This is my usual recipe for Chocolate Eclairs. I found it years ago when there weren't a lot of eclair recipes on the Internet. Now you can find pages with all kinds of great info on eclair making, good photos, tips and clear instruction. That being said, this little recipe from Allrecipes.com has served me well and was a great springboard into eclair making even though it's kind of basic.
So, Basic Eclairs
The type of dough used for eclairs is called choux pastry. You can make it completely over the stove with a saucepan and wooden spoon, or you can do it partially over the stove and finish it off in a mixing bowl. I feel like I have more control over the dough with the partial mixing bowl method, so I start it on the stove and transfer to a mixing bowl before adding eggs. That part is simple.
Piping the Dough
Piping the dough is easy if you have a pastry bag and a large round tip, but if you don't have a pastry bag and tip you can pipe it out of a large heavy duty freezer bag with the bottom corner cut off. Just clip the bag about an inch above the bottom corner to make a hole that is around an inch. You can also just skip the bag and shape the dough with a spoon. It will puff up a big as it bakes.
Chocolate Eclairs Filling
The filling for this recipe is not from scratch, but rather one made with vanilla pudding. It's quick and easy, but also very good (at least to those of us who grew up on Jell-O pudding). Feel free to use a scratch pastry or diplomat cream, but I'm sticking with this one because it reminds me of the filling in frozen "Rich's" brand eclairs.
I've included a recipe for an easy chocolate topping, but I admit I sometimes just use a ganache made with 50% cream and 50 % melted semisweet, dark or bittersweet chocolate
Other Chocolate Icings
The chocolate glaze in this recipe is good, but if you don't have the right kind of chocolate you can use any glaze. Here's a batch my daughter made. She didn't have the chocolate chips so used the chocolate icing that goes with Easy Eclair Cake. It calls for cocoa powder rather than chocolate.
- Butter -- You can experiment with different types of butter. European style butter and American style butter can give you different results, though it probably varies by brand. I attempted to make the dough with Danish butter and the dough was too dry and did not puff. I may try again with European style butter, but for now I just recommend using regular old American butter.
- Salt -- Omit or use just a pinch if using salted butter
- Sugar -- This recipe doesn't have any, but you can add a teaspoon or two if you want a browner shell with a hint of sweetness. I usually just leave it out.
- Flour -- AP and bread flour are both good choices. Bread flour will give you a crisper shell. I usually just use King Arthur AP which has just enough protein for a tender inside and crisp enough shell.
- Eggs -- You can use all four eggs, which is what I do these days, or you can use 3 eggs and add about half of the fourth egg. This makes a slightly dryer inside.
Chocolate Eclairs II
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks (114 grams)
- 1 cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt plus a pinch omit if using salted butter
- 1 cup bread or all-purpose flour (128 grams)
- 4 large eggs
- 3.4 oz box instant pudding mix
- 1 ¾ cup milk
- 2 cups whipped topping About ⅔ of a tub, or make your own**
- 2 oz chopped dark or semisweet chocolate not chips
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar sifted twice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 tablespoons HOT water
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet or two medium baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Partially melt the butter in a large 3-4 quart saucepan, then add the water and salt. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat briefly and stir in the flour all at once with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until mixture leaves side of pan and forms a ball. Stir for another minute or two until mixture starts to leave a film on the bottom of the saucepan. This step is to remove any floury flavor.
- Remove from stove and transfer dough to a mixing bowl. Mix gently with a mixer for 1 minute, then allow the mixture to cool so that it won't cook the eggs.
- When the mixture is not so hot that it will cook the eggs, go ahead and crack in one egg. Mix with the mixer until egg is incorporated, then add remaining eggs one at a time beating to make a soft dough. You can also do this step with a whisk if you prefer.
- Transfer mixture to a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip or use a spoon to make about 10 (you may get more) lines of dough each about 4 inches in length and somewhere a little over and inch wide.. You could also do this with a heavy duty zipper bag. Just put the dough in the zipper bag and snip off the bottom corner.
- Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 and continue baking for another 15 20 minutes or until golden brown. As soon as you remove them from the oven, prick lightly with a fork to help steam escape. This is supposed to help keep the insides from being soggy. I think it helps a little, but I don't always remember to do it. Let cool while you make the filling.
- Filling: Whisk together pudding mix and milk for about 2 minutes. When pudding thickens, fold in the whipped topping (or sweetened homemade whipped cream).
- To fill the eclairs, use a Bismark tip (the long skinny one) and poke it into the pastry. Squeeze it in there and fill. You can also split the eclairs and fill, or hollow out with a poke and use a heavy duty freezer bag with the corner snipped off.
- Keep the filled eclairs cold while you make the icing.
- To make the icing, combine the chopped chocolate and butter in a saucepan and heat over medium low, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Add the sifted sugar gradually, stirring well (you'll have a thick paste), then add the vanilla and the 3 tablespoons of very hot water, stirring until smooth. Mixture will be runny while warm. Allow it to cool and thicken if needed.
- Spoon over the cold eclairs and let set.