Chocolate Eclairs {Your Definitive Guide}

In this post, I will show you how easy, and fun, it is to make chocolate eclairs (coffee ones coming soon). I have tried and tested many recipes. Some were too cumbersome with many unnecessary steps. Here, I have distilled the best for you! After all, what you want is to make a fabulous eclair with the right texture and flavor, at home, easily and without taking all day to do so. The key to your successful eclairs will be the right quantities, good quality ingredients and the small but important tips that I give you. Eclairs are much easier to make than you think. But do read the recipe through. Remember all the steps and before you set out, have your “mise en place.”

Chocolate Eclair Choux Dough Ingredients

 

Chocolate Eclair Pastry Cream Ingredients

 

Chocolate Eclair Glaze Ingredients

 

Eclairs - Keep these nearby

Have your “mise en place.”

 

Eclairs - Melt milk, water, butter, sugar & salt

Boil milk, butter, sugar, and salt.

 

Eclairs - Dough temperature

Once you have added the flour, beat and cook until the dough reaches 170°F.

 

Eclairs - Dough is ready

The dough should come away from the sides of the pan.

 

Eclairs - Cool dough

Place the dough in the mixer and cool to 140°F before adding the eggs (slowly).

 

Eclairs - Dough ready for piping

This is the consistency you are after once have added the eggs, slowly and incorporating fully. You many not need all of the eggs. Can you see the line I made with my finger? The dough does not collapse back, and you are left with a little “peak”.

 

Eclairs - Fill pastry bag

Transfer some of the dough into a piping bag.

 

Eclairs - Pipe eclairs at 45° angle

Pipe your eclairs 2″ apart and about 6″ long. Of course, you can also make mini eclairs. If you do, cook them for less time.

 

Eclairs - Smooth ends

Smooth out the ends with the back of a dampened spoon.

 

Eclairs - Piped

Piped eclairs ready for the oven.

 

Eclairs - Make vent holes

Baked eclair cases. Now pierce two holes at the bottom of each one. This process will help steam escape. You will also fill the eclairs through these holes.

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Eggs & Sugar

Make your chocolate pastry cream by beating the egg yolks with half the sugar.

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Beat Eggs

Add the cornflour or Bird’s Eye custard powder.

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Cream

Bring some of the milk to the boil and add to the grated chocolate. Boil the rest of the milk with the remainder of the sugar.

 

Chocolate eclairs - Add Chocoalte Cream

Pour the milk and sugar in a steady stream into the egg and cornflour mixture. Then add the melted chocolate paste and the chocolate powder.

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Bring to Boil

Return the mixture to the pan and bring to the boil, whisking constantly.

 

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Thicken

Cook until it thickens.

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Pass Through Sieve

If you have any lumps, pass the chocolate cream through a sieve.

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Cool

Now cover the chocolate pastry cream with cling film and chill. Remember to beat it again before piping it into your eclair cases.

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Pipiing

Single-handed I find it very hard to photograph myself piping eclairs. This is the best I could do. Here I am filling a mini eclair for a batch I made for our weekly bridge group. I prefer to make large eclairs 🙂

Bet Noire Stir

Melt the heavy cream and the chocolate for an easy and decadent glaze. Again, it’s almost impossible to photograph the dipping process, but I’m sure you get the idea!

 

 

 

Chocolate Eclairs - Sliced

Filled Eclairs.

 

Eclairs - Chocolate Eclairs Main Photo

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

 

CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS {YOUR DEFINITIVE GUIDE}

  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Take your time and be patient. Enjoy! And read the notes. With practice, eclairs become very easy to make.
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Before we start, a few notes:

First, read the recipe all the way through a couple of times.

Grams: The quantities for the choux dough (pâte à Choux) and the pastry cream ingredients are in grams. Most scales have both imperial, and metric conversions so don’t feel daunted if you’re not used to working in grams. For this recipe, it is the most accurate way to measure out the ingredients for the dough and the pastry cream. Eggs vary in size. Flour varies in weight depending on how you are packing it. Weighing ingredients in grams minimizes errors.

Ingredients: I have read countless recipes for pâte à Choux. My favorite is from Gaston Lenôtre. Sure, it uses a lot more eggs than those used by other chefs and bloggers, but he was a master French pastry chef. One of the best! My husband has very fond memories of his youth in France, enjoying sublime pastries from his boulangerie. His dough yields a delicate eclair casing that is not too chewy, crisp or flat. His recipe is also generous regarding quantities. In case you didn’t know, the dough can be frozen either shaped or not. Eclair casings can be frozen as well. I have done it several times, and both the raw dough and cooked casings work perfectly! So go ahead and make a decent quantity, as per this recipe. You won’t regret it.

Glaze: Most recipes use fondant for the glaze. I have tried it. It is sticky, sometimes gritty and far too sweet! Sometimes less is more; Cream and chocolate work better than fondant.

FOR THE CHOUX DOUGH (pâte à Choux):

Ingredients:
220 grams of whole milk
220 grams of water
6 grams of salt
8 grams of granulated sugar
180 grams of unsalted butter
220 grams of sifted bread flour (see notes)
400 grams of eggs, beaten (about 7 or 8)
Cooking oil in spray can (mild tasting)

Tools:
Piping bag with a 3/4” fluted/serrated nozzle
Baking tins lined with parchment or silicone mats
Mixing bowl with paddle attachment (for beating the dough and blending in the eggs)
Thermometer (for the cooking and cooling of the dough)
Wooden spoon (to beat mixture)
Regular soup spoons
Whisk
Sharp tip paring knife
Ziplock bags (optional for freezing)
Cooling racks

Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Set out your cookie sheets and line them with parchment or silicone mats.
Set out all your ingredients and tools.
In a heavy bottomed pan, bring the milk, butter, sugar and salt to a boil over medium heat.
As soon as the mixture boils, take the pan off the heat, and add all of the flour at once.
With a wooden spoon, beat in the flour vigorously until all the flour has been incorporated.
Put the pan back onto a medium heat and keep beating the dough until it reaches 170°F and the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the pan.
Keep beating and cooking the dough for a couple of minutes (see notes).
Take the dough off the heat and transfer it into a mixing bowl.
Let the mixture cool down to 140°F to prevent the eggs from cooking in the dough.
With a paddle attachment (or use a wooden spoon and a strong arm) set your mixer to the lowest setting.
Add 1/4 of your beaten eggs.
Continue adding the eggs in quarter amounts and beating each addition until they are fully incorporated.
Mix for an additional one minute.
Let the Choux pastry cool somewhat so it is easier to handle.
Fill a pastry bag with some dough and pipe your eclairs 6 inches long, 2 inches apart onto your prepared tins (see notes).
Place the eclairs in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°F or freeze immediately.
Bake for 30 minutes. They should be slightly darker than golden.
Take them out of the oven and immediately turn them over.
With the tip of a small sharp knife, pierce each case on the bottom twice at each end. The vent holes allow steam to escape, keeping the eclairs from collapsing. You are also creating the small holes into which you will fill your eclair with pastry cream (see notes on cooking times).
Let the cases cool while you prepare the filling. If you aren’t going to use them immediately (or wishing the next couple of hours), store them in an airtight container (they will keep like that for a day) or freeze them.

CHOCOLATE PASTRY CREAM (Crème pâtissière au chocolat):

Ingredients for the chocolate pastry cream:
1 liter of whole milk
250 grams of granulated sugar
240 grams of egg yolks
80 grams of cornflour or preferably Bird’s custard powder (see notes)
250 grams of good quality dark chocolate, finely grated
50 grams of pure cocoa powder

Tools:
Food mixer with whisk attachment
Hand whisk
Piping bag with a fine nozzle
Large pan
Small pan
Grater
Spoons
Sieve
Medium bowl

Instructions for the chocolate pastry cream:
Put your grated chocolate into a small bowl ready to be mixed into a paste with some milk and set aside.
Whisk half the sugar and the egg yolks in a food mixer.
Add the custard powder or cornflour (see notes). Let is stand while you boil the milk and make the chocolate paste.
In a small heavy-bottomed pan over very low heat, bring 250 grams of milk to the boil.
When it has boiled, pour it over the grated chocolate and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
In a large pan, bring the rest of the milk to a boil with the other half of the sugar.
Pour this milk and sugar mixture into the eggs and sugar, mixing the whole time on a medium setting. Keep the pan to one side.
Now add the chocolate paste and the chocolate powder and mix well.
Pass this mixture through a sieve back into the large pan.
Bring everything to a boil constantly stirring with a hand whisk.
Cook for one minute until the cream has thickened. If you have lumps, you can pass it again through a sieve.
Cover the pastry cream with cling wrap (touching the surface) to avoid a skin from forming.
Chill for half an hour to an hour and beat again before filling in the eclairs.
The pastry cream will keep for 3 to 4 days covered and refrigerated.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE:

Ingredients for the glaze:
1 cup of heavy cream
10 oz of semi sweet chocolate

Instructions for Glazing:
In a small pan over medium-high heat, scald the cream
Remove from the heat and add the chocolate
Stir gently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth
Cool slightly before using

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER:

Have your pastry cases ready.
Gently whisk your chocolate cream until smooth.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle.
Hold your eclair case upside down and pipe the filling into the holes until the cases are nice and plump.
Hold your filled eclair upside down.
Dip the top into the chocolate glaze.
Transfer to a cooling rack and let the glaze set (about half an hour).
You can eat them immediately.
I like to chill mine in the fridge for about an hour to two hours. The cream will be nice and cool inside; the glaze will have set and the eclair case beautifully light.
You can make fully assembled eclairs up to 3 hours ahead of time.

NOTES AND TIPS:

Flour: Bread flour is stronger and keeps the eclair case from collapsing and helps it maintain a hollow interior.

Cornflour: I prefer to use Bird’s Eye Custard Powder. It is a slightly vanilla-flavored cornflour from the UK.

Cooking: Another tip to keeping your eclairs from collapsing is to cook the flour and milk dough in the pan sufficiently (hence the 170°F recommendation).

Also, cook the casings for a sufficient amount of time in the oven, to evaporate all moisture.

Do not open your oven door before the cooking time is up!

If, when you take the eclair shells out of the oven, and you make the two vent holes in the bottom, they feel slightly squishy, put them immediately back into the oven for a further minute or two.

You may not need all of the eggs. Your batter should be pliable but not easily pourable. If you swipe your finger through the dough, it should leave and tip, and the indentation should not collapse down.

Remember to cool the dough before adding the eggs.

Some recipes recommend placing one baking tray over another to avoid the bottoms from burning. I have done this and to be honest, it makes no difference to the outcome. It simply means you have to bake your eclairs a bit longer as you want the bottom to be somewhat crusty.

Other recipes recommend using boiling water inside the oven. Again, this is not necessary. Personally, I think it is a fiddly step that just increases the odds that you won’t want to make eclairs too often. So what if a few have some uneven tops? You are making homemade eclairs. Not something that looks like it came out of the freezer department of your local supermarket. Rustic is OK.

Piping: The best angle for piping the dough is 45°. Do not let the nozzle touch the pan too much or you will end up with flat eclairs.

This is the set I use. It has a large serrated nozzle for piping the eclair and a fine small nozzle for filling. It also has a smaller serrated nozzle for making mini eclairs. Click here. These are the disposable piping bags I can’t live without.

Some chefs pull the dough up over the end of the eclair when they have finished piping each one. I prefer to twist the piping nozzle slightly to cut the eclair off. It yields a more regular shape without bulbous ends.

Using the back of a spoon dipped in water, you can then smooth out the tips before baking or freezing.

Freezing and Making Ahead: You can freeze the unused dough, piped dough and the eclairs already baked (but unfilled).

Shaped dough, once frozen, can be transferred to a ziplock bag. Cook them from frozen but add 5 minutes to the cooking time, approximately. It will depend on how your oven bakes. The key is that they become slightly more brown than golden in color.

Cooled and baked cases can be frozen in a ziplock bag and reheated at 350°F for 5 minutes before using.

© 2014-2015 Caroline’s Family Kitchen and CarolinesFamilyKitchen.com

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Chocolate Eclairs

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