Éclair is a long, thin and hollow shell of choux pastry filled with a vanilla or chocolate or coffee pastry cream and topped with icing or fondant. Or, as the Chambers English Dictionary says, “a cake, long in shape but short in duration.” LOL.
While the classic presentation is chocolate icing with vanilla-scented filling, you can be creative with the fillings and toppings. After making the choux paste (recipe here), I’ve shaped them into a log and filled them with a vanilla pastry cream (recipe here) and topped with chocolate ganache glaze. I’ve also shaped some in rounds – they are called profiteroles or cream puffs or choux à la crème.
It’s important to pipe them right – make a template of 8-10 cm lines a little apart or 3-4 cm diameter circles and slide it below your parchment paper. Fill your piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle and with even pressure gently pipe out oblong shapes for eclairs & small circles for the profiteroles. You don’t have to press the bag too hard – if the consistency of your choux paste is correct, it will squeeze out without much effort.
Brush them with a beaten egg/egg wash before baking. This will give a nice colour to your pastry after it bakes. Also, you might see small pointy ends where you lifted your piping bag, brushing with egg wash will help remove those imperfections.
A pro tip – halfway through the baking, open your oven door for couple seconds to let out any steam. Also, once the pastries are baked, take out your tray and poke a small hole in the side or base of your eclair/puff and put them back in a shut-off oven. This will let out the steam trapped inside and help them dry out properly.
The original recipe is by renowned French pastry chef Eric Lanlard.
2 eggs, regular sized
80 ml water
40g unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
50g all-purpose flour – sifted
3 eggs, regular sized
50g caster sugar
20g custard powder/cornflour (about 2 tablespoons)
½ vanilla pod / 1 tsp pure vanilla extract or paste
250 ml milk
100g heavy cream
75g semisweet chocolate
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp golden syrup or glucose or light corn syrup (for extra sheen, optional)
1. Prepare your pastry cream and let it cool to room temperature. You can find the detailed recipe with step-by-step pictures here. This can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
2. Prepare your choux pastry – ensure you have the right consistency by checking for the “V” shape when you scoop some dough on your spatula. You can find the detailed recipe with step-by-step pictures here.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line your baking tray with parchment paper. Make a template of 8-10 cm lines a little apart or 3-4 cm diameter circles and slide it below your parchment paper. This will help you get consistently shaped eclairs and cream puffs. Make sure you remove the template before baking. You can also make the template on one side of the parchment paper with a marker and use the other side while piping.
4. Prepare your piping bag and fit it with a large round nozzle. Fill it with the choux pastry. For eclairs, gently pipe out oblong shapes with even pressure following the template and with the piping bag at a 45º angle.
If making profiteroles, with your piping bag at 90º, gently squeeze them into small balls until they reach the circle edges of your template.
6. Brush them with a beaten egg/egg wash. This will give a nice colour to your pastry after it bakes. Also, you might see small pointy ends where you lifted your piping bag, brushing with egg wash will help remove those imperfections. In case of eclairs, take a fork and mark them slightly.
5. Bake the shells for 30-35 minutes. They’ll puff up and the tops will get golden brown. Halfway through the baking, open your oven door for couple seconds to let out any steam.
6. Remove the shells from oven and turn the oven off. Prick small holes in the base of your profiteroles or sides of the eclairs to let some steam off. Put the tray back into the shut-off oven for 5-10 minutes to let the inside dry out completely. Remove from oven and cool completely over a wire rack.
7. If you are not using them immediately, store them in an airtight container. Put them back in a hot oven for few minutes to let them dry out and crisp up again before using them the next day.
8. Prepare your chocolate ganache – chop up the chocolate and add to a heatproof bowl. Heat up your cream (not boiling) and add it to the chopped chocolate and let it sit for few minutes. Gently stir them with a silicon spatula till all gets melted and combined. Add the vanilla and corn syrup. Cool slightly. (You can make the ganache a day in advance too, just heat it slightly in a microwave before dipping.)
8. Fill a piping bag (either with a small 3mm round tip or just cutting a small opening at the end) with the pastry cream and fill your profiteroles through the hole at the base. Dip the top of the profiterole into the warm chocolate ganache and let it cool over a baking sheet.
In case of eclairs, you can either fill them through the hole on the side or slice off the top and split them in half. Pipe the pastry cream into the hollow base. Dip the top shell in the warm chocolate and place them on the filled base. Let them dry on a wire rack.