Welcome to our kitchen!
Chocolate eclairs are a favorite. Choux pastry or cream puffs may be intimidating but this step by step process should make it easy for anyone to jump in.
Origin. Eclairs were developed in the mid-1800s in France. Like most french food/desserts they heavily feature butter. This one is no different. The word eclair means 'flash of lightning' because it's hard not to eat them in a flash!
Eclairs v Macaroons. Recently the macaroon has become a staple of high end baking... in my opinion meringue just doesn't taste half as good as eclairs. Do you agree?
Here we'll walk through the following phases:
- Choux Pastry (Steps 1-6) - making the cream puff
- Custard Filling (Steps 7-9)
- Chocolate Ganache (Steps 10-11)
- Finished Photos (Step 12)
Reference Shot. A quick photo for a behind the scenes look at Jess and our baking setup. One of my early posts was a how to on how to make our kitchen shelves. ---clearly we enjoy reusing a few glass jars!
Step 1: Puff Basics
The Puffs. We are making choux pastry. It always sounds complicated but really the process is very straightforward.
- Melt Butter (1/2 c. or 1 stick) - melt at medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Add Sugar (1 tbsp)
- Add Salt (1/4 tsp)
- Add Flour (1 c + 1tbsp) - loosen the flour by first stirring in the bag with a fork or finger. From there add into the butter mix. No need to sift.
- Stir Until... continue to stir over the heat until a thin starch film forms on the base of the pan. It's easy to spot --photo in next step
You'll also need to have Eggs (4 large) ready for the next step.
Step 2: Puff Mix
These photos show what the mix looks like before the eggs are added. See the thin starch film on the bottom of the pan.
Step 3: Puff - Adding the Eggs
Here we add four eggs. Slowly incorporating the whisked mix into the dough.
Hand v Mixer. The kitchenaid isn't necessary but it never hurts. If mixing by hand just transfer into a mixing bowl and continue with a wooden spoon.
Step 4: Puffs - Pastry Bag
This is an in between step where we are using a ziplock bag as an easy substitute for a pastry bag. The goal here is simply to have a way to extrude the shapes of a puff and bar.
----sure, a pastry bag is nice to have but the cleaning alone makes it hard to justify for this project. The steps for using the
Step 5: Puffs - Forming
Here we use our makeshift pastry bag to form the rounds and bars. Very fun!
Step 6: Puffs - Baking
Preheat the oven. We use parchment paper to make for easier cleanup but a buttered pan also works.
Here's the baking process:
- Preheat to 400F / 205C
- Bake at 400F - initial 15 min at high heat for the rapid expansion of the puff
- Reduce to 325F / 160C - continue cooking for another 30 min or until golden brown
Timing Various Sizes. We expected the little smaller puffs would take less time... not the case. All puffs took the same time. The lightweight dough transfers heat well and the fact that they are packed with butter makes them hard to burn.
Step 7: Filling - Prep
We are mixing two sets of ingredients. The two sets get mixed together over medium heat in the saucepan.
- Dry + Butter - in saucepan
- Wet - in mixing bowl
- Sugar (1/2 c)
- Cornstarch (1/4 c)
- Salt (pinch)
- Butter (2 tbsp, unsalted) ---if using salted butter simply leave out the pinch of salt
- Milk (2 c) ---whole is better but even using skim works just fine
- Egg Yokes (4 yokes only) ---even better if they come from backyard chickens... here's our ladies (@kutzkycoops)
- Vanilla (1 tsp) - add after taking off the heat #watkins --link to vanilla on amazon
Whisk together the wet ingredients... continue whisking together over heat in the next step.
Step 8: Filling - Heating Through Finishing
Over a medium heat add the ingredients. Continue with your whisk. French whisk is nice but any will do.
---no idea why french have their own whisk...
Boil for 1 min. After the one min boil is complete the mix will have thickened. From there allow to cool and strain. It's ok to work the filling through the strainer with a spoon.
Mix Vanilla. Stir in 1 tsp of vanilla. I find if you poke a hole in the safety seal with a pin it takes four seconds to shoot 1 tsp... pro(ish) tip
Cooling. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes. You'll want to add a layer of plastic wrap (shown in the photos) so that a film doesn't form along the surface. Similar to making pudding.
Step 9: Filling - the Fun Part!
The process is simple and can easily be completed with an array of baking products... most commonly the pastry bag. As mentioned in the earlier step I find cleaning up a pastry bag is frustrating and it leads to a lot of waste. Much more useful is a syringe!
Using a Syringe - I reached for a 1 oz syringe I had around. A useful tool. It has a tip for adding a needle which required a bit of effort to wipe clean. Here's a 3 oz syringe I used to have and would be the best for this project. --I originally used them to store rendered duck fat in the fridge and to inject flavor in meat.
- Suction the filling
- Make an incision in the puff
- Fill till they start to swell
Fill the little 'angel' or 'monkey fingers' from the side. We filled the large ones from each end. In commercial bakeries they use an injector with a 3" nozzle to fill the whole length.
Step 10: Icing - Making Ganache
There are just a few steps to make a chocolate icing that will firm up on the tops of your eclairs.
- Scald Liquid... milk, cream, water, coffee or any mix over medium high heat... we used 1/2 cup of liquid that was 50/50 milk and coffee.
- Add Chocolate... add a 1/ cup of chocolate. we used semi-sweet morsels.
- Heat Further... use a double boiler to heat and reduce the chocolate mix. I doesn't need to be thick.. it should run nicely off the whisk.
Step 11: Icing - Finishing Step!!
Yes - you've made it to the finishing step!
There is a lot to these little eclairs but trust me - they are delicious!
Simply dip the filled pastry in the ganache and allow them to rest on a drying rack.
Step 12: Enjoy!!
Thank you for reading!
These are a wonderful little dessert and truly were a crowd pleaser this holiday season. Hope you had a Merry Christmas and can find time to make these chocolate eclairs! --Jeff
---the pastry recipe was adapted from Joanne Chang's Flour. A really wonderful cookbook.
Here are a few other recent baking instructables:
- Babka Basics - baking with yeast is easier than it looks!
- Pineapple Upside-Down Cake - this one bumped pineapple up to one of my favorite flavors
----here's a link to the kitchen shelves