It surprises me how much I love Easter baking. It's a very close second behind Christmas as my favourite holiday to bake for. There's just so many fun ideas to play around with! For some reason I've never gotten into Halloween baking, but I'm all about the Easter bunnies and eggs and hot cross buns.
So here's my latest creation that is likely to make traditional French pastry chefs curse me for messing with their lovely desserts. A hot cross bun flavoured eclair! A hot cross eclair. Looks like an eclair, tastes like a hot cross bun. It is quite delicious. And quite cute too.
I flavoured the pastry cream with plenty of spices and mixed in a few sultanas, topped them with a cinnamon white chocolate glaze, white chocolate crosses and currants. I couldn't make up my mind between doing them as regular shaped eclairs or round profiteroles so they looked more like hot cross buns, so I did both! I think I still prefer the regular ones though. Anyway, this is a super impressive and light Easter dessert that will impress anyone. Don't be intimidated by the thought of making choux pastry, it's very straightforward as long as you make sure to bake your choux for long enough so they are completely dried out.
Hot Cross Bun Eclairs
(choux pastry and pastry cream recipe adapted from this recipe)
For the hot cross bun pastry cream:
1 cup milk
4 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
200g (about 1 cup) sugar (I used caster/superfine)
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 tbsp (60g) butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice/allspice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg
1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 cup sultanas/raisins
- Dissolve cornflour in 1/4 cup of milk in a medium bowl. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a large saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
- Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
- Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream into the saucepan, continuing whisking.
- Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter, cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg and vanilla. Strain cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl, then fold in sultanas.
- Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use, at least two hours or overnight.
For the choux pastry (makes about 18-20 eclairs):
3/4 cup (about 175 ml) water
6 tbsp (85 g) salted butter (or add 1/4 pinch salt if unsalted butter)
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup (about 140g) plain/all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For egg wash (optional): 1 egg and pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
- Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
- At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
- Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
- Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe choux about 2-3cm/1 inch apart on the baking sheets. For long eclairs, I piped them about 10cm long and 2.5 cm wide and for profiteroles I piped them about 3.5cm wide.
- Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain to be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash if you wish (I totally forgot this step, oops).
- Bake the choux at 220°C (425°F) until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 180°C (350°F) and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 25 minutes more. (You may need to lower the temp 10 degrees or so if using fan-forced or if your choux are browning too much.) Note: It is very important that you ensure your choux are completely dried before removing them, if you remove them from the oven and they start to deflate or soften at all, return them straight to the oven as they are not dried out enough and will go soggy if filled. It will take longer than you think.
- Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in an airtight container overnight.
For the glaze:
120g good quality white chocolate
4 tbsp thickened or pure/heavy or whipping cream
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Toppings: 100g good quality white chocolate melted, currants
- Place pastry cream in a piping bag with a tip large enough to allow the sultanas through.
- Slice horizontally into one side of each eclair, leaving the other side attached.
- Pipe pastry cream into the hollow of each pastry and chill filled pastries while you prepare the glaze.
- In a small saucepan, heat chocolate, cinnamon and cream on low heat, stirring until smooth. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Dip the top of each filled eclair into the melted mixture, allowing the excess to drip off. You can also smooth it with an offset spatula if needed. Place on a wire rack to set.
- Melt the additional white chocolate for the topping, place in a piping bag with a narrow tip. Pipe white crosses over the top of each eclair, then place currants over the top of each one.
- Place eclairs in the fridge in an airtight container until ready to serve.