Not even the finest patisseries around town can compete with homemade éclairs! Unlike shop-bought éclairs, the light-as-air choux is at its absolute, delicately-crisp best. Filled with Chantilly whipped cream and coated with a shiny chocolate glaze, this is an éclairs recipe that anyone can follow!
An Éclairs recipe anyone can make
If you’ve always wanted to make éclairs but never had the confidence, this is the recipe for you! I’ve provided a concise how-to video and my recipe includes a few little steps to make it extra foolproof with better results. For example, cooling the choux pastry batter before adding the eggs (no scrambling risk, incorporates better) and opening the oven door to release steam to be extra sure our éclair buns come out crispy!
Why homemade éclairs are better than shop-bought
The best bakeries and patisseries make many things we ordinary home cooks cannot. But the one sweet treat we home cooks will always be able to do better than even a great patisserie is éclairs – those delicate glazed French choux buns stuffed with a rich, creamy filling.
It sounds unlikely but the reason is simple. Once you fill an eclair, within 15 minutes the delicately crispy surface of the choux pastry starts softening. What was initially light with a wafer-like exterior starts deteriorating to a more spongey texture as moisture gets absorbed by the choux.
This is inevitably the fate of all ready-to-eat pre-filled eclairs sold at patisseries. Of course they’re still totally delicious! But the experience of eating a homemade eclair in its optimum state of freshness is something else entirely – something everyone should try it at least once in their life.
Make today the day and read on!!!
Cream vs custard filling = Aussie/UK vs French!
While éclairs in the wonderful world of French pastries are made with custard piped inside, éclairs as we know them here in Australia are split open and filled with whipped cream (specifically, Chantilly cream). And rather generously at that! Nobody wants an éclair that doesn’t have cream bursting from the seams!
So today’s recipe is for Aussie éclairs. French éclairs, next year!
Overview of what makes up an Éclair
Éclairs are made up of 3 things:
Choux pastry (pâte à choux) – A light and airy pastry with a thin, golden, delicately crispy crust. Choux is a foundation pastry in baking, particularly French pastry. It’s used for favourites such as profiteroles, gougères (French cheese puffs!) and the iconic Paris Brest (a giant choux pastry “doughnut” filled with hazelnut custard, which I adore!).
It’s also a close cousin to non-French classics like churros, Yorkshire pudding and American beignets in terms of its texture and composition.
It’s fundamentally simple to make, using just water, butter, flour and eggs.
Chantilly cream – The French name for lightly sweetened vanilla-flavoured cream. I’ve done a separate post on Chantilly Cream – how to make it, how to stabilise cream to stop it deflating, and all the things you can do with this classic cream! But the directions are also included in this éclairs recipe.
Chocolate glaze – Just chocolate and cream plus glucose or corn syrup if you want a lovely shiny finish.
The follow section walks through how to make each of the above components and how to assemble an éclair.
How to make choux pastry for Éclairs
I find a lot of recipe resources tend to make a big deal about how choux pastry is notoriously difficult to make unless you follow precise directions and loads of dogmatic “rules”. But honestly, it’s not hard if you follow a few basic steps. I’ve never experienced a failure with my recipe, though I will say the one step I added over the years to make it even more foolproof is to cool the dough before adding the eggs.
1. Ingredients in choux pastry
The above ingredients are standard for choux pastry. Some recipes opt to use a combination of milk and water. I use only water because I find the shell comes out a little crisper.
Eggs – Being fussy about the eggs is actually really important because choux pastry relies on egg to puff up.
Size – Use large eggs that are 55 to 60g / 2 ounces each in the shell, a standard size sold in supermarkets with the cartons helpfully labelled “large eggs”! If you use really giant eggs or tiny eggs, you will throw out the ratios in the recipe and your mixture will be too loose (choux will spread in the oven) or too stiff (choux won’t rise).
How to measure – If your carton doesn’t have a label on it, or you have different sized eggs, just crack and whisk your eggs in a jug then measure out 200ml (4/5 cup).
Room temperature – And the last egg rule! Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, not fridge-cold, so they incorporate more easily into the mixture.
Flour – Just plain / all-purpose flour. I know some recipes swear by bread flour and cake flour. I find bread flour makes the choux pastry too firm (because of the higher protein) and cake flour makes them too delicate (for the opposite reason). Ordinary plain / all-purpose flour is a happy medium, I find. Plus, it’s cheaper!
Water – Some recipes use a combination of milk and water for the liquid, others use just water. Milk makes the choux pastry slightly less crispy and delicate. So I prefer just water.
Butter – This is the fat in the dough and also for flavour!
Salt – Just a pinch.
2. How to make choux pastry
And here’s how to make choux pastry: on the stove, in a saucepan!
Butter and water – Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once mostly melted add the water.
Flour – Once the butter and water mixture comes to a simmer, add the flour and mix it in, still heating on the stove. At first it will be pasty but then it will turn into a sticky dough that comes away from the sides of the saucepan. You should be able to scoop it up into a ball with a wooden spoon, like pictured in step 3.
Note: Do not let the butter-water boil for ages before adding flour as this may affect the outcome of the recipe since there will be too much heat in the saucepan.
Cool 10 minutes – Once the dough looks like pictured above, take the saucepan off the stove and let it cool for 10 minutes.
Note: Do not cool for longer than this, and do not shortcut this step. This is an easy foolproofing measure that solves lots of choux pastry issues that people experience.
Eggs – Using a wooden spoon, mix the eggs in one at a time, waiting until each egg is mixed in before adding the next. When you start stirring, the dough will initially look split with the egg but don’t fret! Keep stirring and it will come together.
Choux pastry – This is what it should look like! It’s like a very thick batter that is sticky, a bit stretchy, but too wet to knead like say pizza dough.
Piping bag – Transfer the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 15 mm / 0.6″ star tip nozzle (that’s measured from the points of two opposing stars!). The star tip will give us a lovely fluted bun after it bakes.
No star tip? No problem! Just snip a 1.5cm / 0.6″ off the end, it works fine you just won’t have the grooves along the bun from the nozzle.
No piping bag? Also no problem! Just use a sturdy ziplock bag.
How to bake choux pastry for Éclairs
To ensure your choux pastry comes out beautifully crispy, two tricks. Firstly, don’t crowd the tray. And secondly, open the oven periodically to release steam <–- a game changing tip discovered by my French pastry chef teacher, Jennifer Pogmore. Thanks J-Po!!
1. Piping choux pastry
Piping – See section above for piping bag and nozzle tip …errr, tips! 🤭
Pipe on an angle, aiming for logs that are 12 – 14 cm long, 2 cm wide and 1.5 cm tall (5″ long, 0.8″ wide, 0.6″ tall).
Don’t crowd the tray! Be sure to leave plenty of space – 5cm / 2″ – between the logs. If you crowd the tray, they curiously will not crisp up (as I found out first hand!) because of the steam from surrounding buns. I need to use 3 trays to fit all mine. If you have a big oven and big trays, you might only need 2 trays – lucky you! I pipe on an angle because that’s how I can fit the most on each tray while leaving sufficient space between each log.
Tidy ends – Use your finger dipped in water to tidy the ends, if you can be bothered! To be honest, once they puff up, the ends sort of self-neaten. ☺️
Ready to bake! You should have about 20 pieces in total.
2. Baking choux pastry
Note: A giant golden fur ball to photobomb your instruction photos is optional.
Bake for 45 minutes at 180°C/350°F (160°C fan). At the 30 minute, 35 minute and 40 minute mark, open the door for 2 seconds to release steam. This little step really does make them extra crispy and gives the crispiness a longer shelf life. I tried it with and without this step* and I promise it makes such a difference!
Batches – If you have a standard home oven like me, you will need to bake 2 trays first, then the 3rd separately. Don’t try to bake all 3 trays on 3 different shelves, this crowds the oven and they won’t crisp up properly. If you have a large oven and can fit 3 trays across 2 shelves, you can bake them in one batch.
Steam release – As described above in step 1!
Remove from the oven. If you have a 3rd tray, proceed with baking it.
Cool completely on the trays, left on the counter. Marvel at the crispy perfection!
Split – Once the pastry has fully cooled, cut in half horizontally using a serrated knife. A serrated knife will give you a cleaner cut.
Open – Place the lid next to the base to keep them together. Next step – glaze the lid!
* Not because I doubted J-Po, I just had to see it for myself!
Shiny chocolate glaze
A signature feature of éclairs is a shiny chocolate glaze. If you just melt ordinary chocolate chips, the glaze won’t be shiny. The secret is a touch of glucose or corn syrup!
1. Ingredients for shiny chocolate glaze
Dark chocolate – For the most luxurious finish, use a 70% cocoa chocolate block and chop it up yourself. You need to use either a good quality chocolate intended for cooking (sold in the baking aisle) or Lindt eating chocolate, in block form (pictured above).
Ordinarily, chocolate for eating is not intended for cooking so it does not always melt well. Lindt is an exception. There are probably other brands, I am just not aware of any.
Regular dark chocolate chips and chocolate melts (US semi-sweet chips) can also be used. However because they have less cocoa it is a softer chocolate so you will need to use less cream. See recipe notes for adjustments to the recipe. (For fellow baking nerds: standard dark chocolate chips you use for your favourite choc chip cookies are typically around 40 – 45% cocoa and the chocolate is not as firm. Which means you have to use less cream else the glaze will be too runny.)
Cream – To loosen the chocolate into a glaze. It must be full fat cream, not light cream, else the glaze will not set.
Glucose or corn syrup (optional) – This gives the glaze a lovely shiny finish, just like the ones sold at fancy patisserie stores. This is optional. If you skip it, the glaze will just be a little more matte.
2. How to do the chocolate glaze
Hot cream – Heat the cream and glucose or corn syrup until hot, then pour it over the finely chopped chocolate.
Stand – Shake the bowl so the chocolate is all submerged under the cream and let it stand for 1 minute.
Stir – Use a rubber spatula to stir until smooth.
Shallow vessel – If required, transfer the chocolate into a shallow bowl wide enough to dip the éclairs. I didn’t have to do this.
Dip the lid of each éclair into the chocolate.
Drip off excess (or…. don’t, for effect!)
Fridge – Place the lids back on the tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.
Note: You will have leftover chocolate, because too little glaze makes it hard to dip the eclairs. I don’t think you need my help telling you what to do with the leftovers! (It involves a spoon. And your mouth.)
Assembling the Éclairs
We’re on the home stretch here! To assemble, just whip up the cream and pipe it on the bun base.
Chantilly cream (French whipped cream for éclairs) – Simply beat together cream, vanilla, icing sugar (powdered sugar) and, if using the stabilised cream option which I highly recommend (see below), mascarpone as well until firm peaks form.
The recipe below includes Chantilly cream instructions but if you want more information and tips, head to the separate recipe here.
Firm peaks means that the peaks stand straight upright , like pictured. (Soft peaks, on the other hand, flop over slightly like Santa hats!).
Why stabilise the cream?
Stabilising whipped cream means giving it additional structure so it doesn’t completely squirt out of the éclair when you take a bite (because don’t you just hate that!?), as well as improving storage life. You know how cream weeps and deflates overnight? If it’s stabilised, it won’t and will stay like it’s freshly made for a couple of days.
Unlike other methods of stabilising cream (cornflour/cornstarch, gelatin, pudding mix), using mascarpone will not alter the flavour or mouthfeel of the whipped cream. A brilliant, thoroughly-tested discovery by – yep, you guessed, it, superstar French Pastry Chef J-Po!
Pipe the cream generously onto the base of the éclairs. Use “looping” motions so you get a nice thick layer of cream!
Lid – Pop the chocolate glazed lid on and that’s it! You’re done.
Now I ask, are you ready for one of the most delightful eating experiences of your life??!!!
Storing and making ahead
The reason homemade éclairs are so magical is because choux pastry is at its absolute eating prime when it’s been out of the oven less than about 4 hours, and only filled with cream just prior to eating.
So here’s my intel and hot tips on the shelf life of éclairs so you can plan and maximise the quality of your eclair-devouring experience!
Filled éclairs start to lose crispiness after about 30 minutes once filled with cream. The choux pastry doesn’t go soggy, it’s just that the surface is not as crispy as when it is freshly made. (See 3rd point below for storage).
Best way to make ahead – Unfilled whole choux pastry can be kept in an airtight container for 3 days. Re-crisp in a 180°C (160°C fan-forced) oven for 5 minutes. Glaze then fill per recipe.
Filled éclairs will keep for 2 to 3 days but the choux pastry loses its crispness as I’ve said many times. It does not stop me hoovering them down, though! They are still very good for 6 to 8 hours after assembling. Then they’re noticeably softer the next day. It’s certainly not unpleasant, just not quite as prime as freshly made! Note the quality of the cream depends on whether it was stabilised or not – see next point.
Stabilised cream can be kept in an airtight container or piping bag for 48 hours. It will be fluffy just like freshly made (even inside the choux pastry) for this length of time.
Non-stabilised whipped cream is best made just before serving as it starts to deflate within an hour. If it is piped inside the choux pastry, it will deflate noticeably overnight and by the end of the day it will start to melt.
Why you need homemade Éclairs in your life
You know, I consider it my job to tell you why your life will not be complete without trying each and every recipe I share.
In this particular case, I really mean it. Well, I always mean it, of course, for every recipe! 😂 But homemade éclairs are extra-special because homemade truly trounces shop-bought for the reasons I’ve mentioned.
Well, that is, unless the pastry chefs are on standby to pipe the cream in fresh for every order … I wish (let me know if you know of a place that does!)
I really hope you give homemade eclairs a try one day. They truly are magnificent! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
- 100g / 7 tbsp unsalted butter , cut into 1 cm / 1/2" cubes
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup plain/all-purpose flour
- Pinch cooking/kosher salt
- 4 large eggs (55-60g/2oz each) , at room temperature (Note 1)
SHINY CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
- 100g/ 3.5 oz 70% cocoa dark chocolate block , finely chopped (Note 2)
- 2/3 cup thickened/heavy cream (Note 3)
- 3 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup or liquid glucose (Note 4)
STABILISED CHANTILLY CREAM (Note 5)
- 3 cups thickened/heavy cream or whipping cream (min 35% fat, Note 3)
- 1 cup mascarpone (40%+ fat, Note 6)
- 1 2/3 cups icing sugar/powdered sugar , sifted
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract or, 2 vanilla pods (Note 7)
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (160°C fan). Position one shelf in the top third of the oven and another in the lower third. Lightly spray 3 trays with canola oil and line with baking/parchment paper.
- Simmer liquid – Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is almost melted, add water.
- Flour – Once the liquid starts simmering, add flour and salt, and vigorously stir with a wooden spoon (while still on the stove). The mixture will turn pasty then in about 10 seconds it will transform into a sticky ball of dough that comes away from the walls of the saucepan. Once this happens, remove from the stove and leave to cool for 10 minutes (no longer).
- Eggs – Add eggs one at a time, mixing vigorously with a wooden spoon after each addition, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. At first, the mixture will look separated but when you keep stirring, it comes together. When finished the mixture should be a sticky, thick paste that holds its shape, not sloppy and loose (see video or photos).
- Pipe – Transfer mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 15 mm star tip (Note 8). Pipe logs 12-14 cm long, 2.5 cm wide, 1.5 cm tall, 5 cm apart from each other. (5" long, 1" wide, 0.6" tall, 2" apart) Do not crowd the tray else they won’t go crispy. You should get around 20.
- Bake 2 trays on the shelves for 45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, open the oven door for 2 seconds to release steam (makes them crispier), then again at 35 minutes and 40 minutes. Remove the tray at 45 minutes.
- Cool – Remove choux buns from the oven and allow to fully cool on the trays. If you used 3 trays, bake the 3rd tray of choux pastry per above directions.
- Split – Slice choux buns in half horizontally.
Shiny chocolate glaze:
- Place chocolate in a bowl.
- Pour over hot cream – Heat cream and glucose in a small saucepan over medium heat until just below boiling. Pour mixture over chocolate, shake so the chocolate is submerged. Let stand for 1 minute.
- Mix with a rubber spatula until smooth (do not use a whisk, it creates bubbles). Transfer into a wide, shallow bowl large enough to dip the eclairs.
- Coat eclairs – Dip the lid of each éclair into the chocolate. Place on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes until the chocolate is firm to the touch.
- Whip cream – Place all the Chantilly Cream ingredients in a bowl. Whip using an electric beater on medium high for 3 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Transfer into piping bag fitted with a star tip.
- Fill eclairs – Pipe in cream using whatever pattern takes your fancy, generously thick. Place the lid on then serve!
Life of Dozer
Honestly. I understand why people are seriously wondering whether I went through all that effort to make a cookbook just so I get to see him splashed all over the media, on TV, on stages!! (You know I love it).