On my 19th birthday, my mother made me dozens and dozens of chocolate eclairs to take to my work place and share with the people I worked with.  

I hadn’t been working there long and it was just a fill-in job between the year I had spent travelling the world and before starting my university degree.  Hardly any one knew who I was.  

I was a very shy young girl at the time, and embarrassed by my mum’s generosity.  No one knew it was my birthday, so rocking up to work with a car full of homemade eclairs was a little bit mortifying. 

I had to walk through the office (a number of times) with arms loaded with delicate french pastries and announce that the Milky Bars were on me.

My colleagues were blown away by my mothers skill.

And after they sang Happy Birthday to me and devoured the lightest, cream-filled, chocolate coated clouds, they thanked me and went back to their tasks.

It was business as usual.

But from that day on, they all knew my name.

Mine aren’t as good as my mums, but every time I make them I think of her.

Classic Chocolate Eclairs

Makes 8

For the Eclairs:

250ml water

Pinch fine sea salt

1 teaspoon caster sugar

100g unsalted butter

150g baker’s flour

4 eggs

For the Filing:

600ml thickened cream

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

For the Glaze:

100g dark chocolate, chopped

150g icing sugar

4 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon instant coffee power blended with two tablespoons of boiling water

Make the Eclairs:

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Set aside.

Put the water, salt, sugar and butter in a medium suacepan over high heat and bring to boil. Reduce to heat to medium-high, put the flour in all at once and beat like heck. Beat until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan and starts to fry a little. This should only take a few minutes.

Tip the pastry out onto to the prepared baking sheet, spread it out a little and chill it in the refrigerator for 5 minutes.

Spoon the cooled pastry into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and turn the speed to medium. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until smooth.

Take a fresh peice of baking paper and draw 8 x 14cm lines evenly spread apart, with a pencil. Turn the paper over and line a baking sheet with it.

Spoon the pastry into a piping bag fitted with a large, plain tip and following the lines on the paper, pipe long strips of pastry. Use a wet fingertip to smooth out any peaks. Use a spray bottle to spritz them with a little water.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Filling:

Put the cream and vanilla paste into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip until soft peaks form. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a medium, plain tip.

Use a skewer to make a hole in either end of each eclair and pipe the cream in at both ends.

Make the Glaze:

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water.

Remove from the heat and beat in the icing sugar and cocoa. Whisk in the hot coffee, adding a little more hot water until you have a pourable consistency.

Dip the tops of each eclair into the glaze, letting the excess drip off. Leave to set at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

slightly adapted from here