An eclair is very similar to a profiterole or cream puff in that it is made using a choux paste / pâte à choux. The choux is just eggs, flour, butter, and water. There are no raising agents. When this paste is baked, its high moisture content creates steam which enlarges it to many times its size and creates a nice cavity inside that is perfect for filling.
Once you learn how to make pâte à choux you can make croquembouches, cream puffs / profiteroles, and gougères. You can even fry the dough and make French crullers, beignets, and churros.
Whenever I think of eclairs I tend to think of it as a handheld Boston cream pie. The only similarities are that both have pastry cream / crème pâtissière inside and both have a ganache topping.
Some people tend to use instant / cooked puddings made from a box instead of making their own pastry cream. However, making your own pastry cream isn’t that difficult, and will taste much better.
Some of the following measurements for this chocolate eclair recipe will require a digital food scale.
Pâte à Choux - Pastry Dough
- 1 cup water
- 4 large eggs
- 1 large egg white
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 ounces unsalted butter
- 5 3/4 ounces bread flour
Pastry Cream - Crème Pâtissière
- 1 ounce unsalted butter, room temperature
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 ounce cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 4 ounces sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (Optional - Use it for shiny chocolate)
Pâte à Choux - Pastry Dough RecipeMeasure out your bread flour. I'm using a digital scale.
Add the sugar and salt to a pot with 1 cup of water. Stir well to combine. Add the butter. Bring to a boil.
Add in the bread flour.
Stir to combine.
Keep stirring and the dough will start to come together. Turn the heat down to low.
As you continue stirring, you should be able to easily form a ball out of the dough. Continue stirring for a few more minutes.
Put the dough into a medium sized bowl and beat with a mixer on low until the dough cools down. When you don't see any steam and the bottom of the bowl just feels slightly warm, then you can proceed to the next step.
Set your mixer to low speed and add your eggs one at a time. Fully incorporate each egg before you drop in another. Don't forget to add the one extra egg white. You may need to increase the mixer speed as the dough will get thicker and harder to mix. You may also need to stop the mixer a few times to scrape the sides of the bowl. Once the eggs are all incorporated, keep mixing for another minute or two.
Place the choux pastry dough into a gallon ziplock bag (one without an expandable bottom) and cut off the tip. You want to cut off the least amount (say about 1/8") to start with for testing. (You can just put what you used for your test back into the bag). If you have a professional pastry bag with a coupler, use that instead.
Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Squirt a small dab of the choux pastry dough under each corner of the parchment to act as a glue to keep the parchment paper in place.
Form logs of the choux pastry dough about 4.5 - 5 inches long. The width should be about 1". Space them apart on the baking sheet. Wet your fingers and smooth out the logs as best you can.
Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes or until the eclair shells are golden brown.
Place the baked eclair shells on a wire rack. This will help keep any moisture from forming on the bottom of the eclairs.
If you don't have a pastry bag:
If you don't own a pastry bag with a plastic tip/coupler, go ahead and use a knife to slice through the middle of each eclair shell lengthwise (but don't go all the way through). Put the sliced eclairs back in the oven for a few minutes just so the inside can dry out a bit.
If you do have a pastry bag: If you do have a pastry bag with a plastic tip, don't slice the eclairs. Instead use a chopstick to poke a hole through the center of each eclair as shown in the photo. You can then put them in the oven for a few minutes so the inside can dry out a bit.
Pastry Cream Recipe - How to make Pastry Cream - Crème PâtissièreWeigh out 2 ounces of sugar in a small bowl.
In a pot over medium-low heat, add the whole milk and 2 ounces of sugar and bring to a slow simmer.
While waiting for the milk and sugar to come up to a slow simmer, weigh out 1 ounce of cornstarch in a small bowl. Weigh out an additional 2 ounces of sugar and place in another small bowl. Sift the 1 ounce cornstarch, 2 ounces sugar, and a pinch of kosher salt into small bowl to remove any clumps. Push any clumps through the sieve.
Whisk the eggs and egg yolk together in a medium sized bowl. Then add the cornstarch mixture and whisk until combined and smooth.
Once the pot of milk and sugar has come up to a slow simmer, VERY SLOWLY pour 1/4 of the pot into the bowl of eggs/cornstarch mixture while VIGOROUSLY WHISKING. What you are doing is tempering the eggs. This means you are slowly bringing the eggs up to the temperature of the pot without scrambling the eggs.
Note: If you don't have someone to hold the bowl and whisk while you slowly pour, be sure to have something under the bowl like a towel in the shape of a doughnut, or a non-slip rubber mat to put under the bowl. Otherwise, the bowl will just spin around if you try to do it all yourself.
Put the pot down on a cool burner and VERY SLOWLY pour the tempered egg mixture into the pot while VIGOROUSLY WHISKING. Once everything has been whisked together, put the pot back on the burner on a medium-low heat. Continue whisking for 5-6 minutes non-stop.
It will thicken up and boil. When it looks as though it is pulling away from the pan, turn off the burner and place the pot on a cool burner.
Pour the mixture into a fine-mesh sieve over a medium-sized bowl. Use a spoon or spatula to push down the mixture into the sieve. The sieve will catch any curdled / scrambled egg chunks should you have done a poor job at tempering. If there are any chunks, dispose of them.
Add the butter and vanilla to the sieved cream.
Mix until fully combined. Since the cream is still hot, the butter should melt pretty quickly.
Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap. Be sure that the plastic wrap is pushed right up against the pastry cream otherwise a film will develop on top. Refrigerate the pastry cream.
Remove the pastry cream from the fridge once it is cold. If you had made holes in your eclairs, use a pastry bag to pipe in pastry cream into each eclair using a long filler tube. If you had sliced open your eclairs like I did, just scoop in some pastry cream into each eclair.
Ganache Recipe - How to Make GanacheHeat heavy cream in a pot over medium-high heat. When the heavy cream starts to simmer, take the pot off the heat and slowly pour in the semi-sweet chocolate morsels while stirring with a spoon.
Keep stirring until the chocolate has fully melted. Optional: To make the chocolate shiny, add 1 tablespoon of light corn syrup. For added flavor you can experiment with adding various liqueurs. Pour the ganache into a long shallow pan and place in the fridge or freezer. Every few minutes pull it out of the fridge and stir it. If it is still watery, put it back in the fridge to cool more.
Once the ganache has the consistency of almost a pudding but still drips like a liquid, dip the top of each eclair into the ganache. If the ganache doesn't stick to the eclairs easily, it has been in the fridge for too long and it needs to be warmed up a bit.
Optional:You can then top the eclairs with whipped cream and decorate with sprinkles if you wish.
Now that you have learned how to make chocolate eclairs, please be sure to view these other custard recipes and these chocolate recipes and these pastry recipes.
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