Dulce de Leche éclairs

>> Monday, March 21, 2011

I recall learning the word, compartimenter, from my high school French classes.

To compartmentalize.

I liked this word as much as compartmentalizing things.

A compartment of practical (and comfortable) clothes - worn ninety percent of the time.
A compartment of fancy clothes - worn the rest of the time.

To me, an éclair belongs to the compartment of fancy - along with other dainty and delicate desserts with pretty sounding French names you might see in a pâtisserie.

This particular compartiment in my life is visited rarely...definitely not as often as I'd like.

Just because it is not of the one-bowl, or minimal-post-production-clean-up type.

But once in a while, on that slightly special occasion....

Or on days when I nostalgically reminisce back on the Paris trip of too long ago.

There are three components which make up this éclair (four, if you want to make a chocolate glaze too):
  • Pâte à choux (choux pastry)
  • Dulce de Leche 
  • Vanilla bean pastry cream (crème pâtissière)
The last 2 components are whipped together to create the filling for this éclair.

Dulce de leche is a thick, almost caramelise-like sauce that is milk-based (unlike caramel which is just heated sugar). It can be made the traditional way by boiling down a pot of milk and sugar for hours or the cheats way (which I used here) - which is heating up a can of condensed milk.

One way to heat up the condensed milk is by boiling the can for a few hours. However, if you choose to do so, you must ensure the can stays submerged in the water at all times otherwise the can will explode. My usual clumsy self did not dare to attempt this potentially explosive method ;)

Other people bake the condensed milk to make dulce de leche. 

I prefer to steam it with my much loved Datung rice steamer (trust any Taiwanese to have a Datung at home!) I can leave it steaming while I go out as it will turn off automatically when it's done. No explosions of any kind! Yes!

After an hour and a half, you get something wholly amazing that you just want to have it by the spoonful...

Add this beautiful caramel-like sauce to the vanilla pastry cream and whip them together for a silky smooth filling. I didn't add any sugar to my vanilla pastry cream as I know that once you combine with the sweet dulce de leche, it will balance out.

If you are not so keen on the dulce de leche (or your last can of condensed milk exploded? I hope not!), just fill your choux pastry with plain sweetened vanilla pastry cream!

As I am not too crazy about the glaze that you'd normally see on éclairs, I skipped the chocolate glazing in the recipe. However, I've included the recipe for it, in case if anyone's interested.

These éclairs are best when they are served the same day they are filled and are delicious with a strong cup of coffee or tea :)

Dulce de Leche Eclairs
From The Art and Soul of Baking
Makes 20

  • 1 recipe Spiced Pâte à Choux (see below)
  • 1 recipe Dulce de Leche Pastry (see below)
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205C) and position two racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven. To make the templates, line the baking sheets with parchment paper, then remove the paper and use the ruler as a guide to draw twenty 4 by 1-inch rectangles with a pencil, dividing and spacing them evenly between the sheets. Turn the pieces of parchment paper over and return them to the baking sheets with the marks facing the sheets.

2. Pipe the Pâte à Choux: Spoon the dough into the pastry bag fitted with the ½-inch plain round tip. Pipe the dough into ½-inch-high rectangles to fill each template. (To stop the flow of dough from the pastry bag and disconnect it from the piped dough, slice a lightly oiled dinner knife across the opening of the tip.)

3. Glaze and bake the Pâte choux: In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg to blend thoroughly. Brush a light coating of egg over the tops of the piped dough, being careful that the egg does not drip down the sides (it will glue the éclairs to the parchment). You will not use all the egg. Bake both sheets of the éclairs for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, switch the sheets between the racks, rotate the pans from front to back, and bake for 20 minutes longer. Reduce the temperature again, to 300°F, and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer (to dry out the interior). The éclairs should be a deep golden brown, with no more bubbling moisture visible around the sides. Transfer the éclairs to a rack to cool completely.

4. Fill the éclairs: Spoon the pastry cream into the cleaned and dried pastry bag fitted with the Bismarck or ¼-inch plain tip. If using the Bismark tip, first make a little hole in one of the short ends of the éclair with the tip of a paring knife. Then, insert the end of the Bismark into the éclair as far as it will go. Squeeze firmly as you slowly pull the tip out of the pastry, filling the cavity with the pastry cream. If using the plain tip, make two evenly spaced small holes in the bottom of an éclair with the tip of a paring knife. Insert the plain tip into each one, squeezing firmly to fill the center of the pastry. Repeat to fill the remaining éclairs.

5. Make the glaze: Place the chocolate in a small bowl (which should be just large enough to accommodate an éclair, which is about 4 inches long). Bring the cream to a boil in the small saucepan. Immediately pour it over the chocolate and let the mixture sit for 1 minute. Whisk until the mixture is completely blended and smooth. Cool for 10 minutes.

6. Glaze the éclairs: Turn the éclairs upside down, dip the top of each one halfway into the chocolate glaze, then lift it and let the excess glaze drip back into the bowl. Set right side up on a serving platter or parchment-lined baking sheet and allow 30 minutes for the glaze to set. Refrigerate until serving time. Reserve any leftover milk chocolate glaze for another use.

Storing: You can store éclairs in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days. However, they are at their best the same day they are filled, as the pastry absorbs moisture from the pastry cream and eventually becomes soggy.

Spiced Pâte à Choux
From The Art and Soul of Baking
Makes 20
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, plus another tablespoon or two, if needed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1. Cook the butter, water, and salt in the medium saucepan over low heat, stirring from time to time with the wooden spoon so the butter melts evenly. Combine the spices as well as the sugar with the flour. When the butter has melted, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the flour mixture all at once. Beat vigorously with the wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a mass around the spoon. Place the pan back over the medium heat and continue to cook, beating, for another minute or so to dry out the dough-the pan will have a thin film of dough on the bottom.

2. Transfer the dough to the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute to slightly cool the dough and develop the gluten. In the medium bowl, beat the eggs together until you can't distinguish the yellow from the white. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs a couple tablespoons at a time, allowing each addition to blend completely into the dough before continuing. When all the eggs are incorporated, the mixture should be shiny and elastic and stick to the side of the bowl. It should also pass the "string test": Place a bit of dough between your thumb and forefinger and pull them apart. The dough should form a stretchy string about 1½ to 2 inches long. If the dough has not reached this stage, beat another egg and continue adding it, a little at a time, until the dough is finished.

To shape and bake, see individual recipes.

Storing: The dough can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Dulce de Leche
  • 1 can of condensed milk
To boil:
In a large pan, completely submerge the can of sweetened condense milk in water. Make sure it is covered by at least one inch of water and remains covered throughout the entire process – this is VERY important otherwise it could explode. Cover the pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for three hours. Continually check to make sure the can is completely covered with water.

To bake:
Refer to here.

To steam:
Depending on your steamer. I used a rice steamer for this: Pour out the content of the condensed milk into a shallow bowl and put it into the steamer with ~3 cups of water. Let it steam for just over an hour until the pale condensed milk turns into a deep caramel colour.

Dulce de Leche Pastry Cream
From The Art and Soul of Baking
Makes 2 cups
  • 1½ cups (12 ounces) whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sugar (I omitted this as the dulce de leche is sweet already)
  • 1/4 cup (1¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dulce de leche (above recipe)
1. Fill the large bowl halfway with ice and water and set it aside. Pour the milk into the medium saucepan. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Turn the knife over and use the dull side to scrape the seeds into the saucepan, then add the pod. Heat until the mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. (If using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, skip this step and add the extract later.)

2. Heat the milk to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar until well blended and smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very smooth. Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to temper the yolks. Slowly pour the yolk mixture back into the hot milk, whisking all the while.

3. Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the flour from lumping, until it reaches a boil. Continue to cook and whisk for another minute, until the pastry cream is very thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter (and vanilla extract, if using). Strain the pastry cream through the strainer set over a medium bowl to remove any lumps or tiny bits of egg. (Save the vanilla bean: Rinse it thoroughly, allow to dry, then use it to make vanilla sugar).

4. Whisk room temperature dulce de leche into the strained pastry cream.

5. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, then set the bowl into the bowl of ice water. Once the pastry cream has completely cooled, use or store in the refrigerator until needed.


chow and chatter March 21, 2011 at 12:42 PM  

wow first class eclairs your a pro

j3ss kitch3n March 21, 2011 at 12:43 PM  

ahhh perfectly done eclairs!! yummy!

grub March 21, 2011 at 12:47 PM  

bahaha i'm at uni leeching off the internet! lunchtime was just over but i'm drooling over your eclairs! oh so yummy photos :)

i don't dare make dulce de leche as i fear of it exploding XD

Viv March 21, 2011 at 12:53 PM  

Rebecca: thanks but am def not a pro at this! you didn't see the mess i created out of all this coz i didnt have a piping bag hahah.

j3ss: haha yes yummmy! :)

grub: hahah i totally used to do that too at uni ;) hope u had a good homemade lunch today hehe. yeah, i cant imagine splashed molten sauce all over my kitchen ><

Anonymous,  March 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM  

I die! Dulce de Leche is sooooo delicious. I'm making these for my next dinner party. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

OohLookBel March 21, 2011 at 1:26 PM  

I'm not a fan of custardy pastry cream, but fresh cream or dulce de leche is another story! Your eclairs, c'est magnifique! And the syringe is too cool.

Min {Honest Vanilla} March 21, 2011 at 1:42 PM  

I came over from Bel's blog and just love your daintiness in food, styling and photography :) Very lovely blog!

Jun March 21, 2011 at 3:13 PM  

Love this! I prefer it with chocolate glaze though

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets March 21, 2011 at 3:17 PM  

Your photo of the dulce de leche in the spoon is fantastic! Love this type of caramel so much and think the idea of putting it in eclairs is just fabulous!

Jean March 21, 2011 at 4:48 PM  

this looks really delicious. i was salivating running through the series of pictures...and I must you take really good photos! captured my imagination as if I were there when you made them :)

CaThY March 21, 2011 at 9:31 PM  

These eclairs are good stuffs! Love ddl ;)

Joanne March 22, 2011 at 2:49 AM  

I'm usually a pretty messy person but these eclairs are the kind of compartmentalization that I could be down with. So elegant and dainty. I love your inclusion of dulce de leche.

Adriana March 22, 2011 at 3:12 AM  

Your eclairs are completely droolworthy. As for the dulce de leche, I suggest you boil the condensed milk can in the largest pot you have for two hours, turn off the burner, and just leave it there. I usually do it at night, letting the water come down to room temperature overnight. That makes for foolproof, non-explosive dulce de leche.

Karen March 22, 2011 at 3:26 AM  

Viv, I am swooning over these eclairs! They look stunning and super delicious. I love the cinnamon and cloves in the dough, what a neat twist. Now could I please order a dozen of them from you? :-)

Carolyn Jung March 22, 2011 at 10:21 AM  

That's a nifty trick to steam the condensed milk. I've always been too afraid to do it the traditional way with boiling the can on the stovetop. Heck, it still scares me to use a pressure cooker, too! LOL

Zoe March 22, 2011 at 2:48 PM  

Your eclair is so elegantly made. I like your idea of steaming the DDL and I laughed about "Datung" because my uncle used to for Datung when he was living in Taiwan...

Swee San March 22, 2011 at 3:23 PM  

Perfect looking eclairs! I like them with coffee pastry cream but who doesn't love DDL!

Dolly March 22, 2011 at 7:40 PM  

loooks delishh distracting me from my studies ><

Anonymous,  March 22, 2011 at 10:03 PM  

That is a fine looking dessert. They look delicious. I like the comment about the coffee pastry cream too, that also sounds good!!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) March 23, 2011 at 2:34 AM  

What a glorious idea! Love the photos too. Dulce de leche love :)

Erika Beth, the Messy Chef March 23, 2011 at 4:20 AM  

These look delightful and heavenly. Definitely fancy!

Maria March 23, 2011 at 4:59 AM  

Perfect Vivienne! They look so gorgeous!!

Jessica's Dinner Party March 23, 2011 at 11:11 AM  

I never knew you could make dulce de leche by steaming condensed milk! How easy! The submerging of the can seemed too daredevil for me too.

Joyti March 25, 2011 at 5:52 AM  

Yum! Eclairs are a bit fancy...but they're just so good.
Usually, I see them topping with a bit of chocolate ganache rather than the dulce de leche here...but the duche de leche sound delicious. Yum!

grace March 25, 2011 at 11:05 AM  

oh you crazy patissier girl
looking at these photos i feel like ive stepped into a french donna hay photo shoot

sugarpuffi March 25, 2011 at 6:05 PM  

omg i want to get those injecting thingy! looks so kool.

pigpigscorner March 26, 2011 at 7:26 AM  

Wow, they look perfect! I made dulce de leche once with a pressure cooker, I was so worried the whole time!

Lisa@ Tarte du Jour March 26, 2011 at 7:57 AM  

What a mouthwatering post! The eclairs look deliciously "fancy." I love the idea of using a pressure cooker for the dulce de leche!

Cooking Gallery March 26, 2011 at 8:05 AM  

I think you are a real talented baker, all your baked goods look totally gorgeous...! I wish I could bake as well as you :).

Lori March 27, 2011 at 10:07 AM  

The Dulce de Leche takes these way beyond fancy! They are simply beautiful. I've only made Pâte à choux once, but had reasonable success. The logical next step would be to fill them with this!

Mary Bergfeld March 27, 2011 at 4:46 PM  

How gorgeous. I can imagine how delicious these must be. Dulce de leche is hard to resist. Your photos are really special and highlight this lovely dessert. I hope you have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

Julie March 27, 2011 at 10:10 PM  

wow those look truly awesome! I want one right noww! please?

Viv March 28, 2011 at 6:48 PM  

Yadi: Hope it turns out good for you when you make it!

OohLookBel: haha yea it's my first time using the syringe! :)

Min: Thanks so much for your kind words

Jun: Thanks :) I was too lazy with the glaze lol

Xiaolu: Thanks :) I love that shot as well!

Jean: hehe. Glad you felt like you were making it with me too lol :D

Cathy: ddl ftw ;)

Joanne: Thanks :)

Adriana: Thanks for the foolproof advice!! I might try that next time!

Karen: Thanks! haha.

Carolyn: Me too...pressure cooker gives me the pressure ;)

Zoe: LOL. Really?? Datung lives in every single household in TW.

Swee San: Hmm coffee pastry cream...I havent had them with eclairs before!

Dolly: lol. what a procrastinator ;)

deb: Thank you deb!

Helen: DDL <3

Erika: yes fancy shmancy ;)

Maria: Thanks Maria

Jessica's Dinner Party: Yeah i didn't know too until i scoured the internet for a safe (child proof) method lol.

mangocheeks: thanks!

Indie.Tea: Yeah, I really need to not be lazy and make the ganache next time!

grace: ohh who you calling crazy ;) lol thanks! wish it was a donna hay shoot man!

sugarpuffi: guess where i got them? at the foodblogger picnic!!

pigspigscorner: lol i can imagine! im still too scared to use pressure cooker....hope to overcome this fear one day

Lisa: thanks :)

Cooking Gallery: THanks for your kind word! :)

Lori: lol yes - that next step sounds about right! ;)

Mary: Yes who can resist DDL? Hope you had a great wkend too!

Julie: Ok, come over and get some :D Oh wait, they're all gone :(

joanh March 29, 2011 at 5:39 AM  

mmm, these look heavenly and dangerous!

Tanvi@Sinfully Spicy March 30, 2011 at 6:22 AM  

These look so yummy Viv.I m drooling.Thanks for the step by step recipe.I m going to try these out for sure.Love these.

Sandy - Everyday Southwest April 1, 2011 at 6:32 PM  

I came looking for your terrific cinnamon rolls and... found these incredible eclairs, too!

Congrats on making the top 9!

Tessa April 13, 2011 at 5:53 AM  

These look fabulous! Love dulce de leche. Lovely photos, too.

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