Updated: Jun 20, 2022
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Hello everyone, I have some news. It's almost éclair national day, which is celebrated on June 22 in the US. I deeply respect all-American holidays and of course I wouldn't skip this one since we are a family of éclairlovers. Yes, all of us.
I often see surprised people's eyes about the making of homemade éclairs and wonder why.
They are no more difficult to make than a cake. Really! My boys are big lovers of éclairs, especially Thomas, and for him it has to do with the vanilla pastry cream. On another hand, Johnny prefers the chocolate pastry cream. Either way, what is not to like about these exceptional treats: Airy, buttery and crispy light dough called Choux pastry filled with creamy pastry cream and covered with chocolate ganache. Doesn't it sound good?
Stop having fear about éclairs
So why is there so much fear around making this delicious French classic? This pastry was invented in the 19th century and has never been changed since then.
I want to show you today how to make it, and also other uses for this classic dough. Once you get it, you will not stop making them. They are so good.
So why is so much a fair around this delicious Franch classic. This pastry has been invented in 19th century and never been changed since then.
I want to show you today how to make it, also other proposes of this classic dough. Once you get it, you will not stop making them. They are so good.
What is Choux pastry and what else can I do with it?
This classic dough that was invented in France by a French chef named Pantanelli. The dough has a light, airy, crispy texture made with very simple ingredients: flour, eggs, butter, salt, and water. That's it!
Traditionally, used to make éclairs, this dough is also used to create cream puffs (pastry filled with whipped cream), and sweet profiteroles (pastry filled with vanilla ice cream). By the way, keep an eye on my next blog, for savory profiteroles, I promise you that will be your favorite summer appetizer, as well as croquembouches which are usually made for New Year's Eve. Other appetizers are gougers (filled with cheese, perfect for a cocktail hour), and crullers (twisted dough and fried).
10 common mistakes with a Choux Pastry Pâte à Choux
Good news: Over the years I have experienced all these mistakes in different combinations, and I promise to guide you through, so you won't make them. This dough is easy to make when you follow the recipe to the tee.
The temperature. First begin at a higher temperature (400F-425F) from a few to 10 minutes, and then finish off at a lower temperature (300F-350F). The reasoning behind this is that the higher temperature makes the pastry rise because the high heat causes the water to evaporate faster, making the pastry rise faster and higher. Then the temperature is lowered, and the pastry is allowed to dry out and bake to the end. The small ones like I made in the video (see above), I baked at 400F for 10 minutes then lowered the temperature to 350 and baked for another 30 minutes. The classic size is baked for 10 minutes at 425F then 30 minutes at 300F.
The size is matters. Classic éclairs are 5 inches long and 1 inch thick. In the video, I made small mini éclairs perfect one-two bite size, so the temperature of baking the minis is different.
The eclairs shells look cracked. Make sure the salt and sugar dissolve and nicely incorporate into the dough. Also, check the consistency of the dough, and do not add raw flour to fix runny dough. If your dough doesn’t have a sheen, even after adding all the eggs don’t worry! Just add extra eggs until you get that right consistency. Chances are you may have cooked the dough too long and too much water evaporated, but it can easily be fixed by adding extra eggs. Just make sure to add a little at a time, rather than a whole egg at once.
Difficult to work with dough. To avoid too runny dough, don't add all the eggs, only one by one, and you may not need to use all of them. Because it will be hard to pipe them on a baking sheet either because they have too much liquid or they have too little flour. Choux pastry or pâte à choux, is very unique in that for perfect results, it requires the dough to be cooked first! This unique step results in a really sturdy pastry shell that also has a custard-like texture on the inside.
Does the kind of flour matter? Yes, the type of flour does matter. All-purpose is the best choice, because pastry flour has less gluten, and bread flour has too much gluten.
Don't open the oven door! Yes, during the baking process even if you want to check it out, don't open the door. Instead, use the oven light to see the magic process of the dough quickly rising, which is magnificent. Even after baking, if your air is too humid instead of immediately taking them out of the oven, rather turnoff the oven and open the door for a few minutes.
Cool the baked dough completely! Let them cool; be gentle with even baked dough.
Don't overbake it! It will turn into crackers (delicious crackers by the way!).
Under bake Choux Pastry will collapse. Follow the timing recommendations.
Add all the flour at once. It's also important to use a wooden spoon to mix the dough.
How to store Choux Pastry?
Unbaked choux pastry dough can be stored in an airtight container, and in the fridge for a day or two.
Baked choux pastry shells can be stored in an airtight container, at room temperature, for 24 hours. They do lose their crispness, so I usually put them on a baking sheet for a few minutes at 300 F, just until they’re warmed through and crisp.
These shells can be frozen for up to 3 months. That's what I do, and warm them in the oven right before filling them.
How to store Pastry cream?
Pastry cream can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days covered with plastic wrap that touches the surface of the cream. Do not freeze!
More French desserts
Let's do it...
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking dough time: 2-3 minutes
Mixing dough time: 5-10 minutes
Baking time: 40 minutes
Assembling eclairs: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Yield: approximately 18-24 éclairs
Author: Inna of innichkachef.com
Ingredients for the Pate a Choux
1 cup water
8 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pink salt
1 cup All-purpose flour
5 large eggs (don't add all at once, see note on mistakes above)
Ingredients for the pastry cream
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch or All-purpose flour
5 large egg yolks
pinch of pink salt
1-2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature must
Ingredients for the chocolate ganache
4 oz. chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon honey
1. Preheat the oven 400F and line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone mats.
2. To make Pate a Choux, in a medium saucepan add water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat immediately and then dump in all the flour at once and stir with a wooden spoon. Return to heat and stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and a film forms on the bottom of the pan - this dries out the mixture and takes about 3- 4 minutes.
3. Now put the dough into a standing mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on medium for about a minute. Turn down to low and add one egg at the time (watch dough consistency close, you may not need to use all the eggs). Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed. When all the eggs have been incorporated, the dough should be thick and glossy and form a string when you pull it. It must be stiff enough to hold its shape when piped onto a flat tray.
4. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip and pipe out onto a lined sheet tray. Make sure they are spaced at least 1 inch apart, so they have room to expand.
5. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350F and continue to cook for 30 more minutes. Do not open the oven door. Allow the shells to cool completely before the next step.
6. Meanwhile make the pastry cream. Add the milk to a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a gentle boil while you work on the next step. Keep an eye on it because you'll be removing the milk when it starts to boil.
7. In an electric mixing bowl, with a whisk attachment add the yolks and sugar, and then whisk together, stopping to scrape the edges of the bowl once in a while. Add the salt, vanilla extract and cornstarch to the yolk mixture. Whisk until you have a smooth, thick mixture.
8. As soon as the milk starts to boil, remove it from the heat. SLOWLY pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture while WHISKING CONSTANTLY ON HIGH SPEED. Start with just a few drops and increase as you go. Lower the speed of the electric mixer and finish pouring the hot milk in a thin stream into the egg mixture. When the eggs have been tempered, pour the egg mix back into the saucepan.
9. Heat the custard base (egg-milk mixture), over medium low heat, while whisking vigorously with a hand whisk until it starts to thicken. This should take about 2 - 5 minutes depending on the heat level. While whisking, let the custard releases some bubbles (come to a boil gently). When the first bubbles break the surface, turn off the heat immediately.
10. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool a little bit. Add the butter. Whisk in the butter until that too is completely mixed into the custard. If you are not using this cream immediately pour the custard into a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the whole surface of the custard. This is to prevent a skin from forming on top of the custard. Pastry cream can be made for up to 5 days ahead of time.
11. With a small pastry tip, poke a hole through the bottom of each cooled shell. Pipe cream inside, scraping off excess. Repeat and fill all the shells with cream.
12. To make the chocolate ganache, place chocolate chips into a small saucepan. Add cream and honey. Heat on low until the chocolate melts and the glossy texture of chocolate ganache arrives. Mix with a spoon while the chocolate melts. Keep a close watch, because the chocolate can burn very easily. Should take about 2-4 minutes.
13. Dip the top half of filled and chilled éclairs into the chocolate ganache, allowing excess to drip off.
Enjoy! Eating éclairs within few hours is ideal, however you can store them in a fridge for day or two.