Eclairs are buttery logs of choux pastry (pâte à choux) baked until light, tender, and puffed up to form a hollow center that's perfect for filling with luscious vanilla pastry cream and topping with a rich chocolate glaze.
Eclairs are one of the many delicious desserts and savory confections made with choux paste (pâte à choux). Traditionally, choux paste contains nothing more than butter, water, flour and eggs, but most modern recipes (this one included) add in a bit of salt and sugar for flavor. The magical thing about choux paste is that it puffs up while baking, creating a hollow interior that's perfect for filling with luscious things like pastry cream.
Tips for making the perfect choux paste:
#1. The dough for chocolate eclairs is essentially an emulsion - which means the ingredients must be thoroughly combined in the right order and at the right temperatures. It’s very important that the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar come to a full boil before adding the flour. Once the four has been added, it’s also important to cook it for at least 1 minute over medium-low heat, stirring vigorously, to cook the flour and create structure in the dough.
#2. Let the dough cool slightly before adding the eggs. Dump the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and let it rest for 5 minutes.
#3. The amount of eggs required for the right consistency varies. Crack all 4 eggs into a bowl and whisk them to combine. Then, add them to the dough bit-by-bit, beating as you do, and adding only enough to form a shiny dough that's thick enough to hold its shape. I almost always end up with about a tablespoon of eggs left over, which can be saved for the egg wash.
#4. To get that perfect puff, you need air and moisture. Choux pastry doesn’t use any chemical raising agent (like baking powder) to rise. Rather, the pastry relies on air and moisture trapped in the dough to give it that perfect gentle puff. In this way moisture is your friend. Brush a parchment lined baking sheet with water to create a humid environment for the eclairs to bake.
Even though you want the eclairs to bake in a humid oven, it's super important to cook the dough long enough to dry it out. If the inside of the eclairs is even slightly under done, the pastries will collapse when you take them out of the oven. The pastries are done when they are a deep golden brown and do not look wet at all.
Every component of a Chocolate Eclair should add flavor.
One final thing - many choux pastry recipes call for just a pinch of salt and no sugar. The idea is that the pastry itself is simply a carrier for the filling. When it comes to my idea of the perfect chocolate eclair, this is only true to a point. You wouldn't necessarily want to eat the eclair pastry shell all on it's own. It's meant to be filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate.
However, I think the pastry should still contain some flavor all on it's own. I've found the the best recipes rely on layerings of flavor, each ingredient contributing something of value to the dish. That's why this recipe includes a bit more salt than most choux pastry recipes and a tablespoon of sugar. The salt and sugar add subtle flavor without making the pastry salty or sweet and without detracting from the star ingredient - the pastry cream.
The pastry cream used here is my all-time favorite. I can't really imagine it not making anything delicious. So - if for some reason your lovely eclair pastry shells do not come out so lovely, just cover them in pastry cream and a drizzle of chocolate glaze and eat them anyway. Call them chocolate eclair tarts or something. No one will complain.
Helpful tools for making eclairs:
- Large disposable pastry bags
- Ateco 11/16″ Plain 809 Pastry Tube (Large round decorator tip)
- Medium (3 quart) saucepan
- Wooden spoon or rubber spatula
- Stand mixer
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Pastry brush or small, clean paint brush
you might also like…
- Profiteroles (French Cream Puffs)
- Perfect Pastry Cream
- Mini Butterscotch Eclairs
- French Cruller Doughnuts (Also made with Choux paste and SO easy!)
- The Classic French Napoleon Dessert
- Cannoli Filled Napoleon
- Chai Vanilla Pots de Creme
Eclairs are a Building Block Recipe
Building block recipes are tried-and-true recipes that I consider foundational to great home baking. They are the kind of recipes I come back to over and over again, sometimes baking them as is, but often using them as a jumping off point to create something new. > Scroll through all Building Block recipes.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
For the Choux Paste:
- ½ cup (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup whole milk
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- Egg wash (optional): 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water *See note
For the Chocolate Glaze:
- ¾ cup (4.6 oz) good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ¼ cup (1.5 oz) good quality unsweetened chocolate
- 3 tablespoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Make a batch of Perfect Pastry Cream and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
Make the Choux Pastry:
- Add the butter, water, milk, salt, and sugar to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Bring mixture to a full boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously until the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture forms a thick ball of dough. Cook the dough for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly and using the back of your spoon to mash the dough against the side of the pan.
- Dump the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (*See note) Allow to cool down for about 5 minutes before proceeding.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk to combine. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, slowly add the eggs in 4 or 5 separate additions, being sure to incorporate one addition before adding the next. The dough might look a bit curdled at first; just keep beating and it will come together. Add the last bit of beaten eggs very slowly, watching the dough carefully. When the dough looks shiny and thick enough to pipe and hold its shape, stop adding the eggs. I almost always have a tablespoon of beaten egg leftover which I then use for the egg wash.
*At this point, the dough can be used immediately or kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Bake the Eclairs:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of water over the surface of the parchment paper to create a humid environment for the eclairs to bake.
- Scoop the choux pastry dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large round pastry tip. Pipe 8 bratwurst size “logs” (approximately 5 inches long and 2 inches wide) onto the parchment covered baking sheet, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can also use a zip top bag with one of the corners cut off.)
- Dip your finger in water and smooth the tops of each log of dough, pressing down any peaks.
- To glaze (optional, to create a shiny surface): Whisk 1 egg with 2 teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush or clean paint brush, brush the glaze over the surface of each eclair. *If you had any leftover eggs from making the batter, you can use that.
- Bake the eclairs for 20 minutes. Keeping the oven door closed, reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until they are a deep golden brown and do not look wet at all.
- Allow the eclairs to cool completely on the baking sheet before filling.
- Use a fork or sharp knife to split the eclairs open. Fill with pastry cream and spread the tops with chocolate glaze.
Make the Chocolate Glaze:
- Add the semi-sweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, butter, salt, and corn syrup to a medium size saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the butter and chocolate are melted and the glaze is smooth. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
- Let cool to room temperature before spreading over the top of each eclair.
Place the chocolate eclairs in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to set the chocolate glaze. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
- If you don’t end up using all the eggs to make your choux pastry dough, save whatever’s left over for the egg wash and you won’t even need the extra egg.
- You can also use a handheld mixer to make choux paste if you don’t have a stand mixer.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
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