Just as you’d expect from French cuisine, these Classic Chocolate Eclairs are the definition of simple, yet elegant.
Eclairs (meaning ‘flash of lightning’, referring to how quickly they’re consumed!), have long been a favourite of mine. I love the delicate, light shell with its piped cream filling and chocolate or icing coating. Eclairs are usually my go-to treat when I’m looking for something sweet yet light and tasty.
I thought, to begin with, I’d go with the classic eclair recipe (thanks to Taste.com.au, however see my note below regarding an update to the recipe), using a standard chantilly cream filling and a dark chocolate topping. Simple, traditional and a favourite of many. Later on, I’ll try some of the more razzle dazzle versions with custard fillings and flavoured toppings – coffee eclairs are definitely next on the agenda (my favourite!). I’ll also have a go at making gluten-free shells in the future and see if they stack up to these.
By the way, feel free to use the electric mixer (with paddle attachment) after the pastry has come off the stove – it makes the process a little less exhausting!
If you’ve never made eclairs before, they’re surprisingly simple to make and your guests will be most impressed when you lay a platter of these on the table! Oh, and you must watch the shells magically rising in the oven – it’s capitivating! Enjoy!
August 2021: It’s now some time since I made these and having tried the recipe again, I wasn’t happy with the short baking time – my eclairs came out ‘blonde’ and easily sank once they came out of the oven. Comparing the Taste recipe to others, it did seem to be very short on cooking time; many recipes state you should bake them at least 25 minutes uninterrupted so they don’t collapse. So, I tried them again, staying with the same basic recipe, but extending the cook time and voila.. much better result and no sag! I’ve amended the recipe below accordingly.
- 60g (2.1 oz) butter, chopped
- 2/3 cup cold water
- 2/3 cup plain flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 300ml (10.1 fl oz) thickened cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 teaspoons icing (confectioner's) sugar, to taste
- 100g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate, chopped finely
- 15g (0.5 oz) butter
- Preheat oven to 220°C (430°F). Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
- Combine butter and cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until butter has melted and mixture just starts to boil.
- Reduce heat to low. Add flour and salt all in one go. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture comes away from side of pan and forms a ball. There should be a coating inside the pan when it's done (but don't try incorporating the coating back into the batter). Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
- (NB: At this stage, you can either continue using muscle power and a wooden spoon, or transfer the mixture to an electric mixer with paddle attachment). So... either placing the mixture into an electric mixer (or using a wooden spoon in the same saucepan you cooked the mixture in), gradually beat in egg (add some, let the mixture absorb it, then add more) until well combined and the mixture is glossy.
- Dip a spoon into the mixture and let the mixture drop from it - the batter should slowly drop from the spoon leaving a hanging 'V' shape. NB: If the batter doesn't ooze off the spoon of its own volition and you have to shake it off, it's likely too thick and needs a bit more egg.
- Spoon dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm (half inch) star nozzle (the more points on the nozzle the better as it helps stop cracking). Pipe 12cm long logs, 6cm apart (as they spread), onto prepared trays. NB: It helps to rest the nozzle on the tray as you're piping, and maintaining a 45 degree angle.
- Bake the first tray of eclairs for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, reduce heat to 180°C (360°F). Bake for a further 30 minutes, until golden and puffed.
- Pull the eclairs out of the oven and pierce each end of the eclair with a paring knife or skewer to let the steam out. Return the eclairs to oven, upside-down and bake for a further 5 minutes to dry out centres.
- Cool on tray. Increase temperature back to to 220°C (430°F). Repeat with remaining tray.
- Using an electric mixer, beat cream, vanilla and sugar until firm peaks. Store in fridge until needed.
- Place chocolate and butter over a double boiler on low heat and stir until melted and smooth in texture. Alternatively, microwave on medium-high (75%) for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Allow to cool a little.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the cooled eclairs horizontally and scoop out any excess moist batter (this is perfectly normal).
- Spoon cream into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm fluted nozzle. Pipe cream evenly over cooled eclair bases.
- Spread top shells with cooled chocolate mixture and place the shells on top of the cream filled shells.
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until chocolate has set. Serve. Store left-overs in fridge.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting