While a trip to Paris may not always be a feasible option for satisfying your pastry cravings, this easy chocolate eclair recipe definitely will! Made with a simple pate a choux pastry dough and pastry cream filling, you’ll love how delicious and easy these chocolate eclairs are.
Easy Chocolate Eclair Recipe with Custard Filling
Cream puffs and eclairs are quite possibly some of France’s most popular pastries, excluding the macaron, of course.
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.
Filled with a silky smooth custard filling, these pastry clouds because a dreamy and indulgent dessert.
But don’t let the appearance or fancy French name fool you into thinking that this chocolate eclair recipe is difficult or tricky. Even the pastry cream can be made by novice bakers!
How do you make chocolate eclairs from scratch?
Both cream puffs and eclairs are made from a French pastry dough called pate a choux.
Unlike a classic pastry dough, however, don’t expect your dough to look the way pie dough or tart dough does. Instead, pate a choux looks a lot more like pastry paste than pastry dough.
The dough for this easy chocolate eclair recipe is made over the stove with a combination of butter, water, flour, sugar, salt, and eggs. All of these are basic ingredients, so nothing fancy going on here!
How do you pipe an eclair?
After the ingredients for the pastry dough are combined and heated over the stove, they’ll form a thick paste.
The thick paste can then be scooped into a pastry bag with a large plain tip (or no tip) and piped out into several logs on a baking sheet.
What is eclair filling made of?
Cream puffs are usually filled with whipped cream, while eclairs are usually filled with pastry cream, or custard.
The custard filling is a combination of milk, eggs, sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla.
If you’ve never made a custard before, it’s basically a matter of combining hot milk with the eggs very slowly (aka tempering the eggs), then heating the entire mixture over the stove until it’s thick like pudding.
You don’t want to heat the custard to the point that’s stiff like jello, nor do you want it to be clumpy. Either scenario can happen within the blink of an eye, which is why custards can sometimes be notorious for being tricky.
But the reality is that if you’re standing over your custard with a watchful eye, you can whisk out a few small clumps and avoid your custard from becoming too stiff.
How do you fill an eclair?
To fill an eclair, you have two options. The traditional way is to use a thick skewer and poke a few holes into the bottom of the eclair.
Once you’ve create a few holes, you can poke the tip of your pastry bag (fitted with a plain tip) into the holes and squeeze your custard into the hollow pastry logs to fill them.
A second option is to simple use a sharp knife and cut along the edge or side of the pastry logs to create a slit. The log, when turn on it’s side, would look similar to a hot dog bun.
The custard can then be scooped into the pastry shell and the horizontal cut won’t really be apparent.
Eclairs are also topped with chocolate ganache, whereas the only time cream puffs are garnished with chocolate is if they’re turned into dessert profiteroles.
Chocolate ganache is very simple to make. You’ll basically place chocolate (chips, squares, shards) into a bowl, then pour hot cream over it and let it rest in the cream for a minute.
The chocolate is then stirred into silky smooth perfection.
Once your eclairs have cooled, you can fill the pastries with custard and top them with chocolate ganache.
To apply the chocolate ganache, you can use a simple butter knife and spread the chocolate smoothly and evenly across the top.
How do you store chocolate eclairs with custard filling?
Once you’ve assembled your chocolate eclairs, you will want to store them in the refrigerator.
Something to keep in mind when you’re making this chocolate eclair dessert recipe is how far in advance you’ll want to make them. I don’t recommend making them more than a day in advance.
The longer the pastry shells sit with custard filled in them, the softer they will become.
Easy Chocolate Eclair Recipe Tips:
- Whenever you’re making pate a choux dough for eclairs (or cream puffs), you want to make sure you eliminate any extra moisture from the dough. To do this, be sure to stir the dough over the stove until it no longer leaves any residue along the bottom of the pot or sides of it when you stir it around.
- Be sure to never open the oven door while pate a choux dough is baking. Only open the oven door when the pastry is golden throughout, as instructed by the recipe card. Otherwise, your eclairs can deflate.
- Don’t leave your custard cooking over the stove unattended. While it can take a good 5 to 7 minutes for your custard to thicken, it happens in an instant, so it’s important that you keep a very watchful eye over it.
- Chocolate eclairs are delicious on their own, but I love adding a little crunch by topping mine with chopped hazelnuts.
The best part about this easy chocolate eclair recipe is that you don’t have to wait until your next trip to Paris to enjoy a tantalizing eclair!
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 the entire time.
- 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. The point is to not overcook your pastry cream so that it turns stiff like jello or gets way too lump. Add in the vanilla extract (or vanilla bean powder) and whisk to combine. If you have any small 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. The dough should be stirred around in the saucepan without leaving any residue behind along the bottom or sides of the pot - that's how you'll know much of the moisture has been eliminated.
- 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. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to slightly cool.
- Transfer the dough to a pastry bag that is either fitted with a large, plain tip or no tip at all, and pipe out 1" wide logs (and about 5 to 6 inches long) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- 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. Once the logs are golden throughout, then your eclairs are ready. When they’re done, pierce them with the tip of a sharp knife to let out steam and leave them in the oven with the door slightly open for another 15 min. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
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 with 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 (or just use a spoon to scoop the cream into the pastry log opening).
- 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 to get more eclairs.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 5 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 279