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Eclairs, Part 2: A Recipe For The Way They Should Be

chocolate eclair

chocolate eclair

This is the way éclairs should be made. True éclairs should have a perfect balance of crust and cream. The size of the choux pastry shell is key. If the shells are too large there will be too much cream, and if they’re too small — a risk with mini-éclairs — there can be too much crust. Like most classic French pastries, these involve several elements — choux pastry, chocolate pastry cream and chocolate glaze — and they require patience.

Jacquy Pfeiffer’s Authentic Chocolate Eclairs

Makes 12 éclairs

Measurements are given in weights as per Jacquy’s fervent preference; this recipe’s success cannot be guaranteed with volume (cup) measurements.


For the choux:

½ recipe choux pastry, by weight

1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of milk and a pinch of salt, for egg wash

For the chocolate cream filling:

43 grams (1 ⅜ ounces) dark chocolate (70% cacao)

320 grams (1 ⅓ cups) milk

30 grams (2 rounded tablespoons) granulated sugar

5 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract

8 grams (2 ½ teaspoons) cornstarch

4 grams (1 rounded teaspoon) all-purpose flour

30 grams (2 rounded tablespoons) granulated sugar

40 grams (about 2 ½) egg yolks

For the glaze:

36 grams (1.2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate

40 to 80 grams (2 tablespoons or more) simple syrup (as needed)

125 grams (⅓ cup) fondant (available in specialty stores)


For the choux:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).  Line a sheet pan with parchment. Spoon the pâte à choux into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip. Pipe 12  éclairs, each 3 to 3½ inches long, onto the sheet pan, taking care to leave at least ¾ inch of space between each one of them and to stagger the rows.

2. Brush the tops of the éclairs with egg wash. Dip the end of a fork in the egg wash and run the tines down the surface of the dough. This will help the choux pastry bake evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the éclairs rise. Then turn down the oven to 325 F / 170 C and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes, until they are golden brown.

3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once they have cooled, saw them laterally with a serrated knife but do not cut them all the way through; the top and bottom should still be attached along one long side.

For the chocolate pastry cream:

1. Finely chop the chocolate and set aside. In a medium stainless steel saucepan, combine all but ¼ cup of the milk with 30 grams (2 rounded tablespoons) of sugar and the vanilla. Stir with a whisk and place over medium heat.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the flour with the remaining 30 grams of sugar. Add the reserved ¼ cup of milk and whisk in the egg yolks.

3. When the milk mixture comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Whisk half of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Strain the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.

4. Turn the heat back onto medium and whisk, making sure to whisk everywhere — bottom and sides and bottom edges of the pan — so that the mixture does not scorch. As soon as you feel that the mixture is becoming slightly thick on the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat and whisk until the entire mixture is thick and thoroughly uniform. This will allow a slow and even coagulation of the eggs and result in a nice, creamy pastry cream. Return to the heat and bring back to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking, for 1 minute to cook out the starch flavor.

5. Immediately remove from the heat and whisk in the finely chopped chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is uniform. Transfer to the plastic-lined baking sheet. Spread in an even layer and place another sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream, so that the pastry cream is not in contact with the air. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool the cream rapidly. Scrape into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembling and finishing the éclairs:

1. Whisk the pastry cream vigorously for 15 seconds, either by hand or in the stand mixer fitted with the whip.  Scrape the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a ⅜-inch round tip.

2. Open up the éclairs, fill them with the pastry cream, and close them back up. Set aside.

3. To make the chocolate glaze, finely chop the unsweetened chocolate. Place half of the simple syrup in a small microwave-proof bowl. Microwave at 50% power for one minute. Add the chopped chocolate to the warm syrup and stir for 10 seconds. Microwave the mix for 1 more minute at 50% power and stir together with a rubber spatula until the mixture is homogenous. If it does not come together, repeat the microwaving for 1 minute.

4. Work the fondant in your hands for a minute just as if you were kneading dough. Add it to the chocolate and syrup mixture and stir with a wooden spatula or spoon for two minutes. It will be very hard to mix this mixture at first, but then it will come together. You can slowly thin it with the remaining syrup heated up at 50% power for 1 minute. The mixture should have a soft feel, and when you lift up the spatula and hold it straight, the fondant should form a ribbon as it falls back into the bowl. If the fondant seems too thick, add a little more syrup, if it feels too runny, add a small amount of fondant. If it cools and thickens too much, adjust the temperature by heating it in very short bursts in the microwave at 50% power. But be very careful that it does not exceed 87.8 F (31 C) or it will not be shiny again.

5. Wearing latex gloves, hold an éclair by the base in your left hand and flip it over so that the top is now sitting on the surface of the fondant. With your left hand, lift the éclair from the fondant and hold it straight up over the fondant. With your right index finger wipe off the excess fondant, leaving enough of a layer to cover the surface. Scrape your index finger on the side of the bowl to remove the glaze and slide it around the glazed area of the éclair so that it is nice and smooth. Set the éclair on a tray and repeat with the other éclairs.

6. Once they are all glazed, place them in the refrigerator. Serve them at once or store them in the refrigerator for up to a day.

Top photo: Chocolate éclair       Credit: Paul Strabbing

Zester Daily contributor Martha Rose Shulman is the award-winning author of more than 25 cookbooks, including "The Very Best of Recipes for Health" and "The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking," both published by Rodale. She also joined Jacquy Pfeiffer in winning a 2014 James Beard Award for "The Art of French Pastry."

  • Clifford A. Wright 9·30·12

    I’ve eaten these and they are utterly incredible. Like you landed in Paris and were taken to t best pastry shop.

  • Elizabeth 10·3·12