Lemon Meringue Éclairs: Baking as Therapy

A recipe for lemon meringue éclairs where choux pastries are filled with lemon pastry cream rather than vanilla, and for their topping, they get a healthy pile of whipped meringue before being toasted under the broiler and then consumed en masse.
Lemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.com


My frustration falls, hot and warm, off my chin after leaving wet streaks down my face. I swallow slowly, pushing the lump in my throat to the dark hollow of my stomach, and stare at the freshly painted door. Its white surface unmarred for the first time in years.

Too often I feel as though I am spinning my wheels. I pick up wet socks discarded at the front door and under the dining room table, only for them to appear again just hours later. I fold load after load of laundry, and then my daughter jumps on clean clothes with mud-caked knees. I pour my heart into words and feel as though I am the only one listening to myself speak in an empty room.

My kitchen is clean.

That is what I think about when I pull ingredients from cupboards and refrigerator and set them on the counter next to my scrawled notes. Blank surfaces liberated of their daily clutter, primed for creating. It’s the pleasure of cracking open a new journal: the smell of paper, the pages rustling beneath your fingers, the unmarked landscape. A clean kitchen does the same.

Separating eggs into two bowls, I stick a whisk into the yolks and listen to the whirring as the metal swirls on the bottom of the glass bowl. I appreciate the light click and burst of air as the gas lights on the stove. I find comfort in the way the milk glugs from the glass bottle and sloshes against the walls of the measuring cup. Slowly, I start to remember why I’m here.
Lemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.comLemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.com
My 7-year-old bounds into the kitchen in a whirl of color still sporting mud-caked knees from the spring melt happening outside the door, light sparking in her silver eyes. Weeks’ old purple nail polish chipped to nothing dots her nails, a manicure from the big sister that left lasting marks across the dining room table.

“What are we making?” she quips while dragging the bench up to the counter across from me.

“Éclairs,” I answer while pulling out my phone. “I made a lemon filling, but now we need to make the pastry. Then we’ll fill them up like doughnuts.” Finding the video I am searching for, I hand her my phone and tuck the pastry cream into the refrigerator to cool.

She looks excitedly at me while gesturing with the now quiet video on the phone, “Can we make these kind, too?!” Soon she is cracking eggs and scooping flour, singing about our project, eagerly showing her brothers the video when they, too, come in from the melting snowscape.

When we sit down to dinner that night, extra éclairs shuttled off to the neighbors and bowls filled with soup, I think not of the frustration, but of the fullness of being.
Lemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.comLemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.comLemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.comLemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.com
I’ve had “lemon meringue éclairs” scratched on a post-it note on my desk for months. I even transferred it to an electronic version of recipe ideas and pinned it directly to my desktop. There it sat, crowded out by projects and commitments, waiting for me to remember to pick it up again. I used the last of the lingering Meyer lemons in my fruit basket, the ones that hadn’t rotted while waiting, their skin a deep yellow, nearly orange.

The choux pastry logs are filled with lemon pastry cream rather than vanilla, and for their topping they get a healthy pile of whipped meringue before being toasted under the broiler and then consumed en masse. The lemon pastry cream is smooth and silky, subtly sweet and tart at the same time. The meringue like a white, fluffy cloud sits atop a golden brown pastry. Together it’s a balanced bite of crust and cream. Then they’re gone like the daylight, glowing brilliantly before falling beneath the skyline, and all that’s left are the memories. And the dishes.
Lemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.comLemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.comLemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.com
If you’re wondering, we did make the courtesan au chocolat from The Grand Budapest Hotel film featured in the video I shared with Lene. You can see her in action on Instagram, as she dipped the pastries, piled them high, and the final product.
Lemon Meringue Éclairs #recipe via FoodforMyFamily.com

5.0 from 6 reviews

Lemon Meringue Éclairs

 

Ingredients

  • For the crème pâtissière:
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract, optional
  • For the pâte à choux:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted to remove lumps
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water for the egg wash
  • For the meringue:
  • 4 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions

  1. To make the crème pâtissière or pastry cream, place the milk, ¼ cup of sugar, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons butter, and the ½ teaspoon salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir to combine, and slowly bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining ¼ cup of sugar, and the arrowroot powder until combined.
  3. While whisking, slowly add some of the hot milk mixture to the eggs to temper. Continue doing this until about half of the milk mixture has been added and the eggs are warm to the touch.
  4. Now add the tempered eggs to the saucepan and the remaining milk mixture while whisking.
  5. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking continuously, until the mixture boils. Continue cooking for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and the extract. Transfer the pastry cream to a chilled bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on the cream to avoid a skin forming on the top. Chill.
  7. To make the pâte à choux, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in all of the flour using a wooden spoon.
  8. Return the pan to the heat and cook for 2-3 minutes until the dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan to form a ball. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes so that the dough cools slightly.
  9. Once the dough has cooled slightly, beat the eggs and then add them to the pan. Stir until a thick, even consistency is reached.
  10. Fill a pastry bag with the choux dough. Cut off to form a ½” opening on the end. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, pipe 3-4″ lines of dough, leaving 2 inches between each one. Lightly brush the egg wash over each, and run the tines of a fork very gently just to create a slight line to help them puff evenly.
  11. Bake for 10 minutes at 425ºF. Then reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and continue baking for 20-25 minutes, until pastries are golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  12. Prepare the meringue by whipping the egg whites and the cream of tartar together until frothy. Slowly add in the sugar and continue to whip until thick and glossy with stiff peaks.
  13. To fill the éclairs, place the pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a filling tip or a thin metal round tip (a #3 or #4 works well). Use a wooden skewer or the tip of a small knife and create two holes on the bottom of both sides of the éclairs.
  14. Insert the tip into one hole and fill. Repeat on the other side until the pastry is full.
  15. Top the filled éclairs with the whipped meringue. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. (Alternatively, you could use a torch to brown the meringue.) Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve. (The meringue may weep in the refrigerator if it is left more than a few hours.)

Notes

You could top these with a toasted Italian meringue. This is a bit more difficult, but the final meringue product is more stable and does not use raw egg whites.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12

 

Comments

  1. I have four kids running around my house and I know EXACTLY how you feel! I seek refuge in my mixing bowl and on my kitchen island.

  2. what a great idea for eclairs – lemon! love it!

  3. This post is beautiful in every way. I love your writing so much I read it out loud to my husband. You are so talented.

    • Thank you, Kelli. That means the world to me, and I smiled at the thought of you reading to him. We miss you here in MN. I hope you’re enjoying the coast!

  4. Have I told you lately I love you. Wow these are faboosh!

  5. I weep that I cannot eat a single one of these right now. Damn you and your lemon enticements.

  6. Beautiful!! Perfect spring dessert!

  7. These look amazing!!!!!

  8. I haven’t made eclairs in forever, the lemon filling sounds so wonderful!

  9. Gorgeous…wish I had one right now to brighten up this dreary morning! Your Lene, whatta sweetie.

  10. What a fun idea, Shaina. Love these! Of course, I love anything lemon though :)

  11. This looks perfect! I have never made eclairs, but I really want to now!

  12. My oh my these look spectacular! My mouth is watering! I adore lemon meringue pie, but am not a fan of the crust… so these are sheer perfection! My taste buds thank you in advance =0)

  13. How sweet!

  14. These are so elegant and beautiful Shaina! And now…I have to go clean up all the mess my kids left and do the laundry ;) – I do feel like I’m going around in circles some days.

  15. I hear you 100% on the kids/clean house issue. All five of mine are destructo-bots, but I think I could get them to sit still long enough to eat these! I love eclairs madly and these look so beautiful!

  16. This is so, so lovely. The words, the photos, the recipe. All of it. Much love,
    tina

  17. Feel the same way sister! This recipe is amazing and just makes me happy looking at it!

  18. Totally amazing and so gorgeous!

  19. What a delicious twist on eclairs and so pretty too!

  20. This is such a good idea! LOVE!

  21. How gorgeous and so much fun!

  22. These are positively divine!! I can’t handle it!

  23. delicious! can’t wait to try them :) love your writing as well :)

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