fresh blueberries.
Master Recipe Sweet Choux Pastry
Egg wash: 1 egg yolk, splash of water, pinch of salt, blended together
Equipment needed: 2 silicon mats or parchment paper, 2 half sheet baking pans, one 12″ piping bag, #804 round pastry tip, pastry brush.
1 cup water
3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
4 large eggs (about 1 cup), room temperature, beaten together
Egg wash: 1 egg, splash of water, pinch of salt, beaten together
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two half sheet baking pans with silicon mats or parchment paper. Prepare the pastry.
In a medium, sturdy saucepan, heat the water and butter together over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Once melted, reduce heat to medium.
Sift together the two flours and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, and set the bowl nearby. Stir the dough vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring it together. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball. Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl and let sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 10 seconds. Add half of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.
Pipe the warm choux into 3″-long, 1 1/2″ wide eclair “logs.” Brush lightly with the egg wash. Bake 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 375F, rotating the sheets if necessary for even browning, and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a pastry rack. Pierce the bottom of each gently with the tip of a sharp knife three times, once near each end of the length of the éclairs and once in the center.
Master Recipe Pastry Cream
(Yields 2 1/2 cups)
This cornerstone custard filling for both cream puffs and éclairs is mildly sweet, unctuous and pale gold in color. Egg yolks and cornstarch work together to thicken the custard, while whole milk lends creamy flavor. 2 cups warm milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Generous pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it reaches a very low simmer, about 3 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together vigorously until they are lemony in color and thickened, about 2 minutes. Sift together the sugar, salt and cornstarch and add all at once to the eggs. Whisk vigorously for another minute. The mixture will have a glossy sheen. Very gradually at first, drizzle the warm milk into the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Add the remaining milk in thirds, whisking constantly. Strain the mixture through a China cap and return the pastry cream to the same pan used to heat the milk. Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat. The cream will start to thicken almost instantly. Continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cream is thick enough to hold in a spoon, like a custard or pudding. Using a spatula, guide the custard into a clean, glass bowl. Whisk in the butter and vanilla extract until combined. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down over the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set.
For the garnish:
1⁄ 2 cup Ganache/Hot Chocolate Sauce, recipe follows:
(Yield: 1 1/2 cups)
Cold or room temperature, ganache works beautifully as a glaze for sweet cream puffs and eclairs. I add a bit of salt, and vanilla and coffee extracts and salt to pump up the chocolate flavor. This stores beautifully in the refrigerator for a couple of days, covered. For a glaze, remove from the refrigerator for 15 – 20 minutes to soften it up for spreading. You will have extra left-over for another use.
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup coarsely chopped, best-quality dark bittersweet chocolate
Generous pinch sea or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coffee extract
In a medium sauce pan, bring the cream up to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the chopped dark chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the sauce is a dark, chocolate color. Off the heat, stir in the remaining ingredients. To reserve warm, store in a Thermos, serve in the next several minutes, or reheat gently over low heat. To store cold, refrigerate in a covered container for later use as a glaze or re-constituted sauce.
To finish the eclair garnish:
1⁄4 cup dampened fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar
Putting it all together!
Blueberry Sauce to Finish the Pastry Cream filling :
2 cups fresh blueberries
1⁄4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons water
Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups prepared, cold Pastry Cream (recipe above)
Bring the blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, water and salt up to a simmer over high heat in a medium sauce pan. Reduce to medium. Cook until the blueberries begin to pop and soften, stirring occasionally, a total of about 6 to 7 minutes. Using a blender or a hand-held emulsion blender, purée the mixture until very smooth. Return the mixture to the same pan, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer until thickened and reduced to a total of 1 cup.
Refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the pastry cream with the cooled blueberry sauce (“coulis”) until smooth and blended. Using a pastry bag fitted with a #802 round pastry tip, gently pipe the filling into each of the three knife piercings on the bottom of each éclair. Using a clean fingertip, garnish the top of each with a heaping tablespoon of ganache spread out into a smooth layer over the top of the éclair. Just before garnishing, run the reserved 1 ⁄ 4 cup blueberries under water and strain well. Toss with the sugar. Garnish the top of each éclair with a horizontal string of 5 blueberries along the top, pressed gently into the ganache.