Johnny Iuzzini takes éclairs to the next level by filling them with a scratch-made coffee cardamom pastry cream and topping them with a dark chocolate glaze.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, slowly bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, add the flour all at once, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined and evenly moistened.
Return the pan to medium-low heat and stir continuously for 3 to 4 minutes to dry the mixture out. The dough should pull away from the sides of the pan, and a skin should begin to form in the base of the pan. Transfer the dough to a standing mixer bowl and use the spoon to spread the dough out in a thin layer against the sides of the bowl. Let it stand for at least 15 minutes or until cool.
Attach the paddle to the bowl and turn the mixer on to low speed. Add two of the eggs and mix until completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Turn the mixer back on to low and add another egg; mix until incorporated. After three eggs, the dough should hold a peak when you pull the paddle out of the dough, but should immediately fold over onto itself. If it’s too firm, add the fourth egg and mix well. The dough should now be smooth, elastic, and firm enough to pipe and hold its shape without being runny. You can test this by putting a heaping tablespoon onto a plate. The dough should collapse slightly but still hold a rounded shape. If the dough is still too firm, beat another egg in a small bowl until combined and add about half of it to the dough; mix on low speed until incorporated and check the consistency. If the dough is still too firm, add the remaining egg and mix well; if it seems runny, refrigerate the dough for 15 to 20 minutes before piping.
For cream puffs, transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a ⅝-inch plain tip. For éclairs, use a 7⁄16-inch star tip.
To pipe cream puffs, hold the piping bag at a 45-degree angle with the tip nearly touching the pan. Squeeze the bag and pipe balls of dough 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter (Ping-Pong-ball-sized), pulling the tip up and counterclockwise when the puff s are large enough.
To pipe éclairs, hold the piping bag at a 90-degree angle away from you and start squeezing the bag. When the dough starts to flow, pull the bag up and over the point where you started (as if creating an S) toward you and pipe 3 ½ - to 4-inch-long cylinders. When the éclairs are long enough, stop squeezing and lift the bag straight up and over the dough, which will leave a point at the closest end.
With a wet finger, press the points into the dough where you stopped piping; the surface of the puffs should be very smooth and the éclairs should have rounded ends with no point. Use a wet finger to mold any misshapen éclairs. Spray a light coating of cooking spray over the surface of the puff s or éclairs. Put the pans in the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pans and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes, until deep golden brown and the puffs or éclairs feel hollow. Cool the cream puffs or éclairs completely on the pans before filling or freezing them.
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, coffee beans, and cardamom pods to a simmer over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for at least 30 minutes.
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass measuring cup and press on the solids in the strainer with a rubber spatula to remove all of the milk.
Replace any milk that has evaporated with fresh milk so you have a total of 2 cups again. Return the infused milk to the saucepan.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until well mixed and homogenous. Whisk the sugar mixture into the eggs until lightened and fluffy.
While whisking, pour about a third of the hot milk over the yolk mixture and whisk very well until combined. Add another third of the hot milk and whisk well. Whisk in the remaining milk and pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Return the pan to medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil. Once it is bubbling, whisk the mixture vigorously at a boil for 2 full minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, a little at a time. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a small baking sheet or cake pan, pressing the cream in the strainer to remove any cooked egg bits. Discard the vanilla bean or reserve for another use. Spread the pastry cream into a thin layer on the sheet; lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Cool the pastry cream to room temperature; refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
When ready to use, transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to loosen it. Pastry cream should be used within 3 days.
To fill cream puffs, use a small knife to poke a small hole (the smaller the better) in the bottom of each puff. Attach a small plain tip to a pastry bag, fill it with pastry cream or flavored whipped cream, and insert the tip into the hole in the puff. Squeeze the pastry bag gently until the puff feels heavy and you see cream beginning to leak out of the hole around the tip. Place the filled puffs upright on a serving plate or tray, cover, and refrigerate for no more than 4 hours, until ready to glaze or serve.
To fill éclairs, poke a small hole in one end and fill as directed above.
Put the chocolate into a medium bowl. Bring the simple syrup to a boil over medium high heat. Slowly whisk in the cocoa powder until dissolved; return the mixture to a boil.
Make a small well in the center of the chocolate and pour about a quarter of the syrup into it. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture in small circles in the center of the bowl until the chocolate liquefies.
Add another quarter of the syrup and stir in tight rotations in the center of the bowl, slowly working outward to pull in more solid chocolate; mix until smooth in the center. Add the syrup in two more additions, stirring from the center out, pulling in more solid chocolate, until the glaze is very smooth and shiny. Let stand until room temperature before using.
To glaze the éclairs, make sure the glaze is very cool and thick. Dip a spoon into it and hold it upright—the glaze should hold fast and not run. If it drips, let the glaze stand for a few more minutes.
To glaze the éclairs, grasp the éclair parallel to the glaze. Holding on to the sides with your fingers just below the halfway point, dip the top third of the éclair into the chocolate, and hold it over the bowl so that excess glaze drips off . You can rotate the éclair slightly in your hand to help get excess glaze off the top. Set the éclairs upright on a tray. Once the glaze has set, cover and refrigerate the éclairs for up to one day until ready to serve.