For more than three centuries, chocolate éclairs have been delighting chocophiles all over the world. This elegant pastry creation combines some of our favourite things: chocolate, custard cream, and light, crispy pastry. Ready to try making chocolate eclairs for yourself? We thought you might be…
There are three elements to the chocolate éclair: the choux pastry, vanilla cream filling (or Crème Patissiere – a French Custard), and the fondant icing or topping. The éclair is a French creation, and is attributed to a French chef who lived in the 17th century. This Delicious Pastry goes back a long way – which explains why there are now so many delicious variations on it – from rum and pistachio to white chocolate, banana and espresso. We’re going to start with the classic version, but feel free to add your own flavours as you go along.
Before you start making chocolate éclairs, do a quick equipment check. As well as bowls, weighing scales and spoons, you will need a saucepan and wooden spoon; a whisk; a piping bag with nozzle (or you can use a plastic sandwich bag with a corner snipped off; baking parchment and a tray.
Making The Pastry
Choux is a hot-water pastry, which has to be worked fast and baked immediately. So it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the steps before starting – and get out all the appropriate equipment ready. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
First, put 75g (3tbsp) butter and 200ml (1 cup) water into a saucepan and let the butter melt gently. While this is happening, weigh 100g white pastry (or bread) flour, and sift it onto a large square of parchment or greaseproof paper.
Lift one half of the paper so the flour falls onto the other half, and make a crease down the centre, to create a ‘chute’.
When the butter has melted, give it a stir, then pick up the flour ‘chute’ and quickly tip it all into the pan. Straight away, pick up a wooden spoon and stir vigorously. The mixture will come together and become a smooth dough that forms a ball in the pan.
In another bowl, beat 3 large eggs to break them up. After a minute or two, start adding the beaten egg to the dough, which will start to split and curdle – don’t worry, keep adding and stirring. When the dough becomes a glossy paste, stop adding the eggs. It’s ready to pipe.
Spoon the paste into your piping bag and pipe 1”x6” sausages on a prepared baking tray. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
Remove the éclairs to a wire rack and make slits in each one to allow the steam to escape.
Making The Filling
Although éclairs were once filled with crème patissiere, today most versions are filled with sweetened whipped cream. You can flavour this with anything you like – a splash of Tia Maria, a little lemon essence, rosewater, or chocolate.
Empty a 284ml carton of double cream into a large bowl, and scrape in the seeds of one vanilla pod. (Save the pod to flavour caster sugar for your baking.) Using an Electric Whisk, whisk to soft peaks and put into the fridge until ready to use.
Now you’re ready to fill and top your chocolate éclairs. Put some dark or milk chocolate into a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and get on with the filling.
Using a breadknife, carefully slit the end of each éclair, and use a clean piping bag to fill each éclair with vanilla cream.
Spread the chocolate generously over the top, and leave the éclairs on a wire rack to set. Enjoy!