lavender honey eclairs

I'm not the biggest fan of flowery flavors, like lavender and rose, in my food. It always tastes like a bottle of perfume accidentally spilled into the dish. I had some lavender honey cupcakes at a Slow Food event a few years ago and, well, not so much. It's not a knock on the bakers - my friend Sara thought they were so tasty she still thinks about them to this day (on the other hand, she hated the smoked dark chocolate ice cream, which I still think about to this day). This may not be the best way to introduce a recipe for lavender honey eclairs.

It's just, maybe I'm coming around. I had some lavender honey with a cheese plate the other day and thought it was actually pretty delicious. And we had a small bag of lavender in the apartment; a little sniff got me thinking...

I love eclairs. They are certainly one of my favorite desserts: smooth, creamy filling inside a flaky, crispy shell and topped with just the right amount of deep, dark chocolate. For this recipe, I decided to steep some lavender in the milk before making the pastry cream. I think a tablespoon of lavender buds is the perfect amount so that you taste the lavender without it becoming overpowering, but if you really like lavender you may want a bit more. Because honey is apparently a required accompaniment, I squeezed a bit into the eclair shells to coat the insides before filling them with the pastry cream.

Enjoy!

Note: To ensure a good puff on your eclair shells, pipe out each length in a continuous motion - either with a fairly large tip or by moving the pastry bag very slowly as you pull back so a good, thick, continuous length of pastry is on the baking sheet. Also, you can replace the skim milk in the pastry cream and chocolate glaze with whole milk or even heavy cream if you want these to be really rich. If you want your glaze to be really shiny, you can always add a tablespoon of corn syrup. Finally, as with all recipes, read through the recipe from start to finish so you have an idea of how you want to time each step. I made the eclairs, then made and chilled the pastry cream while they cooked and cooled, and finally filled and glazed them at the end.

lavender honey eclairs

for the eclairs:

adapted from gale gand

ingredients
+ 1 cup water
+ 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
+ 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
+ 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
+ 1 cup all-purpose flour
+ 4 to 5 eggs
+ 1 tablespoon water
+ honey (in a squeezable container)

recipe
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a boil over medium heat. As soon as it boils, remove the pan from the heat. With a wooden spoon, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the flour is fully incorporated. Return the pan to the heat and cook for 30 seconds longer, stirring continuously.

Transfer the mixture to a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer running at medium speed, add the first three eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each egg. Mix until the eggs are fully incorporated. The dough should be glossy and thick, but it should still fall slowly from the beater when you lift it from the bowl. If the dough still sticks to the beaters, add the fourth egg and mix until incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip and pipe fat lengths of dough onto the sheet. For large eclairs pipe about 6" lengths of dough and for medium eclairs pipe about 3" to 4" lengths of dough. (The size is really up to you: you can make the eclairs as big or bite-size as you like). Use your finger to press down any points or bumps.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg and tablespoon of water together. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash on each eclair.

Bake the eclairs at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 25 minutes (they should be puffed and golden brown). Do not open the oven door as they bake.

Let cool on a baking sheet. See "Assembling the eclairs" below to fill and glaze the eclairs.

for the lavender pastry cream:

adapted from dorie greenspan's "baking: from my home to yours"

ingredients
+ 2 cups skim milk
+ 1 tablespoon lavender buds
+ 6 large egg yolks
+ 1/2 cup sugar
+ 1/3 cup sifted cornstarch
+ 3 1/2 tablespoons room temperature butter, cut into bits

recipe
Bring the skim milk and lavender buds to a low simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat.

In a medium, heavy saucepan whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together until the mixture is thick and light yellow in color. Continually whisking, gradually pour in the lavender milk. Continue whisking until the mixture is fully incorporated.

Place the pan over medium-low heat and whisk continuously until the mixture just starts to really thicken - it will happen in an instant. Remove from the heat immediately and whisk until smooth. Let stand for five minutes.

Add the bits of butter, a few at a time, stirring after each addition, until all of the butter has been added and the cream is smooth and silky.

Transfer the cream to a bowl, press plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until cold or, if you want to use it faster, cool with an ice water bath (place the pan into a larger bowl filled with ice water and stir every so often until the cream is cold - 15 to 20 minutes).

After the pastry cream has cooled, give it one more stir and transfer the cream to a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized, plain tip. See "Assembling the eclairs" below for filling instructions.

for the chocolate glaze:

ingredients
+ 1/2 cup skim milk
+ 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped coarsely

recipe
In a small saucepan, heat the milk until just simmering. Pull from the heat. In another small, heat-proof bowl, add the chopped chocolate. Stir the chocolate and milk together until smooth and shiny. See "Assembling the eclairs" below for glazing instructions.

assembling the eclairs:

To assemble the eclairs, use your fingertip to poke a hole about the size of the pastry tip in one end of the eclair. Squeeze about a 1/2 tablespoon of honey into each eclair and swirl the shell around to ensure the inside is fully coated with the honey.

Now gently pipe the pastry cream into each eclair until each one is just filled.

Dip the top of each eclair into the heated chocolate glaze until well-coated. Chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour to set the chocolate glaze before serving.

Makes about 8-10 large eclairs or 16-18 medium eclairs.