Right before I moved to Paris, I remember speaking with a friend about how excited I was to learn real French pastry: “You know, like, éclairs and millefeuilles and those puff pastry bits… but I really want to know how to make éclairs.” I now do. And have perfected those little buggers into gluten-free form for you, yours, and all those who are either not able to eat gluten or fly to France for pastry. (Take it to you, take it to you!)
Eclairs are made of:
1. “choux” pastry – which is made of liquid, either water or milk, wheat flour, egg, and butter
2. pastry cream – which is traditionally composed of milk, egg, wheat flour, cornstarch, and whatever flavoring it receives and
3. some sort of “fondant” glaze topping – generally made of glucose which is almost always derived from wheat for cost purposes
That being said, if you have an aversion to wheat, forget about éclairs no matter what country you live in. What’s more, for those with lactose sensitivities, the cream filling ain’t exactly the easiest thing to hold down because of the high percentage of lactose that has not been cultured.
Do you have a stove? Do you have an oven? (Even if it is a tiny European toaster one like yours truly.) You’re good to go to bring that éclair to you. Gluten-free.
with a vanilla rice milk pastry cream filling
and caramel topping
1 cup (250 ml) water
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tbs. (100 g) butter, cut into 1” cubes
1 tsp. (4 g) salt
1 tsp. (4 g) sugar
1 cup (130 g) rice flour
1/3 cup (40 g) arrowroot starch
2 cups (500 ml) rice milk
1 tsp. (a large pinch) vanilla
4 egg yolks (raw)
1 1/4 cup (125 g) sugar, divided
1/4 cup (30 g) arrowroot starch
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Cooling time: 30 minutes-1 hour
Makes many many tiny éclairs (would feed about 8 if all you were having is éclairs)
1. Prepare pastry cream: Whisk together egg yolks and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk right away and quickly so that you do not accidentally cook your eggs with the sugar. Whisk in starch until “blanched”, aka lighter in color and homogenous. Bring milk, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan and remove from heat. Immediately pour 1/4 of the mixture into the egg yolk mixture whisking as you go. Then add the entirety of the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan (whisking) and put back over heat. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling and keep whisking the whole time. To check for doneness, the pastry cream should stick to the back of a metal spoon and should leave a line if you run your finger over it. (“à la nappe”)
2. Cover pastry cream in a large metal bowl with plastic film touching the cream and pop in the fridge immediately to cool down. (Putting the plastic film in direct contact with it will eliminate insulation and help it cool down more quickly.)
3. Prepare your choux pastry: Measure out all of your ingredients before you start cooking, and mix together rice flour, sugar, salt, and arrowroot starch in a medium bowl. Heat water and butter together in a large enough saucepan until butter is melted and the concoction has boiled for about 15 seconds. Remove from heat. Quickly stir in the flour mixture, mixing well until homogenous. Put the mixture back over medium heat and keep stirring it to dry it out for about 30-45 seconds. You don’t want it to be sticky anymore.
4. Remove from heat and put in a large mixing bowl. Add your eggs and stir in until homogenous one at a time. Mixture should be like a very thick cake batter. Spoon into a pastry sack with a 3/4” wide tip (or put in a plastic bag and cut out a tip that size). Pipe out your éclairs into desired length (for minis do about 3”, for normal sized ones do about 5”) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, not waxed paper. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, or until top is golden, it has poofed up, and the inside is cooked through (not egg-y anymore). You might just have to test one by eating it when you are very sure they are done. It just might have to be done. Just saying.
5. Remove choux pastry from oven and let cool to the touch before filling with your pastry cream. During this time, you can spoon the pastry cream (or other filling) into a pastry bag with a small metal tip and set up the ingredients to make your caramel! If you do not have a pastry bag with a tip you might just want to cut the eclairs in half and spoon in the filling, because this requires a tip to do the filling method where you hardly see it.
6. Eclairs are cool to touch? Now you want to prepare them: cut a small hole in the end of the eclair on both sides. Pipe in your filling until the side starts to inflate and get full with pastry cream. Repeat with the other side. Turn it over. It’s filled. Repeat with all of the éclairs.
7. Make the caramel: Pour water then sugar into a saucepan and put over medium-high heat. Stir once right when you add the sugar then do not touch it or you will mess up your caramel. Let boil until you see the edges start to turn, you guessed it, caramel. About 5 minutes, but stay close as this is easy to mess up. Watch it change color and right when it all starts to look caramel-like remove from heat. Leave it in the saucepan to stay warm, because if it cools it will harden. Spoon the caramel on top of the éclairs in a thin line to make it look really pretty, let cool, and you’ve got something real special.
*If you don’t want to take the time to make pastry cream, you can fill it up with a dairy-free pre-made pudding, whipped cream (there are vegan options available out there), or your favorite allergy-safe ice cream. Simply cut the éclair in half and fill it up!