Pistachio Lemon Éclairs
The inspiration for this recipe comes from French pastry chef Christophe Adam’s first éclair cookbook. (Yes, the first. He has two entire books dedicated to éclairs!) The original recipe combines pistachios with mandarin oranges, which I wasn’t too excited about, so I substituted them for lemons. Each éclair is crowned with a layer of marzipan which really adds to the taste.
I decided to decorate the éclairs with candied lemon slices (or, more accurately, lemon slices cooked in syrup). I found a simple recipe for that by the legendary Martha Stewart. The decoration adds some nice texture to the taste, but you can also forget it and just decorate the éclairs with chopped pistachios. You also don’t need to make the pistachio paste from scratch, you can buy it at the store, but homemade is tastier.
The recipe makes about 20 éclairs.
Choux Pastry 125 g butter 125 g milk 125 g water 5 g sugar 5 g salt 140 g flour 220 g eggs
Pistachio Paste (45 g if it’s store bought) 60 g unshelled pistachios (not roasted) 10 g grapeseed oil
Pistachio-Lemon Mousseline Cream 500 g milk zest of 2 lemons 120 g yolk 120 g sugar 40 g corn starch 30 g pistachio paste 120 g softened butter (cut into cubes)
Pistachio Marzipan 200 g marzipan 15 g pistachio paste Green food coloring (gel) A bit of powdered sugar
Glaze 200 g nappage neutre (neutral jelly glaze) 100 g water Green food coloring (gel)
For Decoration |Ground pistachios
Candied Lemons (optional) 10 sunquats (mini lemons) 2 cups water 2 cups sugar
Prepare an ice bath (a saucepan with water and ice) and set aside.
Use a sharp knife to cut thin slices of lemon. Discard the seeds. Fill another saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Remove from stove and immediately add the lemon slices to the hot water. Mix until the slices soften (about a minute). Pour out the hot water through a sieve, and then put the lemon slices in the ice bath for a second. Pour out icy water using sieve.
Put water and sugar in a large pot on high heat. Mix until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. When the water is clear and boiling, reduce to medium heat. Use tongs to place the lemon slices in the water so they float. Cook on low heat until the rind becomes transparent. This takes about 1.5 hours. Remove the lemons using tongs and place on a cooling rack. Best to put a piece of baking paper under the cooling rack for any syrup that drips from the lemon slices.
Preheat the oven to 160 °C (320 ºF).
Scatter the pistachios on a baking tray and roast for about 7 minutes until they brown a bit. After the pistachios have cooled, grind them to a powder in a small food processor. Add the oil and grind again until it becomes a paste. Place in a small bowl and store in the refrigerator until use.
Pistachio-Lemon Mousseline Cream
Bring the milk to a boil. Turn off the heat, add lemon zest, cover and let it sit for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and immediately whisk. Add cornstarch and whisk again. Add the warm milk while whisking all along. Continue to whisk for a few more seconds.
Pour the mixture through a sieve into a clean saucepan and discard the lemon zest left in the sieve. Heat on medium heat and whisk energetically until the mixture thickens and becomes creamy.
Remove from heat and immediately transfer the cream into the bowl containing the pistachio spread. Whisk together until uniform. Lay plastic wrap on top of the cream to keep a crust from forming while it cools.
When the cream temperature reaches 40 ºC /104 ºF, add the softened butter gradually and mix well until uniform. Again, lay plastic wrap on top of the cream and keep in the fridge.
Sift flour and set aside.
Into a saucepan, add butter cut in cubes, milk, water, sugar and salt. Heat on medium-high heat. Mix and make sure all the butter melts before boiling. When the mix comes to boil, remove from stove and immediately add flour all at once to the saucepan. Mix well with spatula until a uniform mix is formed, resembling mashed potatoes. This is the panade mix. Dry the panade about a minute on low heat, mixing with a spatula, until the mixture begins to retract from the sides of the saucepan and congeals.
Put the panade in a mixing bowl and mix on low-medium speed with a flat beater about a minute or two so it cools a bit. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until uniform, then add gradually to the mixer. This is an important step! Add the eggs little by little, each time waiting until the eggs combine with the batter completely before adding more. Keep mixing at low-medium speed. The batter is ready when it is smooth, shiny and stable.
How to check if it’s ready: roll a bit of the batter between your thumb and forefinger and stretch it. It should form into a kind of elastic string that does not easily tear.
Sometimes the batter is ready towards the end, a little before you add all the eggs. Make sure to pay attention, otherwise the mix will be too runny and won’t hold its shape after it has been piped.
Preheat oven to 250 ºC (480 ºF).
Cover a baking tray with a baking sheet, or cover the tray with a thin layer of butter. Put half of the batter into a piping bag with a 1.5 cm fine star pastry tip.
Gently and quickly pipe 12 cm long strips onto the baking sheet or tray. Stop squeezing at the end of the piping and lift up the piping bag. The little tip on the end (or any blemish) can be fixed by wetting your finger in water and lightly tapping with your finger. Put the rest of the batter in a piping bag with a similar tip and seal it shut so no air gets in, until use.
When the oven reaches the desired temperature, turn it off and place the tray inside. This is the step in which the éclairs rise. Do not open the oven door or the éclairs will deflate. After 15 minutes, open the oven door a teensy bit (about 1 cm) and let the steam out for a few seconds (so the éclairs don’t crack from the humidity). Close the oven and set it to 170 ºC (340 ºF). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the éclairs brown.
Repeat the same process with the rest of the éclair batter.
Cut the marzipan into cubes and put them in a mixing bowl. Mix with a flat beater until the marzipan is soft and uniform. Add pistachio paste, a bit of green food coloring (optional) and mix until uniform.
Lay marzipan on a clean surface and sprinkle sugar powder on top and around it. Flatten with a rolling pin until it is 2 mm thick. Use a mini offset spatula to lift the marzipan off the surface a bit and lay it back down.
Take one éclair and lay it next to the marzipan for comparison. Cut a strip of marzipan a bit thinner than the width of the éclair, and with a round cutter, cut off the ends to make the length a bit shorter than the length of the éclair. Repeat with the rest of the pieces of marzipan. (You can combine leftover marzipan scraps and flatten with a rolling pin to use.)
Putting it all together!
Using a knife, cut two small holes on the bottom of each éclair.
Remove the pistachio-lemon cream from the refrigerator and put into a piping bag with a 0.5 cm pastry tip. Fill each éclair with the cream through the holes until you feel it expand a bit in your hand. Remove any extra cream oozing from the holes with a knife or mini offset spatula. Put éclairs in the refrigerator in the meantime.
Prepare the glaze: Combine the nappage and water in a saucepan and whisk lightly. Heat on medium heat until nearly boiling. Remove from heat, add a drop of green food coloring (optional) and mix.
Add 2-3 tablespoons of the glaze in a small bowl and use a small brush to brush it onto one side of each marzipan strip. Remove the éclairs from the refrigerator and lay a marzipan strip on each éclair, with the brushed side down so it will stick to the éclair. Make sure it’s stuck on well.
Heat the glaze a bit, mix so the top doesn’t congeal. Dip each éclair in the glaze only until the tips of the marzipan strip, lift and hold to the side, and remove the extra glaze dripping from the side using your finger. The glaze in the saucepan will likely harden while you work, so heat it up a bit again and mix it until it reaches the desired consistency.
Decorate the éclairs with the lemon slices or chopped pistachios. Put inside the refrigerator. The éclairs are ready to eat the same day. You can eat them a day later, but they lose some of their freshness.
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