Fancy and elegant looking Eclair filled with creamy and smooth Vanilla Pastry Cream is absolutely delicious inside and out. The solid chocolate coating uses melting/dipping chocolate, and the pastry cream was made extra soft and fluffy.
Say hello to this gorgeous chocolate coated, pastry cream filled Eclair. This cookie is one of my favorite just because
- It has a perfectly puff-up shell with hollow center ready to receive the smooth and creamy pastry cream filling
- It has silky smooth, light and fluffy Vanilla Pastry Cream filling.
- It has a decadent solid chocolate coating, it almost like eating a thick pure chocolate in every bite. Say goodbye to chocolate sticking to your hands because this chocolate coating is not sticky at all.
This is probably one of the cookie that find really interesting and really delicious, it is simply my favorite. I’ve made this couple of times before, and I learned a lot while in the process of doing it over and over again. I failed in some of my attempts before I finally got the hang of it and got it right. So if you failed the first time, try and try until you get it. The beauty of this recipe is that this is a small batch, if you fail in of your attempts, it doesn’t hurt as much as when you are making a large batch. Although this recipe calls for very few ingredients, it requires attention to details and precision. Choux Pastry dough needs quite a bit of practice and getting used to it before you get comfortable and confident. But that doesn’t mean it is a lot of work, No it is not. You just need practice and you need to pay attention to consistency of the batter among others.
I did a lot of research about choux pastry before I tried making Profiteroles. I find it intimidating at first, I almost backed out with the idea of making it. I am glad I took the challenge instead of backing out. It felt very rewarding to be able to successfully make pâte à choux. Now I can enjoy Eclair and Profiteroles at home and I can share it with my friends too.
What is pâte à choux?
Profiteroles and Eclair both uses pâte à choux (pronounced pat-a-shoe) or choux paste. This is simply cooked flour and butter (which is called roux) mixed with eggs. It is thicker than a regular cake batter, but not as stiff as regular dough or not as thin as pancake batter. The dough is cooked on stove top before mixing in the egg. It sounds fancy and difficult, but this is one of the basic and easy pastry that will let you do a lot of things. Once you know how to make it , there’s a whole world of pastries and desserts this will open to you. Just be patient, practice makes perfect.
Trademark of Eclair and Profiteroles
Profiteroles and Eclair have a trademark of having a hollow center which holds the custard filling. I always wondered how it ended up having a hollow center, and how it came out “puff” and how it expands so much even without the use of leavening agent like baking powder or baking soda. Well, that’s where the Science of baking comes in. Time to put our nerd glass on. Let us take a peek on what is happening with the dough once inside the oven.
- How it “Puff”: Once the pâte à choux hits the heat of the oven, all the liquid quickly turns to steam, leavens the dough, and makes it rise. In addition, the proteins in the eggs uncoil, stretch, and “puff.” The signature hollow-ness of baked choux is a result of these proteins being stretched so far that they break. The eggs will eventually set, as cooked eggs do, to help support the structure and create the crisp outer shell of baked choux paste. However, if under-baked, the proteins will recoil and cause the choux to shrivel up and collapse.
- Golden Color: As with many other pastries, eggs also provide flavor and color to choux pastry. Any flavor at all can be attributed to the egg yolk, or simply, the fat. The yolk is also responsible for its appealing golden color.
How to Tell if Choux Paste is ready?
This is often a struggle as a lot of factors can affect the consistency and texture of the choux paste, just like when making French Macarons. Sometimes, no matter how you follow exactly the ingredients, measurement and steps, it just doesn’t come out the way you expect it to be. It happened to all of us, and I know how frustrating it is because I’ve been there, plenty of times. So in this post, I am sharing with you what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully this will benefit you too when you try to make this.
Texture and Consistency: The consistency for me is the crucial part of making a choux paste. Make it too tick or too thin, and you are bound to disappointment.
- Thick choux paste could be a result of too much flour or insufficient liquid. Even few tablespoon more of flour could affect the consistency. So measure the ingredient properly. Use a spoon level technique to measure the flour. This is simply using the handle of the spoon or any flat object to level the top of the measuring cup.
- Thin choux paste too much liquid either from egg, water or butter. Most of the time, if you measure the butter and water correctly, the size of the egg could be a culprit. Some eggs tend to be bigger or smaller than the others.
- Over cooking the dough could result to a tough dough. 1 minute is all you need to cook the dough. If you cook it longer, the dough could get tough and dry. This will make the final choux paste thick and dense. Finished choux paste should be soft, smooth and be able to be piped. Not too stiff and not to runny to the point that it starts to drip out of the tip even without squeezing the piping bag, or slides down too easily when lifted with spoon.
How Much Egg Do You Need?
Since amount of liquid greatly affect the consistency of the choux paste, you have to add beaten egg gradually. Some egg are bigger than the others, you may not end up using everything. This is a small batch recipe so this only uses 1 egg to start with, no more but could be a little bit less at times. If you are making a bigger batch, it is always advisable to beat the egg first then add it gradually so that you can control the amount of egg. It’s important to only add as much egg as the dough will hold. If you add too many eggs, the dough will be too wet and runny, you’ll have trouble piping it, and the pastry could end up flat and will have trouble puffing and drying out in the oven. Some days, you’ll need 1 whole egg. Other days, there will be little left. It all depends on the humidity in your house and the state of the flour you’re using, and the size of egg. Old flour tends to be drier which often require a little bit more liquid as oppose to new flour. If this happens, I normally add small about of water just to thin it out. What you are looking for in terms of consistency is something that is not too thick and dense nor too thin. Once you get the hang in making this, you can tell immediately when you reach the correct consistency. Just a little practice and you will get there.
Making a Choux Pastry is a 3 Part Baking Process – So Be Patient
First, start with a high temperature, high heat (400°F). At the first 10 minutes of baking in this temperature, the pastry will start to puff and develop the structure needed to have a hollow center.
Second, Once the pastry puffed, the oven temperature is lowered to 350°F and baking continues for 20 more minutes. At this stage, the pastry starts the browning of the shell and further makes the shell stable.
Third, The third stage is to turn off the oven and and leave the pastry in the oven for 30 minutes. This stage helps the pastry to dry out and have a crispy shell, and dry interior wall.
Melting/Dipping Chocolate – Use the Proper Chocolate to Coat the Shell
I recommend using a proper melting or dipping chocolate as it solidify better than regular chocolate chips. Regular chocolate chips doesn’t harden as much and tends to be sticky even when it dries out. You can buy this from specialty chocolate store, ask the sales person for a dipping or melting chocolate used for coating cookies. I’ve used chocolate chips for a long time, until I recently switched to melting chocolate, and I am telling you it is really worth the effort of finding and using the correct type of chocolate. The chocolate coating is the crowning glory of this Eclair, that on top of the fluffy and light Pastry Cream filling. So go find the right chocolate if you want the solid coating like what I have in the photo. See how thick the coating? So decadent and delicious!
I hope I did not scare you instead challenged you to make this, it may sound intimidating at first but when you get the hang of it, you will be doing it over and over again. Do not be discouraged if you fail the first time, or second time, or 3rd time. You will eventually get it right with practice & practice, I did. Believe me, it’s really worth it. Let’s get started!
Light and Fluffy Vanilla Pastry Cream
Let us talk about the filling because a great Eclair is not great without the perfect custard filling. I have the video on how to make the BASE starting Vanilla Pastry Cream (RECIPE VIDEO HERE) I say “starter BASE” because I wouldn’t suggest using it as is. Eclair filling needs a lighter and fluffier custard filling which means you need to do an extra step to achieve this. I had this all explained in the Vanilla Pastry Cream posts. To cut it short, you need to add Whipping Cream to the base Vanilla Pastry Cream to make it light and fluffy. It’s a simple step but it very important to get the light and fluffy pastry cream filling. So please do not skip it. Ok?
Featured Video: Small Batch Pastry Cream – 3 Flavors
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, beaten (at room temperature)
- 1/2 tsp icing sugar for dusting (optional)
- Vanilla Pastry Cream – Can be made ahead of time (RECIPE VIDEO HERE)
Note: Click on the photo to see the description
- Make your filling: You can choose from any of the filling options mentioned above. Filling can be done ahead of time, 2-3 days ahead. Tightly cover and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
- Dry Ingredients: In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt.
- Make the Dough: Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour mixture, all at once and stir until combined. Return the saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). You will know that is is ready when the color of the dough changes or when it becomes thicker. Do NOT over cook as this could make the dough tough and it will no create a hollow center. Transfer the dough in a bowl and beat on low-speed to release the steam from the dough (about 1 minute). Feel the side of the bowl, once the dough is lukewarm gradually add the beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon). Do NOT pour all the egg one time, sometimes you do not need to use all of it. The consistency should be smooth and it should fall of the spatula like in the photo.
- Shape the Dough: Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe into small drop, about 2 tbsp size. You can make it bigger or smaller as you like. Space each peace about 1-inch away from each other to give room for the puff pastry when it expand.
- Alternatively, If you do not have a piping bag and icing tip, You can also use tsp or tbsp to scoop the choux pastry. Scoop 1 -2 tbsp of dough and arrange it in the baking sheet. Give at least 1 inch allowance to give room for the puff pastry when it expand.
- Egg wash (Optional) If desired, bush the top with egg wash (1 beaten egg + 1 tbsp milk or water)
- Bake – Stage 1: the puffs for 10 minutes, then open the oven door for 5 seconds, lower the heat to 350F, and close the door.At this stage, the dough should start to rise and puff.
- Bake – Stage 2: Continue to bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes. At this second stage, the pastry will start to brown and set. Check if the shell is browned already, it not bake for another 5 – 8 minutes. If the dough is under-bake, the inside will not dry out so do not worry about slight browning.
- Rest – Stage 3: Let it Dry: Turn OFF the oven and remove the pastry. Using a thin knife, poke a hole or make a slit in the side of each puff, just a small one. Do not cut all the way through. Return the pan to the turned-off oven, and let cool and dry for 30 minutes with the oven door ajar. This will make the shell crunchy with dry and hollow center.
- Let Cool: Transfer the puffs in a wire rack and cool completely before filling with pastry cream.
Let’s Put Them Together
- Fill the piping bag with Vanilla Pastry Cream. (I used Wilton 230 Filling Tip). Insert the nozzle of the tip to the side of the puff pastry and squeeze the piping bag to fill the inside of Eclair with Pastry Cream. You will feel the Eclair getting heavy as you get the filling in. Once the cream starts to overflow or come out, it is time to stop.
- Make the Dipping Chocolate: If you are using a melting/dipping chocolate, you do not need to add anything to it before melting unlike when using chocolate chips (which is less preferred but will work too). Simply microwave the chocolate in 30 seconds interval and stir after each interval. Do this until the chocolate are fully melted. Mine took about 2 minutes, this could depend of the wattage of your microwave.
- Dip It – Dip the top of the Eclair in the melted chocolate. I like dipping it twice for a thicker coating. Hold the Eclair slightly tilted to allow the excess chocolate to drip. Arrange in a tray line with parchment paper or in a silicone mat.
- Chill: Leave in room temperature until the chocolate solidify, the length of time depends on the humidity and temperature of your kitchen. If you want to fast forward the process, simply chill it in the refrigerator until the chocolate solidify, this cold be around 15 – 30 minutes.
- Storage: Keep refrigerated to avoid chocolate from melting or getting soft. This could last about 4 days in the fridge. I’v never tried having it longer than a week because this goes away fast in a day!
Makes 5 pieces
Good to Know:
- Filling can be made 2-3 days ahead. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Choux pastry can be made 2 days ahead. Store in a ziplock bag and refrigerate. Take out from the fridge and leave in room temperature for 30 minutes. Pipe or scoop when ready to bake.
- Baked and cooled shells can also be frozen in zipper-lock bags for up to one month and re-crisped in a 300-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely before putting filling.
- Although filled puff can be refrigerated or frozen, it is always best to enjoy it the same day you make it. You can make the shell few hours ahead and re-heat it to restore the crispy texture then filled with your choice of filling.
Quote of the Day
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz
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