Do you dare to éclair?
Éclairs used to seem like one of those unattainable pastries—something you had no choice by to pay $8 for in a fancy French patisserie in New York or Europe if you wanted to cure your craving. Why, they simply couldn’t be made at home by a cheeseburger eating American girl with no formal training! …Or so I had myself convinced for years.
This is, of course, 100% ridiculous. For all the fanciness of their name—éclair means lightning, by-the-way—they really are not all that hard to make. Sure, there are three steps, but even all together, they can still be tackled in around 2 hours. The filling can even be made ahead of time.
Though they had originated in France around the turn of the 19th century, the first known recipe for éclairs appears in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884. These originals were such a hit, even the trendiest of bakeries today barely change the basic recipe—a testament to true deliciousness. If you’re looking to enjoy that classic éclair taste at home, this is the recipe for you.
And be sure to d’éclair your love for éclairs on National Eclair Day, June 22.
Classic chocolate eclair recipe
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 6 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tbsp cold unsalted butter
Choux pastry dough
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
What else you’ll need
- 2 Large piping bags
- 1/2″ Round tip for piping
- Baking sheet
- Silicon liner or parchment paper
- Small, sharp, pointy tip for piping filling
- Wire rack
- Plastic wrap
Make the pastry
- In a medium saucepan, add the first five ingredients (milk, water, butter, sugar, salt). Bring to a boil on medium heat, then remove from heat and add flour all at once. Stir until incorporated.
- Place mixture back over medium heat for about 2 minutes to partially cook flour and rid of excess moisture. Dough should start to come together and a thin film may form on the bottom of the pan.
- Transfer dough mixture to a large mixing bowl and beat with hand mixer for 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time and beat until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Finally, beat dough until smooth and thick, somewhat stringy ribbons form when you pull up on beaters.
- Attach your 1/2″ tip to pastry bag and fill bag with dough. Pipe 18-20 eclairs (4″ long and 3/4″ wide) in strips, leaving about 1 1/2″ between them to spread while baking. Use your finger to smooth out any bumps or points on the surface of the dough.
- Bake eclairs at 425ºF for 10 minutes. Then, without opening the oven door, reduce temperature to 325ºF and bake for 20-25 more minutes, or until golden brown.
- Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Make the filling
(Note: Filling can be made up to a 24 hours in advance.)
- Add 2 cups milk to medium saucepan, then scrape vanilla beans from the pod into the milk. Stir constantly as you bring to a boil (to prevent film from forming). Turn off heat and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until fluffy. Add cornstarch and whisk until no lumps remain.
- Begin to add in hot milk mixture, 1/4 cup at a time until fully combined. Set empty saucepan aside. Pour mixture through strainer and back into saucepan.
- Cook filling on medium-high. Whisk constantly until thickened and lightly boiling. Remove from heat, add butter and stir. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Cover filling with plastic wrap, pressing on the wrap so it touches the surface of the filling. Refrigerate 1 hour before filling eclairs.
Filling the eclairs
- Fit a medium or large pastry bag with a small, pointy tip. Fill bag with pastry filling. Flip over each eclair and gently poke a hole, filling with custard. Poke up to three holes in the bottom (one near each end and one in the middle) and pipe custard just until the inside is full. If custard seeps back out due to overfilling, use a knife to scrape the bottom.
- Repeat with each eclair until ingredients have been used up.
Make the chocolate glaze
- In a small saucepan, heat cream until it reaches a slow boil, then quickly remove. Add chocolate then whisk until mixture becomes smooth.
Dipping the eclairs in chocolate
- Dip the top of each eclair in the warm chocolate and set on sheet pan or wire rack. Chill, uncovered, for 1 hour, or until glaze sets.
- Store refrigerated. Best served chilled.
Also see, Red Velvet Pizzelle recipe.