Churros are one of Miles’ favorite desserts. Because the can be a little labor intensive and not for the diet conscious, I don’t make them very often. Whenever I do, he and I sit and basically eat the entire pan with the hot chocolate. A couple of days ago he asked if I would make another batch. Since he was about to get braces, I thought this would be a nice treat for him before he goes to “tooth jail” for the next eighteen months. But this time, I decided to do something a little different. I saw a churro éclair somewhere online and thought I would recreate it. I will fully admit to feeling a little lazy, and channeled my inner Sandra Lee (from Semi-Homemade on the Food Network), making the churro éclairs from scratch while creating a semi-homemade pastry cream.
I was so glad I did! I was able to make the éclairs in half the time and the pastry cream was homemade enough that I was satisfied. I even talked myself into thinking that I was eating something low-fat. Churro dough and éclair dough are basically the same thing. It’s pâte à choux. The only difference is that you fry churros and the éclairs are baked. I’m sure I saved a few fat calories right there! At least enough for me to guiltlessly enough two, or three, or four! I decided not to keep track and focused on the decadent treat while Miles and I watched one of our favorite movies: Scott Pilgrim vs The World.
for the pâte à choux
- 1 cup water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
for the pastry cream
- 4 chocolate pudding cups
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
for the simple syrup
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
for the topping
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
make the pâte à choux
- Preheat the oven to 400° F and line tow baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup water, the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt over medium-high heat until the edges of the liquid start to bubble. Add the flour all at once and stir briskly with a wooden spoon until well mixed and no lumps of flour remain.
- Remove from the heat. Add 3 of the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each. The dough should look soft and glossy and keep a “hook” shape when the spoon is pulled from the dough.
- Scrape the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Holding the tip at a 45-degree angle to the baking sheet, pipe batons that are about ¾ inches wide and 4 inches long, leaving 1 to 1½ inches of space between them. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375°F (keep the oven door open for 3 to 5 seconds to bring down the oven temperature; if you’re baking two sheets at once, switch their position in the oven) and bake for another 15 minutes.
- Using a paring knife, prick each shell several times close to the bottom along one side. Return the shells to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes to dry out the eggy insides. Allow the shells to stand at room temperature until they are cool to the touch. You can leave them on the baking sheet or, if you prefer, you can transfer them to a wire cooling rack.
make the simple syrup and topping
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar and boiling water together until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
make the pastry cream
- In a medium bowl empty the containers of chocolate pudding and stir to combine. Set aside. In a small bowl, whip the vanilla, cinnamon and heavy whipping cream together until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream unto the chocolate pudding.
- Piping the filling: Use a sharp paring knife to make a small hole close to the bottom at both ends of each shell. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip with pastry cream. Starting at one end of the shell, pipe in the filling until it reaches the middle of the éclair. You’ll be able to feel the weight of the filling going in; you can give the middle a gentle squeeze to see if the cream has made it that far. Now do the same thing from the other end. You should have an éclair that is completely filled with pastry cream. Dip the top in the simple syrup, then roll the éclair into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Repeat with the remaining éclairs. Serve immediately.