Updated: Aug 26, 2022
Hi, my lovely readers! If you have stumbled upon this page, you are probably looking to bake some eclairs and I have just the ultimate chocolate éclair recipe right here for you.
Some of the things I love most about eclairs is that they are so versatile and you can apply them to making so many different things with the same dough and to name a few, they are such as: Paris Brest, Croquembouche, Profiteroles, Pomme Douphine, Parisian Choux Gnocchi and Gougeres.
Choux pastry are not just for the sweet lovers, they are a good pastry base for savoury applications as well, such as adding cheese and making savour fillings to go with them.
If this is your first or first few attempts in making choux pastry, the following are some of the tips that I think you will find handy for a successful result.
Choux pastry or Pâte à choux is a twice cooked French pastry invented by Chef Pantanelli, head chef of Catherine de Medici of Florence. The name choux refer to “cabbage” in French because of the way the traditional choux pastry would rise in its irregular form.
Modern choux pastry has improved over time and pastry chefs to date have found ways to prevent the choux pastry from rising irregularly, instead a uniform dome shaped choux bun or even eclairs are created
COMPOSITION OF CHOUX PASTRY
The composition of a choux pastry is as follow:
Flour (All Purpose or Bakers)
Choux pastry has a hollow centre when baked, which allows you to fill them with different variations of creams and fillings.
PREPARATION OF A CHOUX PASTRY
When preparing pâte à choux, the liquid is brought to a mere boil together with the sugar, butter, and salt.
It is important to not let the liquid come to a rolling boil as this can cause evaporation of the liquid and you can lose some of the liquid content in the recipe.
When the liquid has come to a mere boil, flour is then added (off heat) and stirred vigorously to create a paste that is called the “panade”. The best indication of the right time to add the flour into the hot liquid is when the liquid is at least 80˚C as starch breaks down around that temperature range of 70-80 ˚C.
This panade is then stirred and cooked further on a low heat in the pot for 2 – 3 minutes to ensure that the starch is fully cooked through and doesn’t leave a floury taste to your palette.
The panade is then placed over to a mixer or stirred by hand to cool to below 50˚C before gradually adding in the eggs.
WHEN TO ADD EGGS INTO THE PANADE
Eggs starts to coagulate (scrambled) at a temperature of 60˚C and above. Adding eggs at below 50˚C will prevent cooked eggs in the mixture.
If you want to pipe the choux pastry straight away, it is recommended to add the eggs at the lower temperature. If the panade is too cold when adding the eggs, it will not be able to absorb the eggs as well, so adding at 45˚C is recommended for cooler temperature.
WHAT HELPS THE CHOUX PASTRY TO HAVE A HOLLOW INTERIOR?
Pâte à choux can create a hollow centre thanks to the liquid and eggs that are added into the dough. As the pâte à choux hits the hot oven, the liquid from the water/milk and eggs transforms into steam inside and pushes upwards to escape. As wheat flour contains gluten, it helps the outer part of the choux paster to expand and hold its structure as the steam releases. As the pastry bakes longer, a hollow centre is created
Baked pâte à choux are often left to dry out in a turned off hot oven to allow a crisp shell that do not go soft too quickly, which is the nature of the pastry.
MILK VERSUS WATER
Water or milk or a combination of both can be used in a pâte à choux recipe.
Milk gives flavour and flexibility to the choux pastry thanks to its fat content. The fat also helps the choux pastry to expand more evenly without too many cracks.
Water yields a hollower centre in the pâte à choux with a drier texture. This is especially great if you are making croquembouche and wants the pastry to stand for longer before it goes soft.
Due to the nature of gravity, steam always rises to the top. Because of this, whilst the choux hits the hot oven, the water in the choux will start to transform into steam and rises upwards, which pushes the choux pastry and help them puff up. As the steam escapes the choux pastry, the centre starts to become hollow.
To take advantage of the nature of steam, it is recommended that you place the tray of choux pastry at the lowest part of the oven so that the heat are more concentrated at the base of the tray which helps to push the choux pastry further upwards.
It is also important to note that the oven needs to be hot enough to transform water to steam and to accelerate the transformation otherwise the choux pastry will not puff up as well. As a general guideline, 180˚C - 190˚C is a good temperature to start with domestic oven. In commercial kitchens, deck oven is the wonder for baking choux pastries.
When piping éclair, I highly recommend that you invest in a straight French Star Piping tip. The jagged edges that this pastry tip creates when you pipe éclair allows the steam to escape more evenly. If a plain tip is used, the steam might find it hard to escape the interior of the choux pastry and therefore scrambled around frantically which is what creates an uneven rise all around like a cabbage.
Note that having a cabbage shaped profiteroles are sometimes desired.
The star tip size that I used for this post is a 15mm diameter tip.
As much as eclairs are fun to make and enjoy, they don't really have a long standing shelf life. It is recommended that once you have filled the eclairs, store them in the fridge otherwise consume them the day you filled them.
Alternatively, you can freeze baked éclair shells and when you are ready to serve, just pop them in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes to crisp it up slightly. Cool then fill.
Yield: 10 eclairs
Equipment: 15mm diameter French Star Pastry Tip
50 g Softened Butter
50 g Plain Flour
50 g Raw Sugar
8 g Cocoa Powder
50 g Full Cream Milk
75 g Water
60 g Unsalted Butter
5 g Caster Sugar
2 g Fine Salt
90 g Bread Flour 12% Protein
125 g Eggs
CHOCOLATE PASTRY CREAM
350 g Full Cream Milk
70 g Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
60 g Egg Yolks
15 g Corn Starch
15 g Plain Flour
35 g Unsalted Butter
70 g Milk Chocolate
50 g Semi Whipped Cream
1. Mix all the ingredients together until they form to a soft dough.
2. Place the chocolate dough between two parchment paper then with the help of a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is approximately 1mm thick.
3. Place the craqueline onto a flat surface then store in the freezer to firm up.
4. When the craqueline is firm enough, cut to 13 cm x 3 cm rectangles and place it back into the freezer until ready to use.
5. Pre heat the oven to 180˚C. Line a baking tray with a non stick baking paper
6. Place the milk, water, sugar and salt into a saucepan and bring to a mere simmer all around the side and centre of the pot. Once the liquid has come to a simmer, turn off the heat and add in the plain flour and very quickly stir to mix. The starch in the flour will start to absorb the liquid and turn to a doughy paste, this is called the panade.
Turn on the heat again to low and medium heat and continue to cook the panade for 2-3 minutes or until the base of the pan starts to form a crust and the panade begins to become smooth.
7. Remove from the heat and transfer the cooked panade into the stand mixer bowl and mix on low speed with a paddle until it cools slightly but is still warm. The recommended temperature is 45C.
When the panade is cooled enough, whisk the eggs together and then gradually add in the eggs in a few additions, only adding each addition when the first addition is well absorb into the panade.
Note that you may not need all of the eggs or may need to add more eggs depending on the how long you have cooked out the panade. The consistency you are after is a smooth and shiny appearance and when you scoop the large amount of choux pastry with your paddle or spatula, they drop back gradually into the bowl with a spike at the end. If the choux pastry drops too hard into the bowl or do not drop at all, you will need to add more eggs.
8. Transfer the choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with 13 cm length éclair with a 1.5mm French Star pastry tip.
Pipe on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place the craqueline rectangles on top of each éclair, then place the tray at the bottom rack of the pre heated oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, then turn down the oven to 170˚C and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Once the éclair has puffed up and form a crust, open the oven door slightly to release some of the steam, close the oven door again and bake for another 5 minutes. Once baked, turn off the oven, and leave the oven door slightly open and leave to dry in the turned off oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the eclairs from the oven and leave to cool completely.
Place the milk and vanilla bean paste into a pot and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together until well combined, followed by the flour and corn flour.
When the milk has come to a simmer, gradually stream into the yolk mixture while constantly whisking. Once all the milk has been added, transfer the liquid custard mixture back into the saucepan and whisk to cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken. This will only take 1 -2 minutes, so don't walk away.
Transfer the thickened custard into a clean mixing bowl with the chocolate then whisk to combine. Add in the unsalted butter and continue to whisk until the butter are well mixed through. Cover the pastry cream with a plastic food wrap, touching the surface to prevent skin from forming. Leave in the fridge to cool completely.
Once the pastry cream has cooled, semi whipped the cream. Whisk the custard to a smooth consistency then fold in the whipped cream.
Transfer the chocolate cream into a pastry bag fitted with a 3mm plain tip. With a smaller piping tip, pierce three holes under each éclair then pipe the chocolate cream to fully fill the éclair or until it feels heavy.