A line from one of my all time favorite books: They took pleasure in seeing the eclairs they had chosen wheeled away by attendants, as if to a select nursing home, to be injected with fresh whipped cream.
I’ve never eaten eclairs in a cafe in Vienna, where this scene takes place, but I’m fairly confident nothing I make in my kitchen could compare to the eclairs you would find there. I’m certainly not as precious with my baked goods. Then again, this is the land of sachertorte and the original Danish pastry dough…so it would be pointless to even try. But despite that handicap, and completely regardless of the lack of dairy, these eclairs are very, very good.
The base is my coconut oil pate a choux dough, first seen in cream puffs, but the real star is the pastry cream. It’s made primarily with coconut milk, so it’s as thick and rich as anything made with dairy. (Sidenote: mine was initially too thick because I used twice as much cornstarch as I needed. Whoops. Don’t be like me…stick to the recipe). You could go an easier route and just use coconut whipped cream to fill them instead. But the rich pastry cream is pretty spectacular.
Plus the chocolate! Don’t forget the chocolate. It takes all of two seconds and I shouldn’t have to tell you but…don’t forget the chocolate.
Eclairs, like the ladyfingers I made recently, seem like something you just wouldn’t make in your home kitchen. Right? But they’re totally worth it, plus you can make them more high-vibe than anything you would buy. Not to mention, do any bakeries outside of Europe even sell eclairs? Because I don’t think I’ve ever seen them.
Plus (best part) if you want, you can pretend to work in a special pastry nursing home when you carefully fill your shells with cream.
You’re right, never mind, it was less weird in the book quote.
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Coconut Oil Chocolate Eclairs
Makes 6-7 eclairs
For the pastry cream:
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup almond milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla
For the pate a choux:
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup all purpose flour
For the chocolate glaze:
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
A few tablespoons almond milk
First make the pastry cream. In a bowl, vigorously whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt until smooth. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat together the coconut milk and almond milk until simmering. Add a little bit of the milk to the egg mixture and whisk together. Add a little more milk, still whisking. Continue to add the hot milk slowly to temper the eggs until all of the milk is added. Return the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until it thickens. Add the vanilla, then whisk to smooth the mixture and cook for a minute more on the heat. Remove from heat, pour the pastry cream into a container or bowl, and put in the fridge to cool with a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
While the pastry cream is cooling, make the eclairs. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, coconut oil, and water. Cook over medium heat until the coconut oil is completely melted, then bring to a bowl over medium high heat. Remove the pan from the heat, add the flour all at once, then stir with a wooden spoon until completely combined. Return to heat, and continue to stir the mixture until it forms a smooth ball and comes away from the side of the pan (about 1-2 minutes). Using a hand mixer or an electric mixer, beat the dough on low speed to release some steam and cool it down, about 1 minute. Next, add the eggs one at a time, waiting a little bit after each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Continue to beat for at least two minutes after you add the last egg, until you have a smooth, glossy batter.
Using a pastry bag (or a spoon if you don’t have one), make fingers about 3 inches long on the baking sheet. Baker for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350F and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and remove the pan from the oven. Poke a holes in each of your cream puffs, then place back in the oven until the shells are dried out, about 15-20 minutes.
Finally, while the eclairs are baking, make the chocolate glaze. Sift (or be lazy and whisk) the cacao powder and powdered sugar together. Add the almond milk, one tablespoon at a time, until completely smooth and a thick but pourable consistency. To serve, cut a little hole into the end of an eclair and insert a pastry bag filled with the pastry cream. Fill the eclair with cream (be careful not to overstuff it), then dip upside down in the chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.