Chocolate Eclairs – Recipe

Chocolate Eclair
Chocolate eclair

When I asked my wife what I should make for a Valentine's day dessert, there was no hesitation. "Eclairs", said she, and far be it from me to disappoint. For some reason I've never made them before, though I like them very much, so I was excited for the challenge.

My habit when looking for recipes lately is to search on TasteSpotting, foodgawker and Photograzing, because I can get an immediate visual indication of whether the results look delicious.

When I searched for eclairs, I immediately saw that the Daring Bakers had done them, and most had followed this Pierre Herme recipe. It sounded fantastic, but I thought the instructions for the glaze seemed a bit overcomplicated, requiring you to first make a chocolate sauce and then turn that into a chocolate glaze. I imagine that relates more to a commercial setting where the chocolate sauce is already on hand as a component.

Then I remembered that the Tartine cookbook has an eclair recipe. Everything I've made from this book has been spectacular. Comparing, I saw that the choux paste recipe is almost identical, except Tartine uses nonfat instead of whole milk, and a full teaspoon of sugar. I'm guessing the nonfat milk provides more flavor because of the higher percentage of milk solids that can brown.

The Tartine glaze was drastically simpler though. It is just a very firm ganache with some corn syrup for shine. Here's the recipe, lightly adapted: 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 71% Scharffen-Berger), 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon light corn syrup. Bring the cream to a simmer in a large bowl in the microwave. Remove from the microwave, stir in the chocolate and corn syrup, let sit for a couple minutes and stir again until everything is melted and smooth. Let cool until barely warm and then dip the tops of the eclairs in it.

I also used the Tartine vanilla bean pastry cream, but you could use any pastry cream recipe that you like, either chocolate or vanilla or crazier stuff if you are so inclined. I saw a matcha filling that I bet would be amazing. I'd recommend making the pastry cream a day or two in advance, as it needs to be very cold for filling, and it gives you one less thing to do the day you want to serve the eclairs. I opted for the slice-and-fill approach rather than trying to pipe in from a hole in the end.

For absolute best-ness, fill the eclairs and put them in the refrigerator for just 20 minutes or so to allow the ganache to set up, then devour. They will hold for a few hours in the fridge, but any more than that and sogginess is a risk. Less risk if you store them unwrapped or loosely wrapped – sweaty condensation is the enemy of your pastry shell.

Other tips: if you don't have the right pastry tip for piping the choux paste, just use a zip-loc type bag and cut off a corner. I found that about a 1 inch diagonal cut will give you a nice fatty eclair. And be sure and make plenty of pastry cream, you don't want to have to skimp on the filling.

Net result: delicious! Not bad at all for a first try, and I want to make them again. Happy wife, happy brother and sister-in-law-to-be, Happy Valentine's Day!

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, February 19th, 2009 in Baking, Desserts, Kid Friendly.

15 Responses to “Chocolate Eclairs – Recipe”

  1. February 19, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    Great Valentine’s Day dessert! Looks delicious!

  2. February 19, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    Oh dear,
    So much for my wanting to resist chocolate! I LOVE chocolate eclairs, but could never find any “good enough” in the US to compare to the wonderful ones I used to get in the UK. Now I get to try this recipe.
    Thanks Michael.

  3. February 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Yes, éclairs do score big points. Love them and yours look great. I made the Pierre Hermé recipe and the chocolate sauce was putsy, but extremely good. I could really eat one right now ;P

  4. February 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    Ive always wanted to try making my own, but have been intimmidated. You make it sound easy! Now I just need an occasion to make them… Thanks for the great recipe! Great site!

  5. February 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    this looks incredible! ive never tried making eclairs at home, thanks for writing about the recipe!

  6. February 22, 2009 at 1:25 am #

    I haven’t made eclairs in ,like 3 years. I think I will try again,now that I am a better baker. Last time they looked like poop

  7. d.m.
    February 22, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    yum! they look and sound great. very impressive!

  8. February 23, 2009 at 5:23 am #

    Absolutely gorgeous photo!!! It looks like I can just reach out and eat it…ouch…darn computer screen…grr.

  9. February 23, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

    Eclairs are something I learned to make a couple of years ago. They’re popular with my family and my peeps and they use up buckets of eggs (My best friend has fifty chickens. Using up eggs is a constant challenge.).

    I use the (New) Joy of Cooking choux paste recipe, which works for me. I fill them with the vanilla pastry cream recipe (also in Joy) and top the eclairs with the bittersweet chocolate ganache-like thing (Joy, again) which is made of chocolate chips (I use ghirardelli), butter, and water.

    You can take these places, like to an event or party distant from your home, by glazing the hollow eclairs but not filling them. Schlep along the filling in a ziplock nestled in an ice-filled cooler. Upon arrival at destination, fill eclairs immediately before serving them. This prevents the sog problem and simplifies the food-safety issues in transit.

  10. Michael Natkin
    February 24, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    50 chickens! Man, I love eggs but that would be a challenge for sure.

  11. Michelle Mendes
    January 25, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    I’m a beginner and I tried to make the éclairs. It all went wrong, HAHAHAhahahaa
    I didn’t have unsalted butter, so I used the salted one anyway… The pastry didn’t have the consistency to pipe, I don’t know why. I didn’t have the corn syrup, so I didn’t put it on the glaze (the only thing that tasted good). I put the boiling milk too fast on the pastry cream and it turned into chocolate scrambled eggs (thing I had the misfortune to find out with my tongue) that mixed with the salty of the pastry (salted butter…), covered with the chocolate glaze. You can imagine my reaction after tasting that (automatically spitted all out). But the idea of the eclair is still in my head, so I’ll try again ’till it’s good. Your eclair looks beautiful, by the way! :)

  12. Michael Natkin
    January 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

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    @Michelle – OMG, thanks for sharing! It takes a brave heart to try a fairly challenging recipe like eclairs as a beginner. I'm sure your next attempt will be much better… let us know :)

  13. Michelle Mendes
    February 7, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    Good news! I tried the recipe again and it worked! It took a little patience to make the pastry cream, but it was REALLY worth it. They are DELICIOUS! So much better than the ones with that artificial taste that I buy here in Brazil. Cooking is practice! :)

  14. Michael Natkin
    February 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Hey hey! Way to stick with it, and I'm glad they turned out well this time!

  15. February 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    I am a sucker for Eclairs! and your looks fab!!:)

    This would be perfect for the Valentine special giveaway I’m hosting on my blog, if you’d be kind enough to participate!:)

    link to funandfoodcafe.com

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