Chocolate Eclairs are a classic French dessert and super delicious. It's a light and airy choux pastry, called Pâte à Choux, filled with a pastry chocolate cream filling and glazed with chocolate ganache. By the way, have you tried my chocolate cream puffs yet?
Chocolate pastry cream
In a medium bowl whisk egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch to combine.
Bring milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat to a simmer and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Slowly stir about ½ cup (120ml) of the hot milk into the egg yolks to slowly warm it. Stir until smooth and fully combined.
Then slowly pour the warmed egg mixture into the saucepan. Whisk constantly.
Cook until the filling is thick and looks like pudding, for about 1-2 minutes. Whisk continuously.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in chocolate and salt until smooth and fully combined for about 1-2 minutes.
Pour the chocolate cream filling through a 6-inch (15cm) mesh strainer into a bowl and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add butter and stir to combine. The best is when you cut the butter into a few pieces and add one at the time to the filling.
Cover the chocolate cream with plastic wrap to prevent forming a skin. Refrigerate at least 1-2 hours or overnight.
Pâte à Choux (Choux Pastry)
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan bring water, butter, sugar, and salt over medium-high heat to a boil.
Once it reached a boil, add flour and constantly stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until it starts to form a film on the bottom of the pan. Don't be scared if it looks lumpy when you start stirring the flour into the butter mixture. This is normal, see photo below.
After 2-3 minutes of cooking, it will look like in the photo below. The dough is compact and lumpy but sticks mostly together. You can see that there is a film of dough on the bottom of the pan. Don't scratch it off.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool for about 2 minutes. Then add the first egg to the dough and stir to combine. It will be quite hard to whisk, and the dough will separate and be a lumpy mess. Don't panic that is absolutely normal. Just keep whisking until it comes together.
Add the second egg. The dough will separate again, just keep whisking until it comes together. Continue until all eggs are incorporated. The dough will get smoother with every egg.
In the end, the dough will be very sticky and firm enough to hold a stiff peak.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a star tip (I used the Wilton 1M tip). The easiest way to fill the dough into the piping bag with the fitted start tip is to place the pastry bag over a tall glass. Overlap about 4 inches (10 cm) of the piping bag down the outsides of the glass. Then use a spatula and fill the bag about ½ to maximum ⅔ full that you can twist the ends and no dough is popping out at the top of the pastry bag while piping.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and stick a bit of dough in all 4 corners to fix the paper. Otherwise, it will move around while piping.
Pipe ten about 4-inch long and ½-inch wide (10x1.5cm) strips on the 2 prepared baking sheets with enough space in-between (about 2-3 inches) and spin the tip.
Press down the tip with wet fingers so that they don't burn.
Lightly brush the tops with egg wash and bake until golden brown.
Let eclairs cool for 30 minutes then cut in half horizontally.
Then fill the eclairs using a piping bag.
Place chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Microwave heavy whipping cream until very hot and simmering for about 1-2 minutes. Pour over chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Stir until smooth, and the chocolate is completely melted.
For a super glossy finish, you can add ½ tablespoon of corn syrup to the ganache. The corn syrup is completely optional. Then let stand for about 10 minutes. Place the filled eclairs on a wire rack and carefully spoon the chocolate ganache (about 1 tablespoon of ganache per eclair) on top of the eclairs and let dry.
Expert tips for pastry cream success
- It's important to temper the eggs before adding them to the simmering milk, otherwise you could end up with scrambled eggs if the eggs get too hot too quickly.
- Remove the custard from the heat when it has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. If you cook it too short, the filling could end up runny.
- For a super smooth choux filling, press the chocolate custard through a mesh strainer to remove any small lumps that may have formed while cooking the custard.
- Cover the chocolate filling with plastic wrap to prevent it forming a skin as it cools.
Why did my Choux Pastry collapse?
- Undercooking the dough - Cook the dough until a film forms on the bottom of the pan. If the dough is undercooked, it will be too moist and will cause your pastry not to puff properly.
- Opening the oven door - Do not open the oven while baking. Don't be tempted to rotate the pan during baking. The temperature change from opening the oven door would likely cause your pâte à choux to collapse.
- Not baking long enough: Bake the eclairs long enough until puffed and golden. If you remove them from the oven too early, they will deflate and become tough and chewy. They will sound hollow when they are done.
How to store them
Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Can I freeze them?
In my experience, they don't freeze well. The texture is not pleasant after freezing and thawing.
More European desserts to try
If you love European desserts, you've come to the right place. The following recipes are some of my favorites and are loved by family, friends, and readers worldwide.
Best Homemade Chocolate Eclairs
chocolate pastry cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- ⅜ cup granulated white sugar
- 3 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 cups milk
- 1 ⅛ cups semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- pinch of salt
- 2 ½ tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into a few pieces
Pâte à Choux (choux pastry)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 4 large eggs
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoon water
- 4.6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- ⅜ cup heavy whipping cream
- Optional: ½ tablespoon corn syrup (for extra gloss)
- Make the chocolate pastry cream: In a bowl whisk egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch to combine. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan bring milk over medium-high heat to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir about ½ cup of hot milk into the egg yolks to slowly warm it. Then pour warmed egg mixture slowly into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Cook until filling is thick, for about 1-2 minutes. Whisk continuously.
- Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and salt until smooth and fully combined for about 1-2 minutes. Pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add butter and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent forming a skin. Refrigerate at least 1-2 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Make the Pâte à Choux: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan bring water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil. With a wooden spoon stir in flour and cook for about 2-3 minutes until it starts to form a film on the bottom of the pan. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool about 2 minutes.
- Stir in one egg at the time. After every egg, the dough will separate. Keep stirring until the dough comes together again. In the end, the dough will be sticky and firm enough to hold a stiff peak.
- Make the egg wash: In a small cup stir egg and water to combine. Set aside.
- Transfer Pâte à Choux to a piping bag fitted with a star tip (I used the Wilton 1M tip). Stick a bit of dough on the baking sheets underneath the parchment paper to fix the paper. Pipe ten about 4-inch long and ½-inch wide (10x1,5cm) strips on the 2 prepared baking sheets with enough space in-between (about 2-3 inches) and spin the tip. Press down the tip with wet fingers that they don't get too brown or burn. Lightly brush with egg wash.
- Bake one baking sheet at the time for about 30-35 minutes until puffed and golden brown. They need to sound hollow when knocking on the bottom. Don't open the oven during the baking time or the eclairs will collapse. I baked mine for 33 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
- Fill the cream puffs by cutting the eclairs in half horizontally. Pipe the chocolate filling into the eclairs. Set aside.
- Make the chocolate ganache: Place chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Microwave heavy whipping cream until very hot and lightly simmering for about 1-2 minutes. Pour over chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Stir until smooth, and the chocolate is completely melted. Add corn syrup and stir until combined if desired (for extra gloss, totally optional). Let stand for about 5 minutes.
- Place eclairs on a wire rack. Spoon chocolate ganache (about 1 tablespoon of ganache per eclair) on top of the eclairs and let dry. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days.
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