If there's one dessert that has captured the hearts and taste buds of countless dessert enthusiasts worldwide, it's the exquisite chocolate éclair - seriously, it is probably one of my most requested recipes of all time! So let me show you how you can make your own, foolproof chocolate eclairs with this recipe. These eclairs are made with a delicate choux pastry shell, velvety smooth chocolate crème patisserie filling, and glossy chocolate glaze to bring everything together.
In this blog post, I am going to cover each element in detail, and show you how you can make the perfect choux pastry at home even if you don't have experience with it:
HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT ECLAIR SHELLS (CHOUX PASTRY)
The choux pastry is the heart and soul of eclairs. It forms a light, airy and slightly crispy shell which puffs up during baking, creating a pocket to hold any filling of your choice; the most classic being a crème patisserie (pastry cream).
But choux pastry is also known to be technical and finicky! It requires precision and care to get right - a little misstep and the result will be a soggy mess instead of the neat éclair shells you are after. Worry not, though, I will show you exactly how you can conquer it 😉
Choux pastry requires 7 basic ingredients:
- Unsalted butter
- Sugar - a small quantity added helps give the pastry a bit more crispness
- Salt - don't skip this! It helps add flavor to the otherwise bland pastry, and balances the sweetness of the éclair filling
- Bread flour (or strong flour) - the higher protein content of bread flour gives eclairs stronger structure, but if you don't have it, don't worry and use all purpose flour instead
- Eggs - make sure they are cold!
- Egg yolk and milk for an egg wash - or use just milk if you want a lighter color
Before starting, pre-heat your oven to 400F (conventional), and prep 2 baking sheets with silicone mats. Additionally, break the eggs in a bowl and whisk them to break them down.
Here's a video for you to see the process:
Prepare the choux pastry batter
Add the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt to a non-stick saucepan, and place on medium-low heat. Stir until the butter melts, the sugar and salt dissolve, and the mixture just starts to boil.
Remove from the heat and add the flour. Now, you have to work your muscles! Use a wooden or rubber spatula, and quickly and rigorously stir the flour into the wet ingredients. You will keep doing this for about 1 minute, until the mixture forms a smooth dough-like ball (i.e., it is no longer sticking). This step is important because the stirring motion is activating the gluten strands in the flour, and these gluten strands provide the structure which allow the choux pastry to rise in the oven when being baked.
Now, place the pan back on the stove top on low heat, and keep stirring for another 1 to 2 minutes to help dry out the mixture a bit. This will help ensure the choux pastry isn't runny, and you are able to pipe the eclairs with ease.
Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl, allowing it to cool down for 5 minutes. Now, you will start adding the cold eggs a little at a time, while whisking the mixture using an electric mixer at medium speed (or use your stand mixer with the paddle attachment). Stop adding more eggs the moment the batter reaches the desired consistency: it should be very thick but still pourable, and should fall off the spatula in the classic "V" shape. And the choux pastry batter is done!
Pipe the eclairs
Here's a great tip to ensure you pipe the eclairs the same size: use a ~5" pastry scraper like this one, dip the straight edge into the pastry batter, and use it to stamp 6 diagonal, equidistant lines on each baking sheet. These lines will serve as your guide to pipe eclairs.
Transfer the choux pastry batter it to a piping bag fit with a ½" French Star tip. While you can use a round tip, I find a French star tip the best for the classic éclair shape.
Lay the piping bag onto your counter, and gently press on it with your palm to knock out any air bubbles. These air bubbles can ruin the structure of eclairs, causing them to crack.
Now, pipe the eclairs one by one. It is important to apply steady, even pressure while piping, so one edge isn't skinnier than the other. At the end, use a flicking motion while releasing the pressure to create a slightly rounded corner.
If you find the batter is running out too easily, you may have added too much egg. Try refrigerating the batter for 10-15 minutes and see if that gives more control on the piping.
Once all eclairs have been piped, use a wet finger to gently press down any sharp points on the eclairs. Then, gently brush on egg wash with a soft pastry brush. Take care while doing this as a sharp pastry can stick to the eclairs and disturb their shape.
Bake the eclairs
It's finally time to bake! Here's what you will do - first, place the baking sheets in the oven at 400F (which you already pre-heated the oven to). Bake at this temperature for 10 minutes. Then, without opening the oven door, turn down the temperature to 330F, and bake for ~30 more minutes until the eclairs are a deep golden color.
Starting at a higher temperature gives the choux pastry the kick start for them to rise, and then lowering the temperature gives enough time for the shells to fully bake and dry down.
If you have the patience for it, remove the eclairs from the oven with 5 minutes left to bake, and puncture 3 holes on the bottom of each shell. Place the shells upside down on the baking sheets and bake again for ~5-8 minutes. The holes will allow the steam inside the eclairs to escape, fully drying them out and ensuring they don't get soggy easily once out of the oven!
If you don't do this step, make sure to poke holes on the bottom of the eclairs immediately once they are baked, and place them upside down as they cool so the steam can escape. I use a Bismarck piping tip like this one to make 3 holes - one on each end and one in the middle.
MY BEST TIPS TO PERFECT ECLAIRS
As a summary, here are my best tips to ensure your eclairs turn out perfect:
- Measure all ingredients by weight using a weighing scale, instead of using cups. It is important to be very precise when making choux pastry
- Ensure the sugar and salt dissolve in the butter, water and milk by stirring constantly as the butter melts. If they aren't fully dissolved, the texture of the choux pastry won't be right
- Rigorously stir the batter after dumping in the flour to remove any lumps and activate the gluten strands
- Dry out the dough on the stove for 1-2 minutes to remove unnecessary moisture from it before adding eggs. Do this until the dough stars to leave a thin film on the bottom of the pan
- Let the dough cool down for 5 minutes before adding eggs to ensure the eggs don't cook (this might take longer if your kitchen is hot)
- Use cold eggs instead of room temperature eggs to help bring down the temperature of the choux pastry and prevent it from becoming too runny
- Break the eggs in a separate bowl and add them very slowly while mixing the batter to ensure you don't add too much egg. This is important as different eggs have different weights and precision is key!
- Stop adding eggs when the batter reaches the "V" stage. This means if you use a spatula to scoop up the batter and allow it to fall off, it should form a "V" shape
- Knock out air bubbles from the piping bag before you pipe! The air bubbles can cause your eclairs to crack
- Use even and steady pressure while piping eclairs to ensure they don't become too thin at any point
- Do not open the oven door until at least 30 minutes into baking as the sudden change in temperature can cause the eclairs to deflate
- For the last 5-8 minutes of baking, poke small holes on the bottom of the shells and place them upside down to allow steam to escape (if you don't do this, poke holes as soon as the eclairs are done baking and place them upside down as they cool)
HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CREME PATISSERIE
Typically, eclairs are filled with a vanilla crème patisserie, but I opted for a chocolate crème patisserie for this recipe. If you don't like it, you can definitely make a simple vanilla crème pat! See the recipe I used for my creme brulee donuts.
For the chocolate crème patisserie, you will need the following ingredients:
- Egg yolks
- Semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
While the eclairs are baking, you can get started on the chocolate crème patisserie (it can also be prepared in advance and refrigerated).
Mix the milk and cream in a saucepan and place on heat to bring to a boil. In the meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl until combined.
Once the milk and cream mixture comes to a boil, pour about a third of it it slowly into the egg mixture while rigorously whisking. This will temper the eggs (meaning they won't curdle or cook). Pour the egg mixture back into the milk and cream, whisking continuously.
Place onto the stove and cook on low heat, stirring constantly. It is important to keep watching and stirring as the mixture can curdle and cook if you don't keep an eye on it. As soon as it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate through a fine mesh sieve, which will help remove any lumps. Cover the bowl and wait 5 minutes so the chocolate can fully melt. Then stir until a shiny chocolate cream forms.
Pour the mixture into a large plate with cling wrap on it, cover and place in the fridge to cool down completely. It should thicken up as it cools and the chocolate solidifies.
HOW TO FILL CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS
When your eclairs and crème patisserie have cooled down, you can move on to the next step.
Transfer the chocolate crème patisserie to a piping bag fit with the same Bismarck piping tip you used to poke holes in the éclair shells. Then, slowly fill each eclair shell through each of the three holes, until the filling starts coming out of the other holes. This will help make sure each eclair is fully filled in without any empty air pockets.
Clean off any excess cream. Keep the eclairs upside down on a baking sheet, and place them in the fridge as you prepare the glaze.
Tip: If you are not planning to serve your eclairs straight away, I recommend storing the éclair shells and crème patisserie separately, and filling right before serving! This will help keep the choux pastry fresh and crispy for as long as possible. You can even bake the shells again for 5-10 minutes at 350F before filling them.
HOW TO GLAZE CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS
To prepare the chocolate glaze, mix together 100g each of unsalted butter and dark (or semi sweet chocolate) in a heatproof bowl, and stir over a double boiler until they melt and come together into a shiny glaze.
Remove from the heat and let cool for ~5 minutes. The glaze should be shiny and somewhat runny.
Now, remove the eclairs from the fridge and place them on a wire rack with a tray underneath to catch any drippage.
Working one éclair at a time, tip the top into the chocolate glaze as neatly as you can. Shake off the excess, then flip the éclair upright and use your fingers to clean the edges if needed. Place onto the wire rack and repeat until all eclairs are coated with the chocolate glaze.
To decorate, sprinkle finely chopped chocolate onto the eclairs while the glaze is still liquid.
Allow the glaze to fully set, and then you are ready to eat and enjoy your eclairs!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Different factors can make choux pastry runny. To prevent this from happening, measure ingredients precisely, follow all instructions closely, use cold eggs, and add the eggs slowly while mixing until the batter reaches the "V" stage.
If your choux pastry shells did not puff up during baking, there could be a few reasons. One possibility is that the oven temperature was too low. Ensure that your oven is preheated to the correct temperature specified in the recipe. Additionally, make sure you didn't open the oven door too soon during baking, as this can cause the shells to deflate. It's crucial to follow the recipe instructions precisely, including the mixing and baking times, to achieve the desired results.
Choux pastry becomes soggy due to moisture. To prevent eclairs from becoming soggy, it's important to ensure they are fully baked and properly cooled before filling them. Make sure the choux pastry shells are golden brown and crispy. Towards the end of baking, remove them from the oven and poke holes on the bottom, then return to the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes to allow the steam to escape. When cooling the eclairs, do so upside down on a wire rack so steam can continue to escape. Lastly, try to fill the shells right before serving to minimize the time the shells are in contact with the pastry cream, which can also make them soggy.
Choux pastry can crack due to either air bubbles or sudden changes in temperature. Make sure you knock out air bubbles before piping the eclairs, and do not open the oven door for at least 30 minutes into baking. If possible, use the oven with no fan on (the temperatures provided in this recipe are for a conventional, no fan oven).
Yes! You can use any recipe you like to make a vanilla crème patisserie and use that as the filling.
Chocolate eclairs are best eaten fresh, within a day. Since choux pastry is quite delicate, it becomes softer and more soggy with time. However, the eclairs can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you will love my other chocolate recipes too! Check out the following: