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After trying this Eclair recipe, you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t try it earlier. I was one of those people who thought it might be hard to make eclairs. But let me tell you, this is absolutely not true!! They are not only easy to make, but also taste divine, and I can guaranty you’ll make them again and again.
This is one of those recipes that you get better at the more you do it. if it’s your first time making eclairs, I suggest you read through this post. I will address few important points for achieving the perfect eclairs.
Let’s first begin with the question – What are Eclairs?
Eclairs are made with choux pastry filled with pastry cream and dipped in chocolate. But you may ask what is Choux pastry, also called “Pate a choux” (Pot ah-Shoo)?
Pate a Choux is a delicate pastry dough made with water, butter, eggs, and strong flour, which are cooked on the stovetop before baking. The double cooking process is what creates the hollow interior of the eclair. When the flour is heated the first time the starches are gelatinized which helps to support the structure of the gluten when the steam is released in the baking stage.
The moisture and the egg protein in the dough are what make this incredible light and airy pastry so good. When it’s baked in a hot oven the moisture evaporates and the egg protein stretches which creates a crispy and light as a feather eclair.
You can use this dough to make not only eclairs, but also profiteroles/cream puffs, craquelins, and many more desserts.
Ok, we know now what Eclairs are. Let’s talk about the process of making them and what to avoid doing.
- The one most important thing to remember is DO NOT open the oven door before the eclairs have risen (first 25-30min.)! If you do, you will end up with flat, or sunken eclairs, and you don’t want that to happen.
- The shell should be crispy, not soft or soggy. If you leave them out for too long, being exposed to air will soften them eventually. That’s why you want to keep them in an air-tight container as soon as they are cooled.
- Another reason they are soft, flat, or soggy might be because the dough was too runny and didn’t keep its shape when piped. This happens if you didn’t put enough flour or had too much liquid (eggs, water, butter) into the dough.
- Also removing the eclairs from the oven too early can also cause them to sink, not giving them enough time to crisp up. This is why I recommend after the 30min mark, when they are nicely puffed and golden on top, to take them out and quickly poke them with a toothpick or knife (I like to poke them in the same place where I will be piping in the cream later, you don’t want to have holes all over the eclairs and cream oozing out when you bite into them) and put them back in the oven for the final few minutes of baking. This way you are helping the steam trapped inside to be released and develop the perfect interior and stronger shell.
- On another hand, if you end up with too crisp or crumbly eclairs, there are few reasons for that to happen. The dough was too dry, you either added too much flour or not enough eggs. A good sign for that is not having a glossy sheen when making the choux. Also, you might’ve baked it for too long which cause them to dry.
- Too many cracks! This is something that does not bother me and it doesn’t affect the taste, but some people might want to have a smoother look at their eclairs. This does not apply as much to profiteroles due to their roundish shape, but the elongated shape of the eclairs can look somewhat weird and wrong. I just call them perfectly unperfect. And if you get a crack or two, don’t worry about it, embrace it!
So, how to avoid these cracks? First, you can use a French start tip vs. a round tip to pipe them. The zig-zag type of nozzle (French start tip) creates more surface that allows the eclairs to expand when baking without cracking. If you are using a round tip you can use a fork and run through the surface of the piped eclair creating those lines.
Also, make sure when you pipe the eclairs you are using the same pressure and having a consistent shape. That can be achieved only with practice. The more you do it, the better will get. One tip I can give you is when you are piping have the edge of the tip touching the surface and keep it at a 45º angle. That will give you more support and smooth pipping.
Another thing to pay attention to is making sure the salt and sugar are dissolved before adding the flour. AND, the flour is sifted to avoid any lumps. All those things can interfere with the final look of the eclairs.
High temperatures can also cause cracks to form on the surface of the eclairs. Although in many recipes you will see people using two different temperatures, one high in the first few minutes and then lowering it for the rest of the baking. The reason for that is to force the dough to rise quicker by having the water evaporate faster and then lowering the temperature to finish the baking. That can definitely work. But I prefer to bake them at the same temperature. I feel this way is more consistent and gentle to the dough, and less likely to develop cracks. If your dough is the right consistency it will rise no matter the temperature technique. Try both ways and see what works for you best.
- Very important, as in any recipe that uses flour, is to weigh the ingredients!!! If you like to bake, investing in a kitchen scale is not only inexpensive but also it will help in achieving consistent results every time.
- Whisking the eggs before adding them to the dough is recommended. This way you will be able to add a little at a time and be in more control of how much liquid you add. Plus having the eggs already whisked helps with the smoothness of the dough.
And this sums up all the things you can experience when making eclairs and how to avoid them. Now, let’s actually make them!
How to make Eclairs?
You need basic few ingredients: Water or a mix of water and milk. Butter. Sugar. Flour. Eggs. Salt.
The process of making the actual dough is very simple. As you can see in the images, you need just one saucepan, add the water, butter, sugar, and salt. Melt them. As soon as it starts to boil and everything has dissolved, dump in all the flour and start mixing over medium heat. The goal is to have most of the water evaporate and end up with a thicker consistency. When it creates a film on the bottom of the pan it’s ready. Although if you feel like it still has too much moisture, give it a few more stirs before taking it off the heat.
Transfer the hot dough to a bowl of a stand mixer, or you can use a hand mixer. Fold it few times to let it cool off faster and spread it out in the bowl which also helps with speeding out the cooling process. Wait few minutes. Start adding the whisked eggs a little at a time while mixing. Keep an eye on the consistency, it should be smooth and glossy. Stop often and do the finger check. Run your finger through the dough, if it leaves a mark and the sides are slowly folding on themselves, the dough is ready. It’s better to check more often than make it too runny and to try to fix it.
A helpful trick is to add the piping bag with the nozzle in it, into a tall glass or a cup to fill it with the dough. Once you have that ready, start piping the eclairs or profiteroles into the baking tray lined with a silicone pad or parchment paper.
When piping the eclairs by nature they will have a little tip at the end. Don’t leave them like this or they will burn when baking. It’s very easy to fix, by dipping your finger in water and gently smoothing it out. I like to pipe the eclairs at about 3.5 – 4 inches(9-10cm). They will expand as they bake. Once ready, transfer them to a cooling rack.
When making Eclairs I like to have the pastry cream already done by making it the day before. If you making everything the same day, start with the cream first and then do the dough. That way it will have more time to chill in the fridge.
How to make Pastry Cream?
Pasty Cream ingredients are also very simple. All you need are milk, egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, vanilla, butter, salt. If you are making chocolate, then you will need cacao powder or chocolate. The process is also very simple and similar to how you would make the dough. This Classic Pastry Cream Recipe has detailed directions, but I’ll go over the process here too.
You need a saucepan to which you will add the milk and vanilla seeds. Heat it up till just about boiling.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, you will combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and corn starch.
Then when the milk is ready, you will pour a little amount of it into the egg mixture to temper it, whisking constantly. Once they are tempered you can add the rest of the milk and transfer it to the stovetop.
Make sure you are whisking the whole time while cooking, or it will stick to the bottom. It will thicken very quickly (2-5min.)
When ready take it off the heat and add the butter. Mix till incorporated. At this point, you can add the chocolate if using.
Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic film by touching the cream. If you just put the plastic over the bowl, the cream will form a skin as it cools, which is not a good idea. Keep it in the fridge till chilled and ready to pipe.
It doesn’t have to be completely cold when filling the eclairs or profiteroles, but also not warm. It thickens as it cools. So, give it at least 2 hours in the fridge before using.
When filling the eclairs I like to make one hole on each side at the bottom of the eclair. You can also try just with one hole at the bottom center.
And of course, adding the final touches. I’m talking about the chocolate and nuts on top. All you have to do is melt some chocolate and dip the eclairs in it. Sprinkle some chopped nuts of your chose and you are done!
You will be so proud of yourself for creating such a beautiful pastries and you definitely deserve to eat as many as you’d like! They are great for birthday parties, or any celebrations, since they are individual sizes and easy to eat.
One more thing I want to address is how to store eclairs.
Once they are ready you can have them at room temperature for a few hours, or you can keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. The shells might soften as they sit, but they will still taste delicious! You can also freeze the Choux Pastry but without the cream. The reason for that is the pastry cream will not have the same thick consistency when thawed, it will become runny and make the whole eclair soggy and unpleasant.
I hope after reading this post you will feel more comfortable and clear on how to make Choux pastry and use it to create Eclairs, Profiteroles, or Choux au Craquelin.
I would love to hear about your experience and if you have any questions. Leave a comment below and let’s chat. Also, get in touch with me on Instagram, Telegram, and Facebook, I would love to connect!
How to make the Perfect Eclairs
- 237 ml Water 1 cup, or half water half milk
- 115 g Butter 1/2 cup or 8 tbsp
- 2 t Sugar 8g
- 1/2 t Salt
- 120 g AP Flour or Bread Flour 1 cup
- 4 Eggs
- *If it's your first time making eclairs, I suggest you read all the notes above to avoid any mistakes and troubleshooting.
- If you haven't made the Pastry Cream already, do that first, so it has time to chill in the fridge.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375F (190C)
- Line a baking tray with a silicone mat, perforated mat, or parchment paper.
- Add water, butter, sugar, and salt to a saucepan over med heat.
- Meanwhile whick the eggs.
- Once the milk starts boiling and everything is melted add the flour all at once. Mix it in and keep steering till it thickens and forms a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.
- Take off the heat and transfer to a bowl of the stand mixer with a paddle attachment you can use a hand mixer as well. Spread the dough in the bowl so it can cool off faster. Wait for a few minutes before the next step.
- With the mixer running, start adding the whisked eggs, little at a time. The dough will look chunky at first, but very quickly it will become smooth and glossy. When you add about half of the eggs stop and check the consistency of the dough. Be careful towards the end, you might not need to add all the eggs. That will vary on how thick was your dough in the first place. Do the finger check (*see notes).
- Once the dough is ready, transfer to a piping bag with a French Tip nozzle on it. If you don't have a french tip, you can use just a round one. After you pipe them run a fork over them to create the needed texture for the eclairs to expand without cracking.
- Pipe each eclair it a 45° with the edge of the tip touching the surface for support. The length of each eclair is about 3.5-4 inches(9-10cm). Leave enough space between each eclair as they will expand when baking. When piping the eclairs it will create a tip at the end of each one (see images). Do not leave it as it can burn when baking. You can smooth it out easily by using a wet finger.
- Bake in the middle rack for about 45min. Do not open the oven in the first 20-30min. Not till they are puffed and golden. After 30 minutes you can pull them out and using a toothpick poke each one, so the steam from the inside can be released (do this quickly). Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15min., till nicely golden borwn.
- Take them out of the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Once cooled, fill them with pastry cream.
- If you would like to top them off with chocolate and nuts, melt some chocolate over a double boiler, dip each eclair in the melted chocolate and sprinkle some nuts of your choise.
- Store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.