Gin, citrus and pink peppercorn éclairs

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This delicately coloured, fruity éclair combines the botanical flavours of high-quality dry gin with a range of different citrus zests – red grapefruit, orange and lemon – to make a flavourful, fresh pastry cream with a light, silky texture. The glaze adds subtle sweetness and tang, using fresh citrus juices and enough icing sugar to bind.

First published in 2015

The herby botanicals of high-quality gin are matched with a range of citrus zests in this recipe – red grapefruit, orange and lemon. The tart, fruity glaze – made with juices of the same citrus fruits – tops this gorgeous dessert, with a sprinkle of pink peppercorns for floral flavour and a splash of colour.

The citrus zests are added during the final minute of cooking the pastry cream, so the flavours have a chance to permeate the mixture before being strained out for a silky smooth texture.

Gin shares volatile aroma compounds with these particular citrus zests, as well as the pink peppercorns, making the whole éclair a harmonious flavour combination. The end result is bright, complex and very, very moreish.

This recipe calls for a batch of six choux éclair shells. Please see the accompanying choux pastry recipe for éclairs for full instructions on how to make the dough.

The pastry cream needs to be made at least four hours ahead (even better overnight) of when you want to eat the éclairs, so bear this in mind when planning how you make the recipe.




Gin and citrus pastry cream

Citrus glaze


For the gin and citrus pastry cream, grate the citrus zests and set aside
Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar to a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk, cream, the rest of the sugar and a tiny pinch of salt to a simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally to help the sugar melt and stop the dairy burning onto the bottom of the pan
While the milk mixture is heating, add the egg yolks to the bowl with the reserved sugar and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the cornflour and whisk thoroughly
Measure the butter and cut into medium pieces. Set in the fridge until needed. The reason this recipe uses cold butter is to stop the butterfat separating as it melts too quickly. If it’s too soft, you will be left with oily patches in your cream
When the milk mixture has reached a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and whisk it into the yolks, a little at a time to stop the egg scrambling, then return the whole mixture to the saucepan. Add the reserved citrus zests. Allowing them to cook for a short time helps release their flavours before they are strained out for better texture
Heat the mixture over medium heat, scraping the bottom with a spatula to stop it cooking unevenly, until the pastry cream has thickened and is just starting to bubble – this should take less than a minute
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cold butter until it has completely melted and mixed in. Stir in the gin, mixing thoroughly to combine
Press the whole mixture through a fine sieve to remove the pieces of citrus zest and any lumps from the pastry cream
Scrape the cream into a bowl and use cling filmto cover the top, making sure the wrap is fully in contact with the surface of the cream so a skin doesn’t form as it cools. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or overnight if able), so the mixture has time to chill and set
To assemble the éclairs you will need 6 éclair shells (the link to the recipe to make these is mentioned in the introduction). To glaze the tops of the éclairs, carefully slice off the top third of each éclair and dip the top-facing side of each éclair into the glaze, making sure every part of that side is coated. The glaze is quite loose, so don’t expect a thick layer of icing – this way the tart flavours of the citrus juices come through better, as less super-sweet icing sugar is used
Lay each glazed top on a wire-mesh cake rack so the excess can drain off. This glaze will dry and set on the éclair tops, so it’s best to add the decoration now. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns, crushing them a little between your fingers as you go so the bright pink flakes are easier to distribute. Allow the glaze to dry
Scrape the pastry cream into a disposable icing bag and twist the open end to secure it closed. Snip a 1cm wide hole at the piping end
Pipe the pastry cream into each éclair bottom, filling each tube until almost completely full. Carefully place the glazed tops back on each éclair, taking care not to disturb the peppercorns
Serve immediately. They can be refrigerated to eat later, but are at their best when freshly made

Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

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