Mission Impossible: Vegan Eclairs

4 Apr

I have been conducting research on people’s favorite bakery item(s) and then working to master recipes that have been veganized. Well one of my good friends (who’s identity has been concealed to protect the innocent) said she loves, loves, loves chocolate eclairs but she hasn’t had one since going vegan 3 ½ years ago.

It just so happened that her birthday was going to arrive in two short weeks so I had no choice but to make a batch for her celebrations.

First things first – what are the components of an éclair?

  1. Pate a choux: A pastry dough made up of water, butter, flour, and eggs. When it bakes, the high moisture content of the dough creates steam and puffs the dough creating a hollow center.
  2. Pastry cream: A sweet, pudding-like filling made of milk, eggs, sugar, flour, and cornstarch that is piped into the center of the pastry (pate a choux).
  3. Chocolate ganache: A mixture of cream and chocolate used to make truffles, frosting, and top the cream filled pastry of an eclair.

So éclairs are definitely vegetarian, but how do we make them vegan?

We are going to have to replace a lot of butter, eggs, milk, and cream.

But first, let’s take a look a decadent (non-vegan) eclair. Mmmmmmm!

Having never made pate a choux or pastry cream before I was a bit nervous.  So I started pouring over recipes and found what I believed were the best.

Wheatgrass & Sassafras Factoid: I actually really enjoy researching recipes, so although it sounds tedious, I had lots of fun.

Let’s start with the pate a choux.

Yikes! That isn’t what it’s supposed to look like. The shape can be attributed to poor piping skills but the inside is very doughy and dense, not hollow at all.

You know what that means…

Some kitchen disasters are relegated to the garbage.  Too bad I didn’t take an action shop of me dumping them, HAHA! 🙂

After spending some time researching non-vegan pate a choux recipes I set out to make a second batch.

The word failure comes to mind.

Although I tried a different technique the results were the same.

Since that fateful day I’ve seen an episode of Good Eats which walks you step-by-step through the pate a choux making process.

So what have I learned that can be applied here?


Ordinarily I would have thrown my apron on the floor and stormed off but I already started making the pastry cream while the pate a choux was baking.

It is one of the yummiest things I’ve ever made!!!

So creamy and sweet. It’s like eating vanilla pudding but so much better than anything you’d get out of a box.

I could easily eat an entire batch in one sitting, just me, a spoon and a bowl of pastry cream.

Consider this your warning and only make this recipe if you are prepared to indulge or have more self-control than I do.

Pastry Cream (adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

⅓ cup granulated sugar

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

4 Tbsp cornstarch

¼ cup water

1 ⅓ cups almond milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

  • In a mixing bowl beat together sugar, flour, cornstarch, and water on high speed until creamy (about 2 minutes) then set aside.
  • In a saucepan bring the milk to a simmer. Add ⅓ cup of the warm milk into the sugar mixture and stir thoroughly to combine. Add the sugar mixture to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat.
  • It will begin to thicken immediately. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan as you whisk.
  • Cook until it begins to bubble then whisk as vigorously as you can for 30 seconds.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Transfer to a bowl and cover with waxed/parchment paper and let cool to room temperature.

Note: If you are going to use the pastry cream to make my Chocolate Éclair Cupcakes do not let it cool.

The pastry cream was so amazing I needed to figure out a way to serve it to the world. No longer having pate a choux as a vehicle for delivering the pastry cream I reverted back to my first baking passion… the cupcake. I could easily make a Chocolate Éclair Cupcake recipe, all I needed to do was bake up some vanilla cupcakes and get going on the ganache. Easy peasy!

I came across this recipe for Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes online and it just so happens that the recipe was adapted from a recipe written by my new favorite vegan Chef Chloe Coscarelli . I’ve been cooking from her cookbook for a couple of weeks now and each recipe is better than the last. I have a huge girl crush on her and cannot wait for her to release a second cookbook.

Vanilla Cupcakes (adapted from www.colleenboucher.com)

1 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup unsweetened non dairy milk

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • Heat the oven to 350ºF and line a 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk until thoroughly mixed.
  • In a small bowl, combine the oil, milk, vanilla, and vinegar.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix completely.
  • Fill each cupcake cup 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

As it turns out these were some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. The taste and texture was perfect.

The only thing left to make was the Chocolate Ganache.  I remember seeing a recipe for Vegan Hostess Cupcakes from Post Punk Kitchen and thought that the chocolate topping would be perfect for my cupcakes. I would have liked a thicker chocolate coating but for the first time making ganache without heavy cream I was pleased.

Chocolate Ganache Icing (adapted from Post Punk Kitchen)

⅓ cup almond milk

4 oz vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips

  •  In a small saucepan bring the milk to a simmer then mix in the chocolate. Turn off the heat and mix until chocolate melts and icing is smooth.

So now that you know how to make the cupcake, pastry cream, and ganache all you need to do is assemble these amazing Chocolate Éclair Cupcakes.

  1. Bake your cupcakes and let cool completely. Once the cupcakes are cool carve out a hole to hold the filling, create a larger hole than you think is appropriate because you’ll want lots of filling but be care not to damage the bottoms or sides. Discard the cake that you’ve removed  (in the garbage or your belly).
  2. Once your cupcakes have been prepped you can move on to making the pastry cream. You’ll want the cupcakes ready to go because it’s easier to fill them with warm pastry cream rather than when it’s at room temperature. Just spoon the filling in to the cupcake holes and smooth the top with the back of the spoon or an off-set spatula.
  3. Now that your cupcakes are filled with the pastry cream go ahead and prepare the ganache. While the ganache is still warm dunk the tops of the cupcakes into the chocolate. Don’t worry about the pastry cream falling out, it should have set up enough while you were preparing the ganache to sit firmly inside it’s cupcake enclosure.
  4. Let the cupcakes cool and serve immediately.

Note: I suspect that using a melon baller or small ice cream scoop would make steps one and two super easy.

Let me tell you, these cupcakes were a huge hit! I brought them to work and everyone ate them up, despite them being vegan 🙂

I had to make another batch for my friend’s birthday party and over that weekend she ate somewhere in the ballpark of around nine cupcakes… NINE! Can you believe it? I admire her passion for chocolate eclairs; the fact that she consumed nine chocolate éclair cupcakes is really quite amazing! Now more than ever I am convinced she has a hollow leg 🙂

The moral of this story is that when life gives you lemons (bad pate a choux) make lemonade (cupcakes).

And don’t forget that cupcakes should only be an occasional treat and I do NOT condone  anyone eating NINE in one weekend. Don’t worry “friend,” that message isn’t just for you, it’s also for husbands and other “friends” 🙂

~ Happy & Healthy Eating


8 Responses to “Mission Impossible: Vegan Eclairs”

  1. cookingwithcompassion April 5, 2012 at 3:48 AM #

    Wow, 9 cupcakes?? That’s insane 😉 they MUST have been super good!!!!

    • Wheatgrass & Sassafras April 5, 2012 at 8:08 PM #

      And that’s just an estimate! There were also Cookies and Cream Cupcakes and Chocolate Snickerdoodles that may have been nibbled on 😉

  2. Jess February 1, 2013 at 11:42 PM #

    You turned an eclair recipe to a cupcake recipe? How could you! I will however use your creme for a real eclair tho

    • Wheatgrass & Sassafras February 2, 2013 at 12:06 AM #

      Ha! I was desperate for the flavor of eclairs but failed repeatedly at recreating a vegan pate a choux. The pasty cream was to die for though!

  3. Sarah December 26, 2014 at 8:16 PM #

    I know this is a while, but I wanted to thank you for this amazing idea. I’ve failed in every attempt so far to make a vegan pate a choux – you’ve inspired me to turn it around and think outside the box. Definitely making cupcakes tomorrow with your filling!

  4. chorner28 April 4, 2015 at 8:25 AM #

    I made these when I was pregnant, and promptly ate half a dozen. Same thing happened when I made them while breastfeeding a newborn (hey, it’s hungry work eating for 2 still!), and now I’m making them for Easter for my mother in law who it’s transitioning to vegan, and I’m afraid I’m going to eat them all and she’ll never see a bite! Thanks for the recipe, eclairs are the only treat that still haunts me so it’s wonderful to have a delicious alternative 🙂

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