Here’s all you need to know about making Perfect Classic Chocolate Eclairs! This foolproof tutorial will guide you through the recipe step by step, and also discuss troubleshooting tips for common eclair recipe pitfalls.
Deliciously crisp, puffy and perfect chocolate eclairs filled with chocolate or vanilla pastry cream.
Have you been left wondering why your eclairs always came out flat or soggy? Or why they have a concave-shaped bottom, or a huge crack right down the middle on the bottom?
You’ve probably tried all the recipes that claim to make perfect eclairs, and still ended up with flat, depressing eclairs instead? Well, then you’ve come to the right place! 🙂
Today, I’m going to show you guys how to make Foolproof, Perfect Classic Eclairs!
My classic choux pastry troubleshooting post is one of the most popular posts on my blog, and I’ve had many readers ask me for a follow up post dedicated to classic eclairs. It’s been a long time coming, but here it is! However, I do encourage you to read my choux pastry troubleshooting recipe post first for a detailed and comprehensive guide on how to make perfect choux pastry and how to fix any shortcomings with the dough. It’ll help you troubleshoot common issues that you may encounter when making eclairs or any choux pastry dessert.
Here’s a quick summary.
The consistency of your choux pastry dough is key! Always WEIGH your ingredients, rather than relying on cup/volume measurements for guaranteed, consistent results. If you do use cups however, pay extra attention to the consistency of the dough at each step to make sure you’re on the right track.
There are key signs to look for at each step of making choux pastry, before you proceed to the next step. The more you make choux pastry, the more you will be able to “read” your dough and follow these signs intuitively.
If you’re new to making choux pastry, then how about starting with profiteroles first? Profiteroles are easier and more forgiving than classic eclairs, and I’ve got an excellent recipe for making profiteroles.
Having said that, I’m going to share with you here all my tips on making PERFECT eclairs that are nice and puffy, with a beautiful shell and with no cracks. This will help you make foolproof classic eclairs that look like they came from a high-end pastry shop! 🙂 So let’s get to it.
I’ll start with some common eclair fails that you’d potentially encounter when making classic eclairs.
My eclairs are flat and soggy.
This happens if your choux pastry dough is too runny (with too much water, eggs, or both).
Or you opened the oven too early while baking, causing steam to escape, which makes the eclair shells collapse.
Or you didn’t bake them long enough.
- Keep an eye on the dough, and make sure you don’t add too many eggs.
- Never open the oven door before the 25 minute mark, to avoid letting out steam from the oven.
- Prick or cut the shell towards the end of the baking time (or soon after they are baked) to let steam escape as the pastry cools down.
- Never add raw flour to your choux pastry to “fix” runny dough. See the post here to find out how to fix runny choux pastry dough.
My eclairs have a sunken bottom, and sometimes there’s a large crack on the bottom as well.
This happens due to a combination of the reasons stated above. But in addition, your chocolate eclairs can also sink in at the bottom, if the pastry case isn’t sturdy enough to hold its shape.
This is not so much of an issue with profiteroles. This is because the shape of a profiterole is inherently sturdier than that of eclairs.
For profiteroles, the contact point of the pastry with the baking sheet is wider, so it has a more stable base to bake on and rise to form a nice, airy pastry shell. There’s less risk of collapsed pastry shells here.
For eclairs, the contact point with the baking sheet is less (in terms of the width of the pastry shell). So as they pastry shell expands when baking, it becomes less stable/sturdy and tends to collapse around the base, causing your eclair shells to have a concave-shaped collapsed bottom.
- Use a silpat instead of parchment paper (explained in detail below).
- Pipe at a 45° angle, while exerting constant pressure, when you’re piping the middle of the eclair.
- Make sure the middle of your piped eclair is NOT thicker than the two ends (i.e. it should be dog bone-shaped).
Silpat vs parchment paper
I came about this little discovery quite by accident. I’m not entirely sure what it is about a silpat (besides it having something to do with heat conduction), but eclairs baked on a silpat are always more stable and neat than those baked on parchment paper.
If you don’t have a silpat, that is OK, you can still use parchment paper. But I usually add fewer eggs to my choux pastry if I know I’m baking chocolate eclairs on parchment paper.
Parchment paper (top) vs Silpat (bottom)
Piping at a 45 degree angle, on the silpat mat
This is the best angle to pipe your choux pastry at constant pressure, with minimal distortions on the piped choux. If you pipe from the top (like with profiteroles), it puts too much pressure on the choux, pushing/crushing it against the tray, and this may cause your eclairs to puff up horizontally, rather than vertically.
I also like to make sure the piping tip makes contact with the silpat (at a 45° angle), as I pipe the choux. It helps form a stable base for the eclairs, while also giving you some stability to pipe evenly, with consistent pressure.
Eclairs piped in a dog bone shape, that are narrower in the middle.
Consistent piping pressure and shape
Inconsistent or varying piping pressure will result in lumpy eclairs that aren’t as clean or professional-looking as you’d like. This is especially more problematic if you pipe extra dough in the middle compared to the ends. The middle will then puff up more, and you’ll end up with oval-shaped eclairs that are more inclined to collapse as well.
This is why I prefer to pipe just a little extra dough at the ends (i.e. dog bone-shaped). But you can also pipe them nice and straight, where the ends are only slightly larger than the middle. Either way, you will end up with beautiful, even, and incredibly delicious eclair shells, that are guaranteed to never collapse or flatten!
Eclairs piped with just a little extra dough at the ends (to prevent oval shaped eclairs)
My eclairs have large cracks on top.
This often happens when the dough isn’t prepared properly, and you have undissolved salt or sugar in it.
Another reason is baking it in a high temperature oven.
You also tend to get more cracks if you pipe with a round tip instead of a star tip. This is likely because of the increased surface area that you get when piped with a star tip, which gives the choux pastry more leeway to expand.
See below for differences between eclairs piped with a round tip, open star tip, and a French star tip. You can see that the French star tip yields the neatest eclair pastry shell, and the round tip eclair has an uneven shape with more cracks.
- Use a French star tip (instead of a round tip). If you only have a round tip, then you can use a fork to gently scrape/mark lines on the top of your piped dough to increase the surface area.
- Make sure the sugar and salt are completely dissolved in the water.
- Do not add raw flour to the dough.
- Lower the oven temperature (if you’re baking at 400°F or higher), and bake for longer at a lower oven temperature (375°F) instead.
Difference in eclair shells piped using different tips. The round tip (top) has the most cracks, and the French star tip (bottom) has the least cracks on the surface.
Now I will take you through a detailed, step by step guide on this classic eclair recipe.
If you’re new to making eclairs, or you’re having trouble perfecting your chocolate eclairs, please read the post carefully. These tips will help you make absolutely perfect, beautiful eclair shells every single time! 🙂
Half sheet baking trays – at least two. I prefer baking one tray at a time, to get consistently good results. If you do want to bake two trays at a time, that is fine too, but remember TO NOT OPEN THE OVEN BEFORE THE 25 MINUTE MARK.
Silpat mats – highly recommended, especially for classic eclairs (chocolate eclairs). Provides better heat conduction, and helps the eclairs rise in an even and stable way. If you don’t have silpat mats, you can use parchment paper, but be mindful of the choux pastry consistency.
French star tip (1/2 inch diameter) – the grooves in the star tip create a “raked” dough that prevents the eclair shells from cracking as they expand. You can use a round tip as well, but in that case, use a fork and drag it lightly along the surface of the piped dough to make multiple, long lines (to mimic the pattern that you’d get with a star tip). You can use an open star tip too, but a French star tip is the best option.
Weigh your ingredients. I use a basic kitchen scale to weigh the wet ingredients as well. I simply place the saucepan on the kitchen scale, and weigh the water, then butter, and then add the salt and sugar.
You can either use just water, or milk, or a mixture of water and milk.
Stir while heating to make sure the salt and sugar dissolve, and the butter dissolves BEFORE the mix comes to a boil.
When the mix comes to a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and add ALL OF THE SIFTED FLOUR in one go. Stir to bring it together and form a dough. Make sure there are no lumps in your dough, and then return the saucepan to the stove and cook the dough for about 2-3 minutes while mixing vigorously. This is important because you want the excess water to evaporate. You’ll know it’s done, when there’s a film of dough forming at the bottom of your saucepan. Plus, if you stick a spoon in the dough, it should stay upright.
Allow the choux pastry dough to cool down in a large bowl, until the temperature registers at under 160°F. I spread the choux pastry dough along the wall of the bowl when doing this, so that more steam escapes and the dough cools down faster.
Addition of eggs
This part is important. Add the eggs a little at a time, until your dough just starts to get a glossy sheen. This means you may end up using all the eggs, or only a portion of it. I usually end up adding 3 1/2 eggs, or sometimes 4 (if I had to cook the dough longer, which results in a drier dough).
As you mix in the eggs at the beginning, the dough will be a slimy mess, but as you incorporate more eggs, it’ll become smoother, and runnier, and start to get a sheen.
Stop adding eggs as soon as the dough reaches this point where it gets a sheen (or looks a little glossy), and isn’t too runny. There are 2 ways to check for the correct consistency of your glossy choux pastry dough.
- Drag your finger along the surface of the choux pastry dough to create a trough. The sides of this trough should stay upright and not collapse into the dough. If they do, it’s because the dough is too runny.
- Place a rubber spatula in the dough, upright, and then stir the dough with it a little, and slowly lift the spatula, straight up. If the dough forms a V shape at the end of the spatula (as shown in the picture in the post), then it’s also the right consistency.
Personally, I prefer the first method, but either method is effective.
Piping choux pastry dough
When the choux pastry dough is ready, transfer it into a large pastry bag (I use a 16 inch pastry bag), with a 1/2 inch wide French star tip.
If it’s easier, you can cut a 4-5 inch piece of cardboard or a wooden skewer and use that as a guide to pipe eclairs of equal length. Or you can simply eye ball it too.
Pipe 4-5 inch long choux pastry cases on the prepared baking tray (with a silpat mat), leaving 2 inches of space between each. I pipe about 8-10 eclairs on each half sheet baking tray. Remember to keep the piping bag at a 45° angle as discusses above, and maintain consistent piping pressure. Make the ends of your piped choux cases slightly larger than in the middle.
Finish off each piped case by gently twisting the piping tip. This helps prevent the entire piped choux case lifting up along with the piping tip. This will also create a pointed or jagged end. So using a damp finger, pat down those pointed ends of your choux cases.
Dust each eclair case with confectioner’s sugar. This creates a slightly caramelized exterior that not only adds a slight sweetness, but also a delightful crunch.
Baking classic eclairs
Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the choux cases have turned light brown in color. Then quickly open the oven door, and carefully prick each eclair case on one end with a toothpick to release the air inside. The eclairs should have formed a brown crust by this point. This is important, because if you prick them before the crust has formed, the choux cases will collapse.
Close the oven door and bake for a further 5-10 minutes (I usually bake for a further 8 minutes), until the cases have turned darker brown in color (but not burnt!).
Baked eclair cases piped with slightly larger ends, so that you don’t end up with misshapen or oval-shaped eclair cases.
Remove from the oven and prick the other end of your choux cases, and let them cool down completely in a draft free area. I keep it on top of the oven or near the oven, where it’s a little warmer and draft-free. This way there’s no risk of the choux cases cooling down too fast and collapsing.
What can I fill my classic eclairs with?
Usually, classic chocolate eclairs have a creamy vanilla pastry cream filling. It’s almost like a vanilla pudding, with a prominent vanilla flavor, and not too sweet.
But you can also fill your chocolate eclairs with a delicious chocolate pastry cream too.
However, if you’d like a lighter filling than pastry cream (cream patisserie), then you can try cream diplomat or cream chantilly (sweetened whipped cream) instead.
From top to bottom: vanilla pastry cream, chocolate pastry cream, vanilla diplomat cream, chocolate diplomat cream
Here, I made FOUR different fillings for my classic chocolate eclairs.
- Vanilla pastry cream
- Chocolate pastry cream
- Vanilla diplomat cream (vanilla pastry cream + cream chantilly). This tastes like a melt in your mouth vanilla ice cream but lighter and not cold.
- Chocolate diplomat cream (chocolate pastry cream + cream Chantilly). This tastes like a light, melt in your mouth chocolate ice cream and not cold.
You have 2 ways of filling these classic eclairs.
- With a bismarck tip. Insert the tip from the ends of the eclair and fill it from both ends. Once filled, wipe the ends to remove excess filling.
- Use a star tip (small opening) and make 3 holes on the bottom of the eclair shell. Use the same small tip (or a round tip), to fill the eclair from the bottom. Wipe to remove any excess filling.
The second method is my favorite, even though I do own a bismarck tip as well.
Dipping chocolate eclairs in chocolate glaze
Once all the eclairs are filled, then it’s time to dip them in the chocolate glaze for chocolate eclairs. The chocolate glaze is really easy to make, and super delicious on its own. It’s just a mixture of chocolate, cream, butter, and a touch of corn syrup.
The simple trick to getting beautifully glazed chocolate eclairs is to DIP them in the glaze, rather than pouring the glaze over the eclairs.
Carefully and evenly dip each eclair in the warm chocolate glaze. Then gently turn it in the glaze to get an even coating. Once coated, gently shake it to allow excess chocolate glaze to drip down into the bowl again. Using a paper towel or toothpick, wipe off any excess chocolate glaze along the edges of your chocolate eclair. Then place it on a wire rack and allow the glaze to set.
For best results, serve these chocolate eclairs at room temp, or chilled, right away, OR within 12 hours of filling.
The chocolate eclairs will lose their crispiness after they’ve been filled. However, since the shells are baked till they are dark golden brown in color, they form a sturdy shell that doesn’t get soggy by the filling. But the longer you go after filling your eclairs, the softer the shells will get (but they shouldn’t get soggy even after 24 hours).
Can I make chocolate eclairs ahead of time?
You can make the shells, filling, and glaze separately, and store them separately until needed.
The best way to store eclairs is as unfilled shells. Unfilled baked eclair shells can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 1 month in the freezer. When you’re ready, simply thaw them out at room temp., fill, glaze, and they are ready to be devoured!
Can I store filled eclairs?
You can, but I’m a little reluctant to say that. It’s not ideal. But understandable. You made eclairs and have leftovers. You want to know how to store them right?
Keep these filled eclairs on a parchment paper lined tray, in a single layer. Do not stack them. Let them freeze for about one hour. Once frozen, place them in an air-tight container, in layers if needed, separating each layer with parchment paper. Then put them back in the freezer. Filled eclairs can be kept for about 4 days like this. But they do lose their freshness with time.
To defrost, keep the eclairs at room temp. for about 1 hour until they thaw out, and then they are ready to be served.
Unfilled eclair shells – can be frozen in an air-tight container for up to 1 month.
Pastry cream – can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Make sure it’s in an air-tight container, with a plastic wrap touching the surface of the custard.
Chocolate glaze – can be stored for up to 1 week in the fridge.
Filled and glazed eclairs – for up to 4 days in the freezer (maybe even longer, but the eclairs will continue to lose freshness with time).
Timeline for making these classic chocolate eclairs
The day before:
You can also make the choux pastry dough on the day before as well, and store it in a pastry bag, inside an air-tight plastic container.
On the day you’re serving the chocolate eclairs:
Bake the eclairs (or you can bake them ahead of time and freeze as well).
While the eclairs are cooling, prepare the pastry cream by transferring it into pastry bags. Also, prepare the chocolate glaze and keep it warm.
Fill the eclairs, and dip each one in the chocolate glaze as you go. Let the chocolate glaze set. Chill for a few hours if needed, and serve.
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Classic Chocolate Eclairs
Classic Chocolate Eclairs - A foolproof recipe for making perfect eclairs that are crisp and puffy and filled with chocolate or vanilla pastry cream.
Choux Pastry for the Eclairs
- 8 fl oz water
- 4 oz unsalted butter
- ½ tsp kosher salt use less, if you’re using fine salt or table salt
- 1 tbsp granulated white sugar
- 5 oz bread flour sifted (or AP flour, I prefer bread flour for eclairs)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract optional
- 8 oz eggs about 4 large eggs
Filling for the Eclairs
- 12 oz semisweet chocolate
- 6 fl oz whipping cream ¾ cup
- A generous pinch of kosher salt
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp corn syrup optional
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Place the water, butter, salt and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and heat over medium heat while stirring occasionally. (Make sure the salt and sugar dissolve completely in the warm water, and the butter melts BEFORE the water comes to a boil).
- As soon as the water comes to a boil (with a few bubbles breaking through the surface), move the pot away from the stove and add all of the sifted flour into the boiling liquid. Using a wooden spoon or a heat-proof silicone spatula, stir the mixture vigorously to allow the flour to absorb all the water and form a ball of dough, and remove any flour clumps in the dough.
After about 45 - 60 seconds of mixing, return the saucepan to the stove (with medium heat), and let the dough cook for a further 2 - 3 minutes while stirring and mixing. Do this until you see a film of dough forming on the bottom of your saucepan (please note that this only occurs with stainless steel saucepans, not in non-stick saucepans).
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl. Mix the dough gently, for about 2 - 3 minutes, to release the steam and to let it cool down (lower than 160°F). Alternatively, you can flatten the dough along the wall of the mixing bowl and let it cool down for a few minutes.
- Crack all the eggs into a jug and whisk well to combine.
- When the dough has cooled down, mix in the vanilla (I don’t use vanilla, but you can if you like). Next add the eggs in 5 - 6 additions, mixing each addition well into the dough before adding more. You can use a stand mixer or a spatula to mix in the eggs. Stop adding eggs when the dough starts to get a sheen, and looks glossy. Please read the post for more details. Then check for the right dough consistency with the choux pastry test (detailed in the post).
- Place the dough in a 16 inch pastry bag and secure the bag opening, and set it aside until you get the baking trays ready. Line a baking tray with a silpat mat. Also have a bowl of water and a bowl of confectioner’s sugar with a small mesh strainer ready as well.
- Fit a different pastry bag with a ½ inch French star tip. Then snip the end off of the choux pastry bag from the previous step, and place that in the bag with the French star tip.
- Hold the pastry bag at a 45° angle, with the French star tip touching the silpat. Pipe 8 - 10 eclairs (4 - 5 inches in length) on the silpat lined baking tray. When piping, make sure the ends are a little larger than the middle portion of the eclairs. Twist the piping tip at the end so that you end with a slightly pointed/jagged end.
- Dip your finger in water and pat the ends of the eclairs to flatten the pointed ends. Sift some confectioner’s sugar over the eclairs.
- Place the baking tray in the middle rack of your oven, and set the timer to 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, check if the eclairs have turned golden brown. If they have, then open the oven door and quickly prick each of the eclairs with a sharp toothpick or skewer on one end.
- Close the oven door and let the eclairs bake for a further 5 - 10 minutes until they turn a darker golden color. You want the eclairs to be baked a little longer so that they hold their shape better.
- Remove them from the oven, and immediately prick the eclair cases on the other end. Let them cool down for about 10 minutes on the baking tray and then transfer them onto a wire rack.
- Pipe more eclairs on the second silpat lined baking tray and bake. Repeat until you have used up all of your choux pastry.
- Once the eclairs have cooled down, they are ready to be filled. If you’re filling them later, place the unfilled shells in an air-tight container and freeze for later.
- Make vanilla pastry cream or chocolate pastry cream according to the linked recipes, the day before, and let it chill in the fridge overnight.
- Place the filling of your choice in a 16 inch pastry bag, with a small round tip (5 - 10mm in diameter).
- Use a French star tip or the round tip to carefully make 3 holes on the bottom of your eclair shells. Fill the eclair shells with with pastry cream through these holes.
- Wipe off any excess pastry cream. Repeat with all the eclair shells.
- Place the chocolate chips in a large, microwave-safe bowl.
- Heat the cream and salt in a separate bowl in the microwave or a saucepan. When the cream starts to simmer, immediately pour it over the chocolate chips. Add the corn syrup and butter. Stir the chocolate chips until they have completely melted and you have a glossy chocolate glaze. If the chocolate isn’t completely melted after stirring, microwave for 10 - 20 second bursts to melt the chocolate completely.
- Dip each filled eclair in the chocolate glaze (read the post for more details on how to cleanly glaze your chocolate eclairs).
- Place the glazed eclairs on a wire rack and allow the chocolate glaze to set.
- Serve at room temperature, or chilled.
How to store leftover eclairs
If you have any leftover filled eclairs, place them on a baking tray in a single layer and freeze. Once frozen, you can keep them in an air-tight container, with parchment paper between each layer. Return them to the freezer.
Defrost frozen eclairs by keeping them at room temp. for about 1 hour. Please read the post for more details.
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