We love brunch, but we love it even more in the spring, when sunlight flickers through the early buds and life vibrates with fresh starts.
For any morning that could use a boost, savory éclairs offer a delicious variation on the usual toast or English muffins. The eggy boats are welcoming vessels for creamy scrambled eggs, topped with spring’s first asparagus, wound like a maypole with crisp bacon.
That’s one idea. You’re likely to have others. After all, the essential goodness of an éclair is the combination of the interior’s tender egginess and the delicate crunch of its outer shell. It’s a perfect backdrop for classic scrambled eggs. How you dress them up after that is where creativity lies and why homemade is so much more rewarding and fun.
Éclairs can be made up to two days ahead. The final assembly is a last-minute affair, but one that’s hardly more difficult than stirring eggs in a pan.
The resulting dish will be greeted with delight, bringing a food that we’ve long listed on the dessert menu to the main event.
It’s a fresh start for éclairs, and for the day.
EGGY-CLAIRS WITH BACON-WRAPPED ASPARAGUS
Note: Éclairs may be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. For a welcome accompaniment, prepare as many extra bacon-wrapped asparagus spears as desired and serve alongside. Lean center-cut bacon is best for this recipe. From Kim Ode.
1 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
4 slices thin-sliced, center-cut, bacon
8 asparagus spears, 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick, trimmed to 6 to 7 inches
8 tablespoons boursin cheese or onion-garlic cream cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
To make the éclairs: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking or pizza stone, place that on the lowest rack. (It will help make the pastries puff.)
Warm 4 eggs in a bowl of hot tap water.
In medium saucepan, combine 1 cup water, 4 tablespoons butter and salt and bring to a full boil. Remove from heat, then add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon to form a ball.
Return the pan to medium heat and continue stirring, pressing the dough against the side of the pan and gathering it up into a ball, for about 2 minutes. This dries out the dough so that it can better absorb the eggs. Stir constantly to keep dough from scorching, although a sheen will form on the bottom of the pan.
Place dough in bowl of stand mixer and set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
With the mixer on low, gradually add 3 of the warmed eggs, one at a time, waiting until each egg is absorbed before adding the next one. Separate the fourth egg and add the egg white only. (Save the yolk for the scrambled eggs, or discard.)
Increase mixer speed to medium until eggs are thoroughly incorporated and dough is smooth and satiny, about 1 minute.
(To make by hand, use a wooden spoon to thoroughly beat each egg into the dough until the right consistency is reached. This will take a little elbow grease, but the end result is the same. )
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a large cone tip. (No bag? Use a heavy-duty plastic bag and snip a 3/4-inch tip from 1 corner.) On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or coated with cooking spray, pipe 8 (5-inch) éclair shapes of dough, about 1 inch wide, at least 2 inches apart.
Using a plant spritzer, lightly spray each éclair once with water. This will keep them moist so they’ll swell as much as possible before firming up.
Place baking sheet directly on the pizza stone or on bottom rack. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Do not open the oven door, or the puffs may collapse. After 30 minutes total baking time, remove pan from oven and pierce each éclair with a small knife to allow any steam to escape and to help them bake dry. Return to oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
To assemble the éclairs: Slice each strip of bacon down the middle lengthwise so you have eight long strips. Wrap strips around asparagus spears in a spiral pattern and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving at least an inch between them.
Place pan on an oven rack positioned in the top third of the oven. Turn on oven to 400 degrees. (Bacon will hold its shape better if it starts cooking from a cold oven.) Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.
Turn off oven and move asparagus to a lower rack.
Cut a thin slice along the top of each éclair to reveal the interior. Spread 1 tablespoon of the flavored cheese inside each éclair, then arrange them on a baking sheet and place in the still-warm oven.
In a nonstick frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk the 8 eggs (and extra yolk, if using), then pour into the pan. Turn the heat to low and, with a wooden or heatproof spatula, begin stirring the eggs, keeping them in motion as cooked curds begin to form. Keep stirring until egg mixture looks fluffy and just shy of fully cooked. Remove pan from heat. (Eggs will continue cooking. Do not overcook.)
Place éclairs on individual plates or on a serving platter. Divide scrambled eggs among them, then top with an asparagus spear. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per filled éclair: 310 calories, 23 g fat, 380 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrates, 11 g saturated fat, 2 g total sugars, 13 g protein, 320 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber
Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1 1/2 medium-fat protein, 3 fat
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