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This delicious, decadent, elegant chocolate eclair recipe is actually surprisingly easy to make. You’ll just seem like you graduated from Le Cordon Bleu!
These homemade chocolate eclairs make you feel like you’re sitting at a cafe in Paris, sipping on a hot coffee and nibbling on this perfect treat.
But now you don’t have to go to Paris. Or New York either! All you need are some surprisingly basic ingredients and a little bit of practice. Chocolate eclairs are basically an elongated profiterole, filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate frosting.
So, what we are doing here is taking these recipes and combining them together to make delicious homemade eclairs. My choux pastry will be the eclair shell, and the filing this delicious pastry cream. Unlike cream puffs or profiteroles which have no frosting, eclairs are topped with a yummy chocolate frosting.
The crispy shell contrasts with the cool and creamy vanilla-flavored filling and the sweet chocolate frosting to make what really is the most delicious dessert. I love eclairs. They may seem too complicated to make but trust me when I say they aren’t.
There are tips and tricks to ensure success with these recipes, so be sure to review and read through my pastry cream and choux pastry recipes before you try to make these eclairs. You’ll be glad you did.
- Taste – Parisienne perfection – sweet vanilla filling, a crispy shell, and chocolate topping.
- Texture – Crisp shell with a cool and creamy filling.
- Ease – This is an intermediate project – take it step by step.
- Time – It takes about 3.5 hours, start to finish.
This filling is a vanilla-flavored pastry cream. It’s cooked on the stovetop and then cooled. It has the consistency of a pudding but a slightly lighter taste.
Eclairs, or really any choux pastry, will go flat if there is any moisture left inside the pastry after cooking. This can happen if you don’t dry the dough enough when you are cooking it on the stovetop or in the oven.
They are best eaten the day they are made. You can keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days, but you will lose some of the crispiness of the shell.
What You’ll Need
These ingredients are all fairly basic- but the results are anything but. Use the highest quality ingredients you can find for the best-tasting eclairs, even for the basics like butter salt, and sugar!
For the filling
- Sugar: Use regular granulated sugar. There’s just enough to make the cream sweet without it being cloying.
- Cornstarch: Using corn starch instead of flour is the cheater’s way. But, it always works and tastes no different than the traditional methods.
- Milk: Use only whole milk. You need the richness that full-fat milk offers.
- Egg yolks: You only need the yolks. Save the whites to make macarons or macaroons.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is added to give the cream a creamier consistency.
- Vanilla: I prefer to use vanilla bean paste instead of soaking a vanilla bean pod in the milk. Pure vanilla extract can also be used. Avoid anything imitation!
For the eclairs
- Water: Water is traditional so we are sticking with that.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is best. It doesn’t need to be softened but I recommend cutting it into small pieces so it will melt quickly once heated.
- Salt: A small amount of salt is needed for flavor.
- Flour: Make sure to use unbleached all-purpose flour and sift it well. Sifting will remove any large clumps making it easier to mix thoroughly.
- Eggs: Make sure the eggs are at room temperature. This will make them easier to mix into the dough.
For the glaze
- Semisweet chocolate: I almost exclusively bake with semisweet chocolate.
- Heavy cream: This will thicken the glaze to almost a ganache-like topping
- Confectioners’ sugar: Powdered sugar, for sweetness and smoothness.
- Instant read thermometer: Great for making candy or boiling puddings or other recipes that require something reaching “just the right temperature.”
- Fine mesh sieve: This can double as a colander, but is great for making pastry creams and other sauces to get rid of any lumps or clumps.
- Pastry bag and pipping tip: For filling the eclairs.
How to Make Classic Chocolate Eclairs
This recipe is really like making three separate recipes and combining them all together at the end. It might seem a bit overwhelming but take it step by step and you will be fine. You can even make the pastry cream the day before and keep it in the fridge.
Make the filling
- In a medium pan, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and egg yolks together until well combined. Slowly pour this milk mixture into the sugar mixture while whisking to remove any clumps. Add the butter.
- Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until bubbles start to burst through the surface. Once boiling, continue to cook while whisking for a full minute. The pastry cream will become thick like pudding (it should register 200°F on an instant-read thermometer).
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla paste until well combined. To ensure it is smooth and creamy, press the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any bits of egg that may have scrambled.
- Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using it.
Make the eclairs
- Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium stainless steel pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the butter melts completely and the mixture comes to a full boil. Then add all of the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until no traces of dry flour are visible.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, until the paste pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a smooth ball. You will notice a skin has formed on the bottom of the pot.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, until the paste feels slightly warm to the touch. If it’s too hot it will cook the eggs and ruin the pastries.
- Add about ⅓ of the eggs and use the wooden spoon to vigorously mix until smooth and creamy. The dough will break but it will slowly become creamy. Once the dough is smooth and creamy, add another ⅓ of the eggs. Mix until the dough become smooth and creamy again then mix in the final ⅓ eggs. Stir until the mixture becomes smooth, stiff, and shiny. Set aside to cool while the oven preheats.
- Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F for 45 minutes before baking.
- Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized French star piping tip with the dough and push the dough to the tip.
- Line sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone mats. Use a little of the dough in the corners to secure the parchment paper in place. Holding the pastry bag at a 45° angle, pipe lines of dough about 4 to 5-inches long and space them about 3-inches apart. Use a moistened fingertip to gently press down any pointed tips on the ends.
- Bake the eclairs for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for 20 minutes or until the shells are brown and completely firm. Do not open the oven during baking or they might collapse.
- Transfer the pastries to a wire rack and immediately poke a skewer all the way through to release the steam trapped inside.
- Cool completely then use a sharp knife to cut 3 small Xs on the top of each shell. Fit a pastry bag with a ¼ inch tip and fill with the chilled filling. Pipe filling into pastries through each X until eclairs are completely filled.
Make the glaze
- Microwave chocolate in 30-second intervals until fully melted. Whisk in the heavy cream until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until smooth. Transfer the eclairs to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and spoon warm glaze evenly over the tops. Allow the glaze to set for 20 minutes before serving.
Hint: You can flavor the filling to make either almond or mocha-flavored eclairs.
Almond pastry cream: Mix in ¾ teaspoon almond extract along with the vanilla.
Mocha pastry cream: Add 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder to the milk and egg mixture in step 2.
Tips For Success
- Avoid adding too many eggs. Your dough may require less than the amount called for. Follow the tips in my Choux Pastry posting closely.
- Never open the door while the eclairs are baking. This will allow the heat to escape the shells may collapse.
- Don’t skip pricking the shells with a skewer at the end of baking. This allows steam to escape which helps prevent the shells from turning soggy as they cool.
Storage & Freezing
- Baked and cooled pastries can be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours or frozen in a ziptop bag for up to 1 month. Recrisp room temperature pastries in a 300°F oven for 5-8 minutes, or frozen pastries for 8-10 minutes.
- The filling can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before using.
- Filled and glazed eclairs can be stored at room temperature for 4 hours. Or freeze for up to 4 days. Thaw at room temperature when ready to serve.
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