My son became addicted to chocolate eclairs at a very early age. At that time, I used to make them in the miniature size not bigger than his thumb, and he would gulp down those little suckers by the dozen if we let them out of our sight. He is a little more respectful nowadays of the amount of work that goes into this but still will totally wipe the dish clean. It became a tradition to have them for Christmas and for his birthday and this year, once again, I indulged.
The key to eclairs is the quality of your pate-a-choux, the vessel that will hold the chocolate pastry cream and ensure the even coating of chocolate ganache on the top. A version can also be made with coffee. I still struggle with making perfectly even ones like you see in the windows of French patisseries, but, believe me, these are just as good.
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup butter
- 2 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup flour
- 4 large eggs
Chocolate Pastry Cream
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 8 large egg yolks
- 1 quart (4 cups) milk
- 8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 lb bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 4 Tbsp butter
For the éclairs
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
- In a heavy bottom sauce pan, put water, butter, sugar and salt over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
- As soon as the mixture begins to boil, pour in the flour all at once and whisk vigorously until the water and butter mixture is completely incorporated and the flours pulls away from the sides of the pan and turns into a ball. Remove from the heat. Wait 2 minutes, stirring the paste a couple of times to let it cool slightly and add the eggs, one by one, whisking each time to make sure each egg is completely incorporated and the mixture returns to a ball before incorporating the next one.
- Using a pastry bag fitted with a plain ½-inch tip, pipe the choux paste into mounds or éclair shapes on your parchment paper lined sheet pan. Bake until puffs are golden brown on the tops and sides, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and let the puffs rest for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and immediately poke each puff in the side with a paring knife so that it releases its steam. Let cool completely.
For the Chocolate Pastry Cream
Whisk the sugar and the cornstarch together in the bowl of a electric mixer. Add the egg yolks and beat on high speed until thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently to make sure the bottom is not burning.
Whisk about one third of the hot milk into the egg mixture, then add the rest of the milk to the eggs. Make sure the pan is clean before you return the egg/milk mixture to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches a full boil, 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate and butter until melted. Scrape the pudding well at the bottom of the pan to make sure all the pastry cream is evenly whisked.
Place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap that touches the surface of the cream to avoid forming a skin at the top. Let cool before piping into the éclairs or choux.
To pipe, use an elongated tip and pierce one side of the éclair shell. The inside of the shell is just air so the cream should fill the shell easily. Make sure not to overstuff the éclair as it would make it too fragile. Line on a serving platter.
For the Chocolate Ganache
While your éclairs are resting, make the ganache. Place the chocolate and the butter in a shallow bowl. Heat the cream almost to boiling point.
Pour it over the chocolate and cover with a tight fitting lid or an inverted plate. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Whisk until the chocolate incorporates the cream and the mixture becomes shiny and silky.
Hold each éclair by its side and dip the top into the ganache, covering only the top of the surface of the éclair. Let the excess drip and invert on the serving platter.
Repeat with the remaining éclairs.