MINI CHOCOLATE ÉCLAIRS
--- Vanilla Pudding Filling --- Or Substitute with Instant Vanilla Pudding
--- Basic Choux Pastry ---
--- Thin Chocolate Icing ---
MAKE THE PUDDING FILLING
Several hours before assembly, or the day before, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium pot. Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking constantly to ensure that the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and reaches a boil. Cook for 2 minutes. Gradually mix half of the mixture into the beaten egg yolks, and then transfer the egg mixture back to the pot and stir to blend well.
Return the pot to the heat and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sir in the butter and vanilla and set aside to cool at room temperature before chilling in the fridge. (Note: Laying plastic film directly on the surface of the pudding will prevent a skin from forming while the pudding cools.)
MAKE THE PASTRY
Preheat your oven to 450° F (230° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat the water and butter to boiling in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and add the salt and flour, stirring hard to make a thick, smooth paste. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture forms a mass which leaves the side of the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring hard to incorporate each egg into the pastry dough before adding the next.
Transfer the dough to a plastic bag and snip off the corner. Pipe the dough onto the prepared pan into rounded strips (approximately 1" x 3" for mini-eclairs or up to double that size for large eclairs).
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes; reduce the oven temperature to 325° F (160° C) and continue baking for another 20 minutes, or until golden and dry. (The pastries should sound hollow when tapped.) Pierce the side of each pastry one time with the tip of a sharp knife to allow steam to escape, then transfer the parchment paper with the pastries to a rack to cool.
FILL THE ECLAIRS
With a fine serrated knife, partially slice the top off of one pastry, cutting lengthwise and leaving the top attached from one long side. Scrape out or remove any stringy, moist interior, leaving only the dry pastry shell. Fill the shell generously with vanilla pudding and close the top. Repeat with the remaining pastries.
MAKE THE CHOCOLATE ICING
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat. Stir in the sifted confectioners' sugar until smooth, then add boiling water, a tablespoon at a time, to thin the icing to desired consistency. Immediately spread, pipe or drizzle the icing over the filled eclairs. Allow the icing to set before serving.
Store the eclairs in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They are best served chilled within a day of their preparation. Leftover filling and icing may be covered and refrigerated for another use.