FOR THE PASTRY CREAM:
- 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
- 2 tsp cold water
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
FOR THE CHOUX PASTRY:
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 oz) butter
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 3–4 large eggs
FOR THE WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE (OPTIONAL – FOR DECORATING):
- 6 oz white chocolate
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tbsp butter
MAKE THE PASTRY CREAM:
- In a small dish, stir the gelatin and water together to combine. There should be just enough water to moisten the gelatin, creating a thick paste. Set aside.
- Add milk, sugar, salt, egg yolks and cornstarch to a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan and whisk vigorously to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, at which point the mixture will have thickened to the point that the whisk will leave tracks as you stir. Remove from the heat and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds longer. Pour into a bowl.
- Break the gelatin into small pieces, dropping them into the hot pastry cream. Whisk until the gelatin is completely incorporated, about 20 seconds. Whisk in vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap over the surface of the pastry cream, and punch a few holes in the surface of the wrap with a sharp knife. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
MAKE THE ECLAIR PASTRY SHELLS (CHOUX PASTRY):
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover one large or two small baking sheets with parchment paper and fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tip. Or, fit a bag with a coupler only, which also works well. Set the bag, tip side down, inside a tall drinking glass, fold the top down a couple of inches, and set aside.
- Add the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a medium size, heavy bottom saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a rolling boil with bubbles covering the entire surface. Boil rapidly for 1 minute.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and add the flour all at once to the boiling liquid. Stir the flour and liquid vigorously with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to form a dough. Cook for 5-8 minutes, mashing it against the sides and bottom of the pan and then gathering it up into a ball again, until the dough is smooth and a thin floury film has formed across the bottom of the pan. The surface of the dough should look glossy and be thick enough that you can stand a spoon upright in the middle.
- Dump the dough into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and stir on low speed for 5 minutes to allow the dough to cool before adding the eggs.
- Whisk 3 of the eggs together in a small bowl. Turn the mixer to medium-high and add the eggs in 4 small additions scrapping down the sides of the bowl after beating in each egg. After each addition, beat at medium-high speed until completely incorporated before adding the next. After the third addition, check the dough. The dough is ready when it’s soft and very smooth, and is able to hold its shape. If you lift the beater from the dough, it should form a peak that slowly folds in on itself. If the dough seems too stiff, add the fourth addition of eggs and check it again. If the dough still seems too stiff, add the fourth egg, bit by bit, until you’ve achieved the right consistency.
- Spoon the dough into the pastry bag and pipe 38-42 two-inch eclairs onto the parchment covered baking sheet, spacing them at least 1-inch apart.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes, at which point the eclairs should have puffed.
- Turn the temperature of the oven down to 375 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes, until they are golden brown and dry to the touch. Turn the baking sheet halfway through baking to ensure even browning.
- Turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes. If you break one open, it should not be wet or eggy inside.
- Remove from the oven and, using a sharp paring knife, cut a small slit in one of the ends of the pastries to release any trapped steam. Allow to cool completely before filling.
FILL AND DECORATE THE MINI ÉCLAIRS:
- If decorating with white chocolate ganache, put the white chocolate into a small bowl. Heat the cream in the microwave until boiling – about 30 seconds. Pour the hot cream over the white chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes. Stir until smooth. If the white chocolate is not completely melted after stirring for a few minutes, heat it in the microwave in 15-second intervals until melted. Stir in the butter. Set aside to cool, stirring from time to time, until it’s of a good piping consistency.
- Put the pastry cream and 1/2 cup of butterscotch sauce in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed for about 1 minute, until the butterscotch has been completely incorporated and the cream is smooth.
- Fit a pastry bag with a small round decorator tip and fill with butterscotch pastry cream. Poke the tip through the bottom of the eclair shells and squeeze as much pastry cream as you can into the center of the shell.
- Pour the remaining butterscotch sauce into a shallow bowl and dip the tops of the filled eclairs into the sauce to coat.
- Fit another pastry bag with a small round tip and fill with white chocolate ganache. Pipe designs onto the tops of the butterscotch glazed eclairs. Store the eclairs in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 1 day.