I suspect that in a few weeks when I’m back living in Blighty I will really miss having a basil plant that’s part triffid. I’m always amazed at how well it thrives. In spite of my lack of green fingers and general neglect it’s always a mass of fragrant green leaves.
I love basil just as much in sweet things as I do savoury, it’s not just for pesto you know. Have you ever tried basil ice cream? Oh lordy that stuff is good.
These are really good too though. The pastry is so light and crisp and the basil that’s baked into it goes fantastically well with the tangy lemon cream filling. This is such a good summer dessert.
I’m not a huge fan of icing so I’ve just opted for a very light glaze on these but feel free to use a fondant icing if you prefer.
70g plain flour
small bunch of fresh basil leaves
75g cream cheese
2-3 tbsp icing sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon
225ml double cream
75g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
Pre-heat the oven to 200°c and line a baking tray with parchment or a silicone mat.
Bring the butter and water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Take the pan off the heat and tip in the flour, all in one go. Vigorously beat it with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Lightly beat the egg and beat about half of it into the dough. Once it has been absorbed add the rest of the egg and beat it again. The dough should become soft, smooth and glossy. Finely chop the basil and mix this into the dough.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a very large round nozzle. Pipe the dough onto the prepared tray in six thick, even lines. If you need to smooth off any edges then just dip your finger in a little water first.
Bake the éclairs for 30 minutes then turn off the oven and open the door a little, leave them in the oven for a further 10 minutes to dry out.
Once they are done you can transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Carefully slit each of the éclairs down the side to let the steam out and prevent them from becoming soggy. You’ll use this to fill them anyway.
Combine the lemon juice and icing sugar for the glaze in a shallow dish. Dip the top of each éclair into the glaze and then set them aside to dry.
Make the filling by beating the cream cheese with the icing sugar until it is soft and then mixing in the lemon juice and zest. Add the cream and then whisk it until the filling is thick and fluffy. Put the filling into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and then pipe it generously into each of the cooled éclairs. Decorate the éclairs with a little lemon zest and some baby basil leaves if you’re feeling fancy.