Cream as rich as an Irish brogue
Coffee as strong as a friendly hand
Sugar sweet as the tongue of a rogue
Whiskey smooth as the wit of the land.
-Joe Sheridan's Irish Coffee Recipe, 1943
Choux pastry is a nemesis. I'd be the first to admit that I'm quite complacent in my baking. No prayers and shortcuts in the kitchen; I've grown accustomed to expecting most things to turn out the way I planned--or at least, to look and taste pretty good.
There is a handful of exceptions to that rule; choux is one of them. The first few times I made choux in a college dorm were unqualified disasters, soggy and egg-y lumps of dough or flat, collapsed disks. I've definitely improved my understanding of this strange, twice-cooked dough, but choux still has me imploring Saint Honoré and peering anxiously into the oven window to see if my eclairs are rising.
However, homemade eclairs are absolutely, completely worth it. It's so hard in most places to find eclairs and cream puffs with choux shells that are still crispy and filling that is rich and creamy and not thinned out with fake flavors and fats.
I ironically had to give up coffee during the last few weeks of writing my thesis because it was making me too jittery. But the thesis is in, the caffeine is flowing again, and I couldn't help but pair it with some Irish whisky, cream, and chocolate and stuff it inside an eclair.
For this recipe, I received a wonderful sample of a light roast Ethiopian coffee from Atlas Coffee Club, a subscription service that provides coffees from around the world. Their Ethiopia Sidamo coffee is light, fragrant, and fruity. It's strong enough to lend body and flavor to the Irish coffee pastry cream in the eclairs, but smooth and delicate enough to balance with the whisky I added.
And since the chocolate glaze looked a little plain on its own, I decorated the eclairs with white chocolate sprinkled with matcha, and green matcha polka dots. It seemed appropriate given Saint Patrick's Day and the Irish poetry thesis.
Atlas Coffee Club provided me with a free sample of their coffee to review. All opinions are my own.
Irish Coffee Eclairs
Yields: about 40 three-inch eclairs
For the Choux Pastry
1 cup water
½ cup unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the Irish Coffee Pastry Cream
⅔ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
1 ¼ cup half and half (see notes)
1 cup strongly brewed coffee, hot
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey, divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
For the Chocolate Glaze
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
For Decoration (Optional)
4 ounces white candy melts or white chocolate (see notes)
1 teaspoon matcha powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped freeze-dried strawberries
You could substitute the half and half with a combination of whole milk and cream. I would advise against using all milk; the pastry cream requires some fat for flavor and texture.
Though I’m usually a snob about chocolate, I would advise using white candy wafers, or white chocolate without actually cocoa butter for the decorations (I used Nestle brand), since it doesn’t require tempering and will set more firmly.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the water, butter, and salt in a pot. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the water begins to simmer. Take the pot off the stove.
Add flour and stir the mixture vigorously until it comes together in a thick dough.
Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat and cook it for another 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, in order to dry out the dough.
Take the pot off the heat, and let the dough cool for about 5 minutes. Give it a few stirs to help it cool off. Whisking constantly, add 4 eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. It will seem impossibly lumpy, but keep mixing and the batter will come together. The mixture should be smooth and shiny; if you scoop some batter out of the bowl, it should fall back into the bowl in a thick ribbon and hold its shape on the surface of the batter. If it is too thick whisk the 5th egg in a separate bowl, and add it a spoonful at a time, until the batter reaches the right consistency. (Don’t add the 5th egg all at once, or the batter may become too runny).
Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip. (Or simply snip off the end of a gallon size Ziploc bag). Pipe 3-inch lines onto the parchment paper. Wet your fingertip and flatten any peaks in the batter you just piped.
Bake the choux for 20 - 25 minutes at 425 F until they are a golden brown. Turn off the oven and crack open the door, and let the choux sit for 15 more minutes. The choux should be hollow and completely dry on the inside. Let cool completely.
Make the microwave Irish coffee pastry cream (though you certainly could make it the traditional way over a stove). In a large microwaveable bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt, breaking up any clumps in the cornstarch.
Whisk in the cream, followed by the egg yolks. Whisk until completely smooth. While mixing continuously, add in the hot coffee. Add in the cubed butter.
Microwave on full power for 6 to 8 minutes (it will depend on the power of your microwave), stopping the microwave and mixing the pastry cream every minute or so. The pastry cream is done when it begins to boil and and thickens to a pudding-like consistency.
Cover the pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least 3-4 hours to allow the cream to chill and set.
Put the pastry cream in a piping bag with a small round tip.
With a sharp knife, poke two evenly spaced holes in the bottom of each eclair that are large enough for the tip of the piping bag.
Pipe the pastry cream into both holes of each eclair until they are filled and feel heavy in your hand.
Make the chocolate glaze. Heat the cream on the stove or in the microwave until it just begins to simmer. Add the chocolate. Let sit for a minute, then stir until combined and smooth.
Dip the top of each eclair in the chocolate, and place onto a cookie sheet to set.
Make the decorations, if desired. Melt the white candy melts and divide roughly in half between two wax paper-lined cookie sheets. Spread into a thin, even layer. Sprinkle half with freeze-dried strawberry, and dust the other half with matcha. Let set completely, then cut into small pieces to place on top of the eclairs. You can also reserve a little bit of the candy melt and mix in some matcha powder to color it green. Pour the candy melt into a ziploc bag, and pipe small dots. Let set, and place ontop of the eclairs.
Store eclairs in the refrigerator. They are best they day they are made, but can keep for 2-3 days.