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in the kitchen with: nicole hunn’s gluten-free lemon cream éclairs

by Kristina Gill

Running the In the Kitchen With column once a week, it is difficult to squeeze in all the things we’d love to as often as we’d like.  Gluten Free desserts is one of those.  I hope this amazing recipe for Gluten-Free Lemon Pastry Cream Éclairs by Nicole Hunn, the author behind the blog Gluten-Free on a Shoestring (tons of great gluten-free baking!!), will more than make up for the times we’ve not been able to bring you a gluten-free dessert.  I was intimidated by the length of the recipe until I actually tried it out.  It only looks long, but it is incredibly easy, as easy as last week’s Cherokee Rose Pound Cake!  The hardest part is getting the hang of the pastry bag.  Once you master it, you will most probably make these all the time, varying the filling from time to time as you desire!  As an added bonus, the dough can be used in a variety of other recipes as well.

A quick note for those of you looking for great cookbooks that include gluten-free variations for each dessert, I really like Lara Ferroni’s Doughnuts, and her book Real Snacks (vegan and gluten free variations on all recipes), as well as Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache.  –Kristina

About Nicole: Nicole Hunn is the personality behind the gluten-free baking and recipe blog, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, making gluten-free food enjoyable and affordable since 2009. She is the author of two cookbooks, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring and Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy. In addition to her cookbooks and blog, Nicole has written about gluten-free eating for magazines such as Living Without, Gluten-Free Living and Easy Eats, and for the online magazine SheKnows.com. She has appeared on The Better Show, The Dr. Steve Show, The John Tesh Radio Show and ABC News. She has also been featured in the New York Times, the New York Daily News and Epicurious.com. Nicole is currently at work on her next book, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread, scheduled for a late 2013 release.

See Nicole’s full recipe after the jump…

Gluten-Free Lemon Pastry Cream Éclairs

Lemon Pastry Cream Filling Ingredients


  • Zest of 3 medium-sized lemons (taking care not to include the bitter white pith)
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) milk
  • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) heavy cream
  • Dash (⅛ teaspoon) kosher salt
  • 4 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (35 g) cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter, chopped

Pastry Ingredients


  • 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) milk
  • 4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Dash (⅛ teaspoon) kosher salt
  • 1 cup (140 grams) high-quality gluten-free pastry flour (Cup4Cup Brand Gluten Free Flour is great as a pastry flour)*
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
  • 4 eggs at room temperature, beaten

* To make your own gluten-free pastry flour, blend 43 grams superfine white rice flour + 25 grams cornstarch + 25 grams superfine brown rice flour + 20 grams tapioca starch + 20 grams nonfat dry milk + 4 grams potato starch + 3 grams xanthan gum.

Lemon Icing Ingredients

  • 1 cup (115 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (plus more if necessary)

1. First, make the filling. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the lemon zest and the granulated sugar until well-combined and finely ground (about 5 minutes). Place about ¼ of the lemon sugar in a medium-sized, heavy-bottom saucepan. Add the milk, cream, and salt to the lemon sugar in the saucepan, whisk to combine well and set the pan aside. To a medium-sized heat-safe bowl, add the rest of the lemon sugar and the egg yolks, and whisk to combine well. Add the cornstarch, mix to combine, and set the bowl aside.

2. Cook the milk mixture in the saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, just until it simmers (about 2 minutes). Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. This step heats the egg yolks gently so they don’t scramble. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the cream thickens (about 2 minutes).  It is ready when the cream covers the back of a spoon and is a little thicker than thick whipped cream.  Remove the pan from the heat, add in the chopped butter and mix to combine. The mixture should be smooth and relatively thick, and will thicken more as it cools. Transfer the lemon pastry cream to a medium-sized heat-safe bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and place in the refrigerator to chill until firm (at least 1 hour).  Note:  The final product will be thick and firm (not a bit runny as you can see in some places in the images here!)

3. While the filling chills, make the pastries. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

4. Cook the milk, butter, and salt in a medium-sized heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat until the butter is completely melted and the mixture begins to boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the flour and xanthan gum, and stir vigorously. Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring vigorously, until the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and comes together in a ball. A thin film will form on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat, and allow the mixture to cool for at least 3 minutes, or until it is no longer hot to the touch.

5. Transfer half the cooled dough to a blender or food processor. Pour the beaten eggs on top and then add the rest of the dough. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and uniformly well-blended.

6. Transfer the dough from the blender to a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip (about 2 inches in diameter). Pipe the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 4 inches long each, spacing the pastries 2 inches apart from one another.

7. Bake the éclairs in the center of the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until pale golden. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, with a sharp knife, cut a small slit in the side of each éclair to allow steam to escape. Return the éclairs on the baking sheet to the oven, turn the oven off and prop the oven door open slightly. Allow the éclairs to sit in the oven until dry (about 30 minutes), and then remove from the oven.

8. To make the lemon icing, place the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the sugar, and mix to combine. The icing will likely be very thick. Add more lemon juice by the quarter teaspoon, stirring well after each addition, until the icing is thickly pourable. It is easier to thin icing with more liquid than to thicken it with more confectioners’ sugar.

9. Once the éclairs are cool, transfer the filling mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small “Bismark tube” pastry tip. (The Ateco 230 tip is a great choice.) Pierce the first éclair with the pastry tip and pipe filling inside (as much or as little as you like). Repeat with the remaining éclairs.

10. Either pour the lemon icing over each filled éclair and spread it evenly over the top, or dip the top of each filled éclair in the icing, allow the icing to drip off, and invert the iced and filled éclair onto a serving platter. Allow the éclairs to sit at room temperature until the icing sets.

Recipe adapted from Quick Chocolate Éclairs in Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy: 100 Recipes For the Food You Love—Fast!

Why Nicole Loves This Recipe
Who doesn’t love éclairs! And the choux pastry (or pâte à choux) that an éclair is made from is (1) the sort of pastry that you might assume you can’t have when you’re gluten-free, and (2) is the sort of pastry that you might assume is super fussy, gluten-free or not. It’s French! But it’s still very unfussy. The ingredients are simple and the technique of blending the eggs into the pastry in a blender or food processor ensures a perfectly smooth pastry – and much less elbow grease (not to mention making it quicker and easier!). Once you have mastered this pastry, you can use it to make gougères, profiteroles and cream puffs! The lemon cream pastry filling in this recipe is the perfect marriage of traditional pastry cream and lemon curd, and, like the éclair itself, is made with very ordinary ingredients. From ordinary to extraordinary with ease!

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