Last week, expert cake-maker and TV presenter Eric Lanlard graced the delicious. kitchen with a towering kitsch croquembouche. We watched – jaws dropped and stomachs rumbling – as he piped, iced and built up a castle of éclairs with hot caramel. It didn’t last long after he’d left.
His tips for foolproof eclairs flowed thick and fast, just like the crème patissière. Here are some golden secrets we managed to snatch. Thank you, Eric.
You want your choux pastry to be dry enough that it won’t collapse. Eric suggests opening your oven midway through baking to let the steam out. Then, once baked and cooled, put your éclairs back in the oven at 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4 to dehydrate the pastry, which helps them stay crisp.
For full flavour
Stir vanilla paste or extract into your crème patissière filling at the end so the full flavour comes through and doesn’t get lost through heating.
Fill your éclairs as close to serving them as you can – preferably on the day – or they’ll go soft.
Match flavourings to colours: Use rose essence to match pink icing, and violet essence for purple. Caramel on caramel, anyone?
Before baking, drag a fork over the top of the piped éclair mixture to flatten the surface.* For extra volume and gloss, whisk up cooled crème patissière in a stand mixer.
To ice your éclairs, cover your spoon with plenty of fondant, draw it up and let the fondant glaze fall like a ribbon from the centre of the spoon back into the bowl. Once you’ve mastered an even ribbon shape, feed your filled éclair into the icing. Slowly drape the fondant over the top of the éclair and break off the flow of icing once you’ve reached the top of the pastry.
If you can’t get a perfect line of icing, wipe it with your finger to smooth it out– it will still keep its shine and your éclairs will look beautiful!
Make a caramel to stick éclairs together for a magnificent croquembouche.
Check out our recipe for éclairs here and have a play.