Yup! Maple. Brown Sugar. Bacon. Thanks you, thank you, thank you to Jack’s Gourmet for experimenting with beef bacon and giving me the opportunity to have a taste (I’ve said it before, but the bacon is not yet available commercially and I’m seriously praying they start selling it soon). I was originally going to make a brown sugar cupcake with maple frosting and brown sugar candied bacon but I wanted to try something a bit more challenging. To really push myself this time, I thought I would make one of my favorite desserts that I’d never made before. Eclairs! I can never help myself when I see an eclair and I never eat just one. And that’s what happened today…yeah, I ate three eclairs! There are a lot of components to this dessert but it is totally worth it when you end up with an eclair worthy of any pastry shop! Oh, I flatter myself. Please note that I made my eclairs non-dairy so that I could eat them with the bacon. You can make yours with butter and milk as well.
Pate a Choux (dough for eclairs)
adapted from Martha Stewart
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine, cut in to small pieces
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs + 1 egg white
Brown Sugar Pastry Cream
2 cups soy milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp cold unsalted margarine, cut in to small pieces
1 cup powdered sugar
4 Tbsp pure maple syrup
Brown Sugar Candied “Bacon”
5 sliced beef bacon (preferably thick cut)
5 tsp brown sugar
Don’t worry about all of the ingredients. It won’t take as long as you think! I started with the pate a choux so I could get the eclairs in the oven. You won’t even believe how quickly this dough comes together! I brought the water, margarine, sugar and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. I removed the pan from the heat and quickly stirred in the flour with a wooden spoon.
I cooked the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon, until the mixture pulled away from the sides of the pan and film formed on the bottom of the pan, around 1-2 minutes.
I transferred the dough to my stand mixer and mixed on low with the paddle attachment until slightly cooled, around 1 minute. I raised the speed to medium and added each egg, 1 at a time, until soft peaks formed in the batter with touched with my finger. This took around 5 minutes.
At this point, I preheated the oven to 425 degrees F and prepared two baking sheets with parchment paper. I filled a pastry bag with the batter and piped out oblong shapes, around 3 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide. I dipped a fork in water and gently ran it along each top to ensure even rising while baking. Instead of making two sheets of eclairs, I decided to make some profiteroles as well. I love that one batter can do so much! A profiterole is a simple cream puff so all I did was pipe imperfect dollops of the batter on to the second baking sheet and that’s it!
I placed the unbaked eclairs and profiteroles in the oven for 10 minutes, reduced the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and baked until golden brown, for 25 more minutes. I took out the baked pastries and placed them on a wire rack to cool.
While the pastries were baking, I made the brown sugar pastry cream. In a medium saucepan off the stove, I whisked together the egg yolks, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt until blended.
I microwaved the soy milk for 3 minutes to bring it to a boil (you can do this on the stove as well) then drizzled in 1/4 cup of the hot milk to temper the eggs so they wouldn’t curdle. I feel like I talk about tempering a lot but it is so important!
I whisked in the remaining milk then put the pan over medium heat and brought the mixture to a boil, continuously whisking. Once boiling, I stirred for 1 more minute then removed from the heat and whisked in the vanilla extract. I let the mixture stand for 5 minutes then whisked in the bits of margarine. The custard was so smooth and smelled like sweet brown sugar. I pressed a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream and refrigerated until cold.
By this point, the eclairs were cooling on the rack so I prepared the salty and sweet beef bacon. Man, I love saying that! I increased the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. I placed 5 slices of bacon on a foil lined baking sheet and sprinkled around 1 teaspoon of brown sugar on each slice.
I cooked the bacon in the oven for 6 minutes, flipped each piece over carefully and finished cooking for another 6 minutes. I should have taken the bacon out a few minutes earlier because it got a little darker than I would like, but it still tasted delicious! I moved the bacon to a plate and let it cool until hard and crunchy. Mmmmm…delicious candied bacon. I crushed up the bacon with my hands and ate a few pieces along the way.
Last, but certainly not least, was the maple glaze. For this, all I did was whisk together the powdered sugar and maple syrup. So easy! You can use this glaze on practically anything, especially cinnamon buns and french toast. Yum!
Okay, time to assemble!!! By this point, everything had cooled down. I inserted a pastry bag filling tip in to one end of each eclair, creating an opening for the filling. I transferred the cooled pastry cream to a pastry bag and filled each eclair. The great thing about pate a choux is that it creates a very light and airy pastry so the pastry cream easily fills out the entire eclair. If the cream doesn’t go all the way through to the other end, you can make a whole on the other side and fill again. No one will judge you :)
I dipped the top of each eclair in the maple glaze and returned to the wire rack so the glaze could set.
While the icing set, I filled each profiterole with the pastry cream and drizzled with more of that silky glaze.
When the icing was almost set, I topped each eclair with a sprinkle of the candied bacon and then I scarfed them down. The first thing I tasted when I took a bite was the maple glaze, so sweet and maple-y. Is that a word? The dough was fluffy like a cloud, the filling was perfectly cold and creamy, and the bacon added a much-needed crunch. Man, I really could eat bacon on anything! Refrigerate your eclairs in an airtight container to keep them fresh. And enjoy!