Cream puffs and eclairs, these are quite possibly some of France’s most popular pastries, excluding the macaron, of course. While a trip to Paris may not be possible at this moment, making these homemade eclairs recipe totally is!
Unlike the crisp macaron cookie, cream puffs and eclairs are pillow-y and soft. I like to think of them as pastry clouds because they truly taste like a dream.
And since today is my birthday, I think I deserve a dreamy, indulgent dessert. This chocolate eclair recipe with custard filling definitely does not disappoint!
Both cream puffs and eclairs are made from a French pastry dough called pate a choux. Cream puffs are usually filled with whipped cream, while eclairs are usually filled with pastry cream, or custard.
You’d be surprised at how easy it is to make the pate a choux dough for the eclairs. In all honesty, this entire dessert is pretty easy to make.
It just requires some advance planning, as you need to allow time for the pastries to cool and the cream to chill. Once you’ve achieved both, you can fill the pastries with the cream and top with the chocolate ganache.
Chocolate eclairs are delicious on their own, but I love adding a little crunch by topping mine with chopped hazelnuts. It’s no secret that chocolate and hazelnuts are a scrumptious combo, as made evident in this post (plus, Nutella, anyone?), but it’s the texture difference that I really love here.
The pastry cream that I use in this recipe is also really great because it holds up well inside the eclairs (no messy cream seeping out here!).
The best part about this recipe, though, is that you don’t have to wait until your next trip to Paris to enjoy a tantalizing eclair!
French pastry logs filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate ganache and chopped hazelnuts.
for the pate a choux pastry dough
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
for the pastry cream filling
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder (heads up that the powder will darken the pastry cream a bit)
- 3 whole eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp salt
for the topping
- 4 oz dark or semi-sweet chocolate
- 1/3 cup heavy cream heated
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts finely chopped (optional)
To a large bowl, add the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar - whisk together until thick and pale. Add the cornstarch, flour and salt, and whisk again to combine.
Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once the milk is hot and is beginning to barely simmer along the edges (but not boiling!), remove the milk from the heat.
Slowly stream the hot milk into the egg batter in batches, whisking vigorously as you do. This will help temper your eggs so that they don't curdle into scrambled eggs!
Slowly pour the entire pastry cream batter into a clean, dry saucepan. Warm this mixture over medium-low heat, whisking the mixture the entire time. After about 5 minutes, you should see the cream really thicken up into a pudding-like consistency. This happens in the matter of a moment, so be careful and watchful of your pastry cream.
Once you've achieved a pudding-like consistency with your pastry cream, remove the cream from the heat. Don't fret over small lumps as you can whisk them out off the heat. Add in the vanilla extract (or vanilla bean powder) and whisk to combine. If you have any lumps, just whisk vigorously to remove them.
Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the pastry cream to prevent a filmy layer from forming. Refrigerate the pastry cream until chilled. After it's chilled, if you feel like it's thickened up too much, you can stream in a little bit of milk and whisk to thin out the consistency a bit.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the butter in a medium saucepan, then follow with the sugar, salt, and water. Heat this mixture over low heat, stirring to help melt the butter.
Add in the flour and stir to combine. Over medium-low heat, stir the dough until it forms a wet sand-like appearance and clumps together. Continue stirring the dough in the saucepan for another minute to help get rid of some of the moisture in the dough.
Take the saucepan off the heat, and add in 1 egg at a time, stirring the egg in really well before adding another. You should end up with a sort of paste-like appearance with the dough.
Bake the pastry logs for 10 minutes at 425°F, then without opening the oven door, reduce the heat to 375°F and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the logs are golden throughout. Do not open the oven door at all during the baking process, or else your pastries will deflate.
For the ganache
Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for about 20 to 30 seconds until hot.
Place the chocolate in a shallow bowl, then pour the hot cream over it. Let this mixture rest for one minute, then stir until the chocolate has melted and is smooth.
Let the pastry logs cool entirely before filling. Once cool, use either a metal rod or skewer to poke three, spaced-out holes into the bottom of your pastries. Alternatively, you can use a sharp knife to make a horizontal cut along one side of the pastry logs (like a hot dog bun).
Fit a pastry bag a small plain tip and fill with the pastry cream. Pipe the cream into the pastries: if filling small holes, then fill until it begins to ooze out of each hole; if you made a horizontal cut along the side, then simply fill the pastry with enough cream to fill up the inside of the pastry log.
Use a butter knife to spread the chocolate ganache onto the top of the eclairs. If using chopped nuts, sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts onto the ganache-covered eclair.
You will end up with extra pastry cream, so just keep refrigerated in an airtight container for use in another recipe, or double the choux pastry ingredients.