How to make chocolate éclairs

How to make chocolate éclairs

by GBC Kitchen 1 February 2023
5.00

How to make chocolate éclairs

5.00

Chocolate éclairs are a classic patisserie treat. A combination of choux pastry, crème pâtissière and chocolate in their traditional form, they have since been adapted to include a myriad of variations. It’s now common to see fruit éclairs, salted caramel éclairs and even savoury éclairs. Despite what you might think, they’re definitely possible to make at home, and are perfect for a special occasion, an afternoon tea or a gift to impress someone special. Read our comprehensive guide to making chocolate éclairs at home, and you’ll be a pro in no time!

How do you make chocolate éclairs?

Chocolate éclairs are made from long, piped choux pastry cases, which are filled with crème pâtissière (custard with added flour) or pastry cream (among other fillings!) and topped with a glaze or melted chocolate. Toppings such as grated chocolate, caramel and fruit can also be added. Making choux pastry cases for éclairs is easier than you think - take a look at our recipe for making choux pastry below and read on for troubleshooting tips.

Ingredients

Metric

Imperial

1

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/gas mark 6 and line two large baking trays with greaseproof paper. Draw 12 lines around 10cm long on the paper to use as guidelines

2

Combine the water, butter and salt in a saucepan and heat gently to melt the butter, without bringing to the boil (you want to just melt the butter, not evaporate too much of the water)

3

Once the butter has melted, bring the mixture up to the boil and tip in all the flour in one go, then remove from the heat. Using a wooden spoon beat the mixture as fast as you can, bringing it all together into a dough that pulls away from the sides of the pan

4

Once this happens, return to the heat and continue cooking and stirring the dough (no need to beat it as frantically at this stage) until an instant read thermometer reads 74°C (a little above this temp is fine). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can continue cooking the dough until the base of the saucepan is covered in a fine film of pastry

5

Once this happens, remove the dough from the pan and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or another bowl if using a wooden spoon) to cool a little - it helps to spread the dough out at this stage to cool it faster. Once below 63°C, it’s time to add the eggs

6

Lightly beat the eggs together in a jug

7

On a low speed, gradually beat the egg into the dough, ensuring each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next (it’s unlikely that you will need all of the egg) until you have a mixture that reluctantly drops from the paddle, leaving a V shape. Another way to test the dough is by scooping some up onto a spoon then counting slowly to 6 - it should have dropped by the time you reach 6 (slow) seconds

8

Use a few dots of the mixture to stick the greaseproof paper to the baking trays

9

Fit a piping bag with a star nozzle that’s around 1.25cm wide (with a lot of teeth, if possible). Place the piping bag onto a flat surface and carefully flatten the pastry mixture inside, taking care not to squeeze it out of the bag. Using a pastry scraper or other thin, flat object, gently push the choux pastry down into the bag, to remove air bubbles and collect it all in one place. Then twist the bag and pipe a little to remove any air bubbles near the tip

10

Carefully pipe the pastry over the guidelines on the baking paper at a 45 degree angle, if possible. Try to achieve a very slight ‘dog bone’ shape with the pastry, as this will ensure they are more evenly shaped once baked. It’s also important to try to pipe fairly slowly, otherwise the éclairs will be too skinny

11

Sprinkle a few drops of water around the éclairs (not touching the pastry) and transfer to the oven to bake for 25 minutes, then swap the trays around for a further 5 minutes, or until the pastry is deep golden brown and crisp - they should sound hollow when tapped

12

Prick the underside of the éclair shells with a cocktail stick and transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely

How do you pipe éclairs?

Piping éclairs is much easier if you follow a few simple techniques; with practice, you will be piping perfect choux cases in no time! Firstly, it’s important to draw guidelines on your baking paper. While this may seem a little over the top, it’s actually very hard to pipe perfect lines of choux freehand, and while they may look evenly shaped before they go into the oven, any minute differences will become magnified during baking. We like to draw 10cm x 1cm outlines for our eclairs.

Using the right angle is also important. Try to use a 45 degree angle, if possible, and begin with the tip of your nozzle touching the paper. While some people pipe lengths of choux and allow them to ‘drop’ onto the paper, we find this technique is harder if you are just starting out. 

It’s also important to pipe your choux slowly to avoid any wiggles. Once you’ve reached the end of the outline, raise your piping bag nozzle upwards in a tick shape, to finish the éclair, then use a wet finger to dab the pastry back down. It’s easiest if you keep a small pot of water next to the baking tray in order to do this.

Why are my éclairs flat?

If your éclairs are not rising in the oven, it’s likely that your choux pastry mixture was too wet. When adding eggs to your choux pastry mixture, make sure to add around half to one egg’s worth at a time, ensuring it’s fully incorporated before adding the next. It’s likely that you will not need to add all of the eggs, which is why the eggs are lightly beaten before adding to the pastry mixture rather than added whole. 

It’s also important not to open the oven door for the first twenty-five minutes of cooking time. It’s the steam inside the eclairs and inside the oven that causes the pastry cases to rise, and opening the oven door will drop the temperature and affect this process. We also like to add a few drops of water onto the baking paper around the eclairs (not on the pastry), to increase the amount of steam in the oven and help the eclairs to rise.

Why are my éclairs cracked on top?

There are a few reasons why éclairs crack in the oven. The first is oven temperature; all ovens are unique, and some run hotter than others. If the oven is too hot, your eclairs will crack - try reducing the temperature by 10C next time. Although our recipes recommend cooking the éclairs at 180ºC (fan), we have had to reduce the temperature by as much as 20ºC for some ovens. 

The second reason your éclairs might be cracked on top is that the choux pastry mixture is too dry; try adding more egg next time to achieve the right consistency. 

Éclairs can also crack due to air bubbles within the pastry mixture, so make sure you smooth the piping bag before piping. To do this, lay the filled bag flat onto a work surface and gently flatten out the choux pastry mixture. Using a dough scraper or a rubber spatula, gently push the mixture towards the tip to ease out any air bubbles. Finally, snip off the tip and pipe a little pastry to remove any air bubbles near the tip end.

Why aren’t my éclairs evenly shaped?

If your éclairs aren’t evenly shaped and you’ve addressed the pitfalls above, then it’s likely that you had a lot of air bubbles in your mixture. Follow our method for smoothing out the piping bag above.

What flavours can you use for éclairs?

Since the foundation of an éclair is a plain choux pastry case, the sky's the limit when deciding how to fill and top your éclairs. It’s hard to go wrong with a classic custard or cream filling and chocolate topping, but there are lots of potential variations. Try adding finely chopped nuts, or a drizzle of salted caramel or dulce de leche. Banana custard with a peanut butter topping would work very well, or try experimenting with different liqueurs and flavoured syrups. Fruit combinations are also lovely, such as our mango and makrut lime leaf cream éclairs and black forest gateau éclairs below.

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