Éclairs are a great thing to have in your repertoire – and with my recipe in the Basics chapter, they couldn’t be easier. When the times comes to fill them with cream, the trick is that rather than slicing the éclairs open or putting holes in the base, you fill them from the top. This way, the coffee icing seals in the filling, so that when you bite into an éclair, the cream doesn’t shoot out of the other end.

Serves 12–14
1 quantity choux pastry éclairs (see page 20)
butter, for greasing

For the vanilla cream
1.2 litres double cream
2 vanilla pods, split and seeds removed 

For the coffee icing
350g fondant icing sugar
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp Camp coffee essence
Prepare and bake the choux éclairs as described on page 20.

* Turn the oven up to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7 and grease a baking tray.

* For the vanilla cream, pour the cream into a large bowl, add the vanilla seeds and whip to soft peaks.

* To make the coffee icing, sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, add the water and coffee essence and whisk together.

* Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce a hole in the rounded end of each éclair. Place the éclairs on their sides and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes so that they become dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

* To serve, transfer the vanilla cream to a piping bag fitted with a 6mm plain nozzle. Pipe the cream into the éclairs through the hole. Dip them into the icing to cover the top evenly. Leave on the wire rack until the icing is set.

Choux pastry is one of my favourite things to cook. I picked up this recipe whilst working as a pastry chef in a three-star Michelin restaurant in the south of France, and I’ve used it ever since. Make sure the butter, sugar, salt and water are brought slowly to the boil. If you do this too quickly, the butter will not melt and the water will evaporate. The butter should be diced small so that it melts before you add the flour. To get a really crisp texture, add half a cup of cold water to a preheated tray in the oven before cooking, and then after 20 minutes, open the door for a few seconds to let out the steam.

Makes 12–14 medium éclairs

250ml water
100g cold butter, diced small
1 tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
150g strong flour
4 eggs

* Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet with silicone paper.

* Pour the water into a pan and add the butter, sugar and pinch of salt. Bring to the boil slowly and boil for 1 minute. Add the flour in one go.

* Cook for a few minutes, beating all the time, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan cleanly and is smooth. Tip out onto a silicone-lined tray and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

* Transfer the cooled mixture to a kitchen mixer or large bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time, then continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and shiny, about 2 more minutes.

* Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large, plain nozzle, then pipe 10cm-long éclair shapes onto the prepared baking sheet. Smooth out any bumps with the tip of a wet finger. (See also page 38.)

* Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

* Remove from the oven and transfer the éclairs from the baking tray to a wire rack to cool.

Recipe extracted from Sweet by James Martin (Quadrille, £20). Photography: Peter Cassidy
James will be appearing live at the BBC Good Food Show Winter at the NEC Birmingham, 26-29 November.