Delightful eclairs – a French elegant delicacy that can be made at home. Learn the secrets and subtleties of making truly mouth-watering, soft, and at the same time crispy deserts.
Today, eclairs can be found on the showcase of every self-respecting bakery or patisserie shop. However, the eclairs choux pastry recipes differ only in small details, eclairs could taste and look completely different. This dessert justly conquered millions of sweet-aholics from around the world.
I do not know anyone who does not like eclairs and I am not an exception. I make them often, especially for gathering at my home or for go-out tea parties. My friends are always so impressed when they hear that I have made Eclairs by myself. Eclairs can be prepared an hour before the upcoming event: just 10-15 minutes for the dough and while eclair shells are baking in the oven, prepare your favorite airy cream.
In this article, I will share with you the secrets and tricks in making eclairs. Also, I will tell interesting and useful facts about French pastries, which you should definitely know about.
What is an Eclair?
The word “eclair” comes from French, and means “flash of lightning” – there is a version that such a name was given to these cakes for the ability to quickly increase in size. Although, this finger-shaped cake, usually filled with cream and topped with glaze, resembles a real flash of gastronomic delight. Eclairs were widespread in France around the turn of the nineteenth century.
The original recipe is attributed to the famous French chef Marie-Antoine Karem, who was called “the king of chefs and the chef of kings”. He is rightfully considered one of the founders of modern world cuisine.
Eclair has appeared in Europe in 1884. So, in that period this recipe was first mentioned in the British recipe book.
Eclairs are made with choux pastry and baked in the oblong form with an average length of 3-4 inches. The traditional filling is sweet and could be as versatile as you could only imagine. Eclairs are always covered with glaze, sometimes sprinkled with nuts, wafer crumbs, and other sweet additives.
How to make Eclaire shells?
The key to obtaining quality and airy eclairs shells with a hollow center for the filling is in process of making the choux pastry. It would seem, how can I go wrong with the choux pastry?! Below I will share the secrets that you should take into consideration if you want to get a really tasty and mouth-watering product.
- Make sure you sift the flour – otherwise, you risk to get the lumps in dough, and the shells themselves will be uneven.
- Add the flour to the pan all at once – some people neglect this tip and as a result, they risk again to get the lumps in the dough. Whip the dough with a wooden spoon for about 20-30 seconds until it forms a ball.
- Add the eggs only when the dough cools down a little ( to about 158 °F). Use a kitchen thermometer if you have it at hand.
- Make sure you have your eggs at room temperature.
- Beat the eggs into the dough one at a time. In any recipe, there is a strict amount of ingredients. However, making eclair shells is exactly the case when you need to trust your intuition and a good eye. If you see that the dough is getting too thin, then stop adding eggs. After all, the consistency may depend on the quality of other products, like flour or butter.
Learn how to make choux pastry dough here.
How to bake Eclair shells?
Baking eclair shells – it is the trickiest part of this recipe.
First, line a baking tray with parchment paper. Then transfer the choux pastry dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2” round tip or a 16mm open star tip. Pipe 4-inch long strips keeping them 2 inches apart.
* If you do not have a pastry bag, you can easily use a zipped-top bag. Just cut off the corner for easy piping.
Shells need hight temperature to rise. Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Just before you will send the eclairs shells to it, turn the temperature down to 375 °F. Bake for 30 minutes. Do not open the oven door as the pastries cook, otherwise, the shells will deflate.
Remove the eclair shells from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Making and baking eclair shells is the most important part of this recipe, and it does take practice. So, do not get sad if at first, you don’t succeed! Just try again!
How to make the best Eclair filling?
In summer warm days I always crave for something airy and refreshing. I decided to fill this eclair with rich and citrusy lime cream cheese filling. This lime cream cheese filling is absolutely to-die-for and probably is my favorite one.
In a stand mixer bowl fitted with the wire whip combine 2/3 cup of heavy cream, 2 tbsp of icing sugar, and seeds from 1 vanilla bean. Beat until soft peaks form. Then add 16 oz of cream cheese and zest from one lime and beat for 1-2 more minutes. Chill frosting in the refrigerator until assembling the eclairs.
How to make chocolate ganache?
Put ½ cup of chocolate chips in a bowl. Then pour the ¼ cup of hot cream over the chips and whisk them together until a smooth ganache forms. Place the bowl with ganache over a simmering saucepan filled with 1-2 inches of water to keep it in liquid form.
How to assemble the Eclairs?
Once eclairs shells cooled completely, they are ready to be stuffed. Fit a piping bag with a medium-sized plain tip and fill it with lime cream cheese filling. Insert the tip of the bag into the end of an eclair shell and pipe filling into it. Then gently dip the top of each eclair into warm chocolate ganache and arrange on a serving plate.
I also like to cut the top of eclair shells and spoon a generous amount of the filling into the bottom half. Then top with sweet and magic flavorful berries and close the eclairs with shells top. Sprinkle some icing sugar and voila!
Decadent Homemade Eclairs
- wooden spoon
- stand mixer
- baking sheets
- disposable pastry bag
Ingredients for Choux Pastry:
- 1 cup water
- 3,5 oz unsalted butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 5 eggs
Ingredients for lime cream cheese filling:
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 16 oz cream cheese
For the Chocolate Ganache:
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
How to Make Choux Pastry:
- Preheat the oven at 450˚F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of the water into a saucepan and add 3,5 oz of unsalted butter, 1 tsp of sugar, 1/4 tsp salt. Set on the stove at low heat. Stir constantly until the butter just melted. When you see the butter melted, stir in 1 cup flour all at once and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until the mixture comes together into a smooth ball and doesn’t stick anymore to the sides of the saucepan.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and transfer the dough to a stand mixer bowl fitted with the flat beater. Let the dough cool a little, then switch on the mixer on low speed. In 2-3 minutes gradually incorporate 5 eggs - one egg at a time, allowing each egg to fully incorporate between additions. Beat until dough is smooth, shiny, and it falls nicely when you lift it up with a scraper.
- Then transfer the choux pastry dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2” round tip or a 16mm open star tip. Pipe 4-inch long strips keeping them 2 inches apart.
- Just before you will send the eclairs shells to the oven, turn the temperature down to 375 °F. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the eclair shells from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
How to make the Eclair filling:
- In a stand mixer bowl fitted with the wire whip combine 2/3 cup of heavy cream, 2 tbsp of icing sugar, and seeds from 1 vanilla bean. Beat until soft peaks form. Then add 2 cups of cream cheese and beat for 1-2 more minutes.
How to make chocolate ganache:
- Put ½ cup of chocolate chips in a bowl. Then pour the ¼ cup of hot cream over the chips and whisk them together until a smooth ganache forms. Place the bowl with ganache over a simmering saucepan filled with 1-2 inches of water to keep it in liquid form.
Assembly the Eclairs:
- Fit a piping bag with a medium-sized plain tip and fill it with lime cream cheese filling. Insert the tip of the bag into the end of an eclair shell and pipe filling into it. Then gently dip the top of each eclair into warm chocolate ganache and arrange on a serving plate.