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éclairs, some topped with chocolate craquelin, in a rectangular white plate

How to make Eclairs: Troubleshooting and Recipe

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I quickly found out when I started dating my husband, that he had a soft spot for éclairs. Naturally, I used it to my advantage and would order 30 mini éclairs from a local bakery whenever he would come visit me from abroad. At the time, I was still too shy to show him just how many desserts I could actually eat in one go. But he’d just open the box every now and then and before we knew it, they would all be gone.

éclairs, some topped with chocolate craquelin, on a rectangular white plate

I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t like éclairs. Especially nowadays, when there are so many incredible options for customizing an éclair. You can select the flavor or color you like the most. But even the texture, by adding a crunchy craquelin layer.

So today, we’ll learn together how to make an éclair and I’ll share with you a recipe that I think you’re going to love if you are team vanilla filling. And if you’re not, you’ll know exactly where to start to get your perfect éclair.

What Is An Eclair?

An éclair is made of choux pastry piped into an oblong shape. The sky is the limit when it comes to the éclair flavor profile. For a traditional éclair, fill it with pastry cream and cover it with chocolate glaze or fondant. Are you a caramel lover? Well then, how about salted caramel éclairs (yes, please!). Fruity fillings such as lemon or raspberry can transform your choux pastry into such colorful and bright desserts, that are too pretty to eat!

How To Make Eclairs?

Before attempting to make éclairs, you need to know how to make choux pastry. If you haven’t been following the choux pastry calendar with us and just joined in, make sure to read first How to make choux pastry.

I strongly encourage you to get comfortable piping choux before you attempt piping éclairs. Choux are much more forgiving and will not show all their flaws as easily as éclairs will. If you are wondering what flaws I am talking about, don’t worry, I have tons of pictures for you! Yes, I’ve tried making éclairs so many times!

éclairs, some topped with chocolate craquelin, in a rectangular white plate

Piping Eclairs

Angle

Piping éclairs is not quite the same as piping cream puffs. First off, it’s harder! And secondly, while you pipe cream puffs at a 90° angle, éclairs should be piped at a 45° angle. Use your left hand as a support to hold the bag (if you are right-handed) and your right hand to exert pressure on the piping bag.

Start piping and move in a straight line. When you are happy with the length of the éclair, stop applying pressure and bring the piping tip down, along the end of the éclair towards the baking sheet so that it sticks to it. Try to lift the piping bag quickly to avoid getting a peak. But don’t worry too much if you get one, you can always press it down with some egg wash.

Position

By position, I’m actually talking about two things: the position of your piping bag and the position of your body.

Piping bag

Some people suggest piping straight onto the parchment paper. So your piping tip is constantly touching the paper while you are piping. Others recommend piping about 1cm (approximately 1/2 inch) above the pan, and letting the “log” of dough gently drop onto the paper. I’ve tried both methods and haven’t found any significant differences.

Piping straight onto the paper did produce slightly flatter and wider logs but it was hard to tell the difference once they were baked. Piping straight onto the paper is slightly easier to do, especially if you are not used to piping, since you can use the surface as a support. No shaky hands in the air!

Body

Next up, the position of your body! This is also quite personal I have found. I’ve seen chefs pipe towards them, so top to bottom, diagonally. And I’ve seen others pipe from left to right in straight lines. I personally prefer piping left to right. I feel like I have more control over my hands if my hands stay at the same level and just move from one direction to another. When I pipe from top to bottom, I tend to want to readjust my body or hands and change the pressure while piping.

two ways of piping éclairs, top to bottom or left to right

Height of baking sheet and table

Another thing to pay attention to is the height of your baking sheet. You probably won’t have this issue, but when I was testing out éclairs, I ran out of baking sheets and used my oven sheet which has high edges. Well, it was incredibly hard to pipe at a 45° angle since I couldn’t lower my hands.

The height of the table will also affect the ease with which you pipe. If it’s too high for you, it will be harder for you to control your movement so try to put your baking sheet at a comfortable level.

Securing your parchment paper and baking sheet

Have you ever tried to pipe but your parchment paper kept sliding? To avoid that, you can put a little bit of choux pastry between your parchment paper and your baking sheet and it will stick.

I personally have more of an issue with a rotating baking sheet. This might sound strange to some of you but if I pipe on light baking sheets, they will just start turning. To stop this, you can put a towel under it or an oven mitt.

Piping tip

Ideally you want to use a large star tip with a lot of teeth. This will allow the éclair to expand without cracking. I use Wilton 4B. If you don’t have something similar, you can just use a wide round tip and using a fork dipped in egg wash, gently draw lines on the eclair. Don’t press too much!

Removing air bubbles

It took me a while to figure out how to do this and also how important it actually is. I kept thinking I could just skip it but had to finally learn how to do it when my choux and éclairs had holes and bumps in them. We went through this when discussing choux pastry but I’ll quickly remind you again how to do it.

  • Place your piping bag filled with choux pastry on a flat surface.
  • Flatten the choux pastry as much as possible with your hand, being careful not to press it towards the piping tip. Ideally, you should have twisted your piping bag close to the tip so the choux pastry doesn’t come out. My piping bag is too small so I couldn’t do that.
  • Using a pastry scraper or a spatula, start pushing all the choux pastry towards the piping tip until it is all collected in one place.
  • Twist the top of the piping bag to close it and pipe a little bit into a bowl to get rid of any air bubble that might be left close to the piping tip.
  • You are now ready to pipe, bubble-free!

Practice

Well they say a picture is worth a thousand words so even though I’m quite embarrassed to share this with you, I think you’ll benefit from it!

My piping was completely random! I put uneven pressure on the piping bag so my éclairs were sometimes wide then suddenly narrow. Well, there were so many mistakes that all I could do was spoon everything back into a piping bag and try again! And that’s ok! Do it as many times as you need.

Template

If you are just starting out, I strongly recommend using a template .

I know it may not look like it, but I was actually trying to pipe the bottom éclairs in a straight line!! I was so focused on piping each individual éclair, that I ended up piping in a completely random direction!

Lines

So what templates can you use? Well, you can simply draw lines on the back of your parchment paper, about 12cm (4 3/4 inches) each. Make sure to stagger them and keep some space between the lines (about 5cm/2 inches) as the éclairs will puff up (fingers crossed!).

Rectangles

But if you are a complete beginner, you probably won’t know how much pressure to apply and you might end up with very thin éclairs, or very wide ones. I found that using rectangles as a guideline was much easier to understand. The width should be about 2.5cm (1 inch) while the length should be about 12cm (4 3/4 inches).

If you pipe very long éclairs, you will have trouble dipping them in chocolate glaze and filling them. Not to mention that they will be harder to hold while eating!

Perforated silicone mat

If you are completely obsessed with choux pastry like I am, then you can buy a perforated silicone mat with an éclair template on one side and a choux template on the other side! I was so excited when I found this! I was actually just looking for a normal perforated silicone mat for my tarts (and choux pastry) and came across this. It’s not very easy to clean what gets stuck in the holes though. I’ll let you know when I figure out how to do that!

Freezing piped éclairs

One technique which I discovered recently is to pipe logs of éclairs on a piece of parchment paper and freezing them. Once they are completely frozen, you can cut off the éclairs in the same size and you’ll get nicely shaped éclairs. If you really want them to be the same size though, use a ruler. Don’t eyeball it like I did in the pictures below!

Pros of this technique

  • Their shape is quite nice and uniform and you can cut off the uneven parts like the edges of the logs.
  • You’ll be able to bake éclairs whenever you feel like it. All you need to do is pull the logs out of the freezer, cut them in individual pieces and let them warm up at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking them.

Cons of this technique

  • There is a bit of wastage with this technique since you cut off the parts you don’t like. You could probably just put the leftover pieces in a piping bag and just pipe them again once the choux pastry is warm. Or just spoon them onto the parchment paper because, let’s be honest, who wants to use another piping bag for the leftovers?
  • If you are not very good at piping, then it might be hard to pipe long logs that you can cut. I usually start going in random directions after a few seconds and end up with a crooked log. I’m much more at ease piping individual éclairs.

But no matter what size or shape you want to pipe, the bottom line is you can actually prepare the éclairs in advance and just freeze them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different stages of éclair preparation when you are just starting out: baking, filling, glazing. Freezing them is very practical if you don’t have much free time.

To freeze them: Simply pipe the éclairs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour or until the piped éclairs are frozen. Transfer the éclairs to a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to a month. To bake, simply thaw them at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Troubleshooting Eclairs

Be sure to check out my post on “How to make choux pastry” for an in-depth troubleshooting section. I won’t mention everything again here but we’ll go through some of the issues you could have when making éclairs.

Flat éclairs

If your choux pastry was runny when you were piping and the éclairs are completely flat and impossible to fill, you probably added too many eggs. Solution: Just because you can’t fill them doesn’t mean they can’t be really tasty. Cut them up into small pieces and place them in an ice-cream bowl. Top with pastry cream or ice-cream and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Innovation is what we’ll call it, not failure!

Eclairs have a cracked surface

éclair with a cracked surface

This could happen if you haven’t added enough eggs in the dough and it is too dry. It will start cracking. Another factor could be the oven setting. If the temperature is too high, the surface of the éclair will set while the steam inside the éclair is still pushing to expand it. As a result, the surface will crack.

The oven shelf selected could also play a role. If you usually bake the éclairs on the middle rack, try baking them on the lower rack (lower third of the oven). This will ensure the éclair rises fully from the bottom heat before the surface has set. You can find more troubleshooting tips in the post dedicated to choux pastry.

Eclairs have an uneven surface or bumps

éclair with two bumps caused by air bubbles during piping

This could be caused by air bubbles in the piping bag. I clearly recall piping the éclair shown above. When I was piping, I got air bubbles in two spots and as a result, the dough suddenly splattered out afterwards causing the bumps you can see. I didn’t notice a big irregularity before baking the éclair but you can clearly see the flaws now. Solution: Make sure you get rid of all the air bubbles from the piping bag next time (see “Removing air bubbles” section).

Concave Bottoms

The bottom of your éclairs rose, creating an inward curve. As a result, you have practically no space left for the filling. This one is a bit more of a mystery to me but I’ll tell you what I noticed. I have found that this happens when the bottom of the éclair doesn’t have anything to hold on to or stick to while rising.

This happened to me when:

  • I buttered my perforated silicone mat.
  • Using a silicone mat with a slippery surface.
  • My silicone mat was on an oven grill with wide gaps.

Solution: The bottom of the éclair should have some support while it is rising so don’t butter your mat and make sure you place the parchment paper/silicone mat on a baking sheet and not a grill with large gaps.

This might also happen if you overheat the panade (step 4 in the recipe: Making the éclairs) when you add the flour to the melted butter mixture. If you don’t know what the panade is, read How to make choux pastry. Solution: If you tend to really dry out the panade for more than 3 minutes when you add the flour, try heating it less next time.

Eclairs are stuck to the mat

This could happen if the éclairs aren’t fully baked and dried out. Solution: Try baking a bit longer. If they are still stuck, slide an offset spatula under the éclairs to release them. Don’t pull the éclairs or you will end up with holes on the bottom of your éclair.

If you didn’t find what you were looking for in this section, head over to the choux pastry post for more tips.

Filling For Eclairs

Hopefully, the tips were helpful and you managed to bake an amazing éclair shell. Time to fill it!

cut éclair with cream filling in a white plate with two other éclairs

What filling to use

This is really where you can let your imagination run wild. If you like more traditional fillings, then vanilla pastry cream, chocolate pastry cream or lightened pastry cream are incredibly tasty options. But you can also go with salted caramel cream, or fruity fillings such as lemon curd lightened with some whipped cream.

How to fill éclairs

  • Using a sharp knife, slit the éclair in 3 places: the middle and the sides.
  • Insert the piping tip in the hole and fill until the éclair feels heavier and full. Repeat the same process in the other holes if needed.
  • Wipe the excess filling with a clean finger.

Troubleshooting the filling process

Yes, another troubleshooting guide! I tend to make every possible mistake when baking so I always have to add that section!

The éclair cracks during filling: You’re too generous with your filling! Don’t fill it until it explodes but just until you feel some pressure.

The piping tip left big holes in the éclair: You are using the wrong piping tip. It should be quite small and not long or you will just pierce the éclair from the other side like I did. I initially used a long piping tip for filling choux and cupcakes, which was a disaster for éclairs. I thought I could bend it sideways to fill everything! Not my brightest idea!

When to fill éclairs

You can fill your éclairs once they have cooled down fully. But keep in mind that filled éclairs will get soggy so it’s best to do this step as late as possible to retain the crispiness of the éclair shell. You can prepare the éclair shells and the cream ahead of time and then assemble and glaze before serving.

Chocolate Glaze For Eclairs

A few things are important when coating éclairs with a chocolate glaze:

  • The glaze must be runny enough so that you can easily dip your éclair into it.
  • But thick enough that it doesn’t leak everywhere once you do. It should also actually cover the éclair and not be see-through which happens if the glaze is too thin.
  • The glaze should also be shiny and not dull.

The two most common ingredients to make a chocolate glaze are chocolate and heavy cream. Some bakers will add butter or glucose syrup for shine. You can use any chocolate you like but you’ll have to adjust the amount of heavy cream used to get the right consistency. The darker the chocolate, the more heavy cream you’ll need. I love the intensity of dark chocolate but I add a little bit of icing sugar to please the sweet tooth crowd.

five éclairs on white rectangular plate and pink fabric

The recipe I’m using is actually for a tart filling. Since I want the chocolate to be slightly thicker and set faster than it does in a tart, I decreased the amount of heavy cream. So really, if you have a recipe you love, make a small portion and just play around with the amount of heavy cream until you get the result you are looking for. More cream will give you a runnier glaze while less cream will make it thicker.

But I’d be more than happy if you also tried out my version of a chocolate glaze.

close up shot of glazed éclairs

Making the chocolate glaze

  • Heat together the icing sugar and heavy cream in a small pot over medium-high heat.
  • Melt the chocolate: Coarsely chop your chocolate and heat in a double-boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, heat the chocolate for 30 seconds, stir, heat again and repeat the process until the chocolate has melted. I did this about 3 times. It doesn’t matter if the chocolate has fully melted as you will add the hot cream to it.

  • Pour about 1/3 of the cream on the chocolate and let it sit for 2 minutes without stirring.
  • Stir until combined. The chocolate will initially look grainy but don’t worry it’s normal!
  • Add the remaining cream in two more additions and stir until fully combined. Try not to use a whisk or something that will incorporate air bubbles.
  • Transfer to a wide bowl that will fit your éclairs and start dipping! Keep them upside down for a few seconds to get rid of any drips. If needed, use a clean finger to remove any excess chocolate from the éclairs.

Troubleshooting the chocolate glaze

Too thick: The glaze is hard to spread and you end up with an uneven surface. Solution: If the glaze was initially at the right consistency but thickened, warm it gently in a double-boiler. If it was too thick to begin with, add warm heavy cream, a little at a time, until you get to the desired consistency.

Too thin: The glaze leaks everywhere and doesn’t cover the éclair properly. Solution: Add more melted chocolate until the glaze is thick enough to hold on the éclair shell.

Chocolate glaze has air bubbles: If you used a whisk or an immersion blender which wasn’t fully immersed, you probably incorporated air bubbles. Solution: Try straining the glaze through a fine-mesh sieve. You could also try pressing some cling film on top of the glaze to get rid of the surface bubbles.

And there you have it! Time to make some éclairs! I covered everything I could think of based on my own failed attempts. I hope it will be useful to you. And I can’t wait to see some pictures of your amazing creations!

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Vanilla Eclairs with Chocolate Glaze

0 from 0 votes
Course: DessertCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Medium
Yield

11

éclairs
Prep time

1

hour 
Cooking time

1

hour 

Eclairs filled with lightened pastry cream that melts in your mouth, topped with a craquelin for a nice crunch and coated with chocolate glaze.

Ingredients

  • For the chocolate craquelin
  • 30 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

  • 38 g brown sugar (or granulated sugar)

  • 30 g all-purpose flour

  • 7 g cocoa powder

  • Pinch of salt

  • For the choux pastry
  • 125 g water (or 63 g water and 62 g milk)

  • 50 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (4 g)

  • 1/3 teaspoon salt (2 g)

  • 75 g all-purpose flour, sifted

  • 100 to 125 g eggs, slightly beaten with a fork, at room temperature

  • For the lightened pastry cream
  • 240 g whole milk

  • 80 g heavy cream

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 70 g granulated sugar, divided

  • 12 g cornstarch

  • 12 g all-purpose flour

  • 40 g unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 190 g heavy cream, cold (35% fat, for the whipped cream)

  • For the chocolate glaze
  • 100 g dark chocolate (53%)

  • 140 g heavy cream

  • 40 g icing sugar

Directions

  • Making the chocolate craquelin
  • In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the craquelin. Using your fingertips, mix until a homogeneous dough forms.
  • Separate the dough into two balls and place each inside a folded piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the craquelin to a thickness of about 2mm.
  • Using a knife, cut rectangles the size of the éclairs you plan on piping. If your kitchen is too warm, refrigerate first then cut shapes.
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Making the éclairs
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C (338°F), convection setting (or 190°C/374°F conventional setting). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Heat the water (and milk if using) with the butter, salt and sugar in a small pot over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to make sure the sugar and salt have dissolved. Once the butter melts completely, increase the heat to medium-high and continue heating until the first bubbles appear.
  • Making the panade: Remove from the heat and add the sifted flour all at once. Stir to combine fully. Once there are no longer traces of flour, return the dough to the heat.
  • Keep stirring the dough for about 3 minutes or until it no longer sticks to the pot. A film will form in the bottom of the pot (this won’t be visible in non-stick pots).
  • Cooling the panade: Transfer the dough to a medium bowl or to the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix for a few minutes on the lowest setting or by hand using a wooden spoon. Steam will come out of the dough.
  • When the dough cools down to about 60°C, or when your bowl doesn’t feel extremely hot and there is no more steam coming out, start adding the eggs very slowly. Add a third to begin with and mix until fully incorporated. The dough will initially look curdled but will come together with mixing. Add the remaining eggs little by little until the dough looks smooth and glossy. If you hold the paddle or spoon up, the dough should hold onto it for a few seconds before falling back into the bowl. If it doesn’t fall, it’s too dry. Keep adding more eggs.
  • Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe éclairs. Top with a chocolate craquelin. Keep the second batch of craquelin refrigerated until needed as it will soften quickly.
  • Bake in the bottom third of the oven (level 2 out of 5 for example) for about 20 minutes or until they look puffy and set. Change the convection to a conventional setting (or reduce the temperature to 170°C/338°F in a conventional oven) and keep baking for about 25 more minutes. If desired, cut one pastry in half to check the inside. It should be dry or very slightly moist.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely at room temperature.
  • Making the lightened pastry cream
  • In a medium sized pot, boil the milk, heavy cream and part of the sugar (about 1/3).
  • In the meantime, sift the flour and cornstarch together into the remaining sugar. Whisk to combine.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks slightly then whisk in the sugar mixture, until slightly lightened and thickened. It will feel creamier.
  • Very slowly add part of the boiled milk/cream into the egg mixture and whisk constantly.
  • Return the mixture to the pot and keep whisking on medium heat.
  • Once the foam subsides and the cream starts to thicken, keep an eye out for bubbles forming. When this happens, keep heating for another 2 minutes to get rid of any starchy taste and remove from the heat.
  • Add the cold butter and vanilla extract and whisk until the cream is completely smooth. Pour the cream into a wide container to obtain a thin layer. This will ensure the cream cools down quickly.
    Optional: If you notice there are lumps in your cream, strain your cream through a fine-mesh strainer into a wide container.
  • Place a piece of parchment paper or cling film straight onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  • Put your mixing bowl and beaters in the fridge if possible at least an hour before moving on to the next step (whipping cream).
  • Adding the whipped cream: In a cold bowl, starting on low speed and gradually increasing it to medium-high, whip the cold heavy cream to medium-stiff peaks.
  • Remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator and transfer it to a bigger bowl if needed as you will fold in the whipped cream in the next step. Whisk it until smooth.
  • Gently fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream in 3 additions, being careful not to deflate the cream. Stop as soon as you no longer see streaks of cream.
  • Filling the éclairs
  • Fill a piping bag fitted with a small tip with the cream.
  • Using a knife, cut 3 slits on the bottom of the éclairs.
  • Insert the piping tip into each slit and keep exerting pressure on the piping bag until the éclair feels heavier.
  • Wipe the excess filling with a clean finger. Refrigerate while you make the glaze.
  • Making the chocolate glaze
  • Heat together the icing sugar and heavy cream in a small pot over medium-high heat.
  • Melt the chocolate: Coarsely chop your chocolate and heat it in a double-boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, heat the chocolate for 30 seconds, stir, heat again and repeat the process until the chocolate has melted.
  • Pour about 1/3 of the cream on the chocolate and let it sit for 2 minutes. Stir until combined. The chocolate will initially look grainy but don’t worry it’s normal!
  • Add the remaining cream in two more additions and stir until fully combined. Try not to use a whisk or something that will incorporate air bubbles.
  • Transfer to a wide bowl (but not too big since it is not a very big quantity) that will fit your éclairs and start dipping! Keep them upside down for a few seconds to get rid of any drips. If needed, use a clean finger to remove any excess chocolate from the éclairs.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours. The filled éclairs will get soggier with time.

Notes

  • Make-ahead instructions: Unbaked choux pastry can be piped on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour or until the piped pastry is frozen. Transfer the choux pastry to a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to a month. To bake, simply thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Baked choux pastry can be frozen as well. Once it has baked and cooled down, place the choux pastry in a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to a month. The craquelin can be prepared, wrapped in parchment paper then placed in a zip-lock bag. It will last several weeks in the freezer and shouldn’t be thawed before using. The pastry cream can be prepared the night before. Then, just before filling, whip the heavy cream and fold it into the pastry cream.
  • Choux pastry: The quantities given are enough to make 11 éclairs of 12cm (4 3/4 inches).
  • Chocolate craquelin: The craquelin softens very quickly. This is why it is separated into 2 balls. Half of it is kept refrigerated while working with the other batch. The craquelin should be enough for 11-12 éclairs. The craquelin is optional but strongly recommended. You can make the regular craquelin (without cocoa powder) if you prefer.
  • Chocolate glaze: Using a sweeter chocolate will make the glaze more fluid so you will have to decrease the amount of heavy cream used (as well as the sugar since the chocolate will provide the sweetness). The glaze should be enough to cover at least 14 éclairs.
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