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Monday, June 15, 2015

Recipe: Eclairs

Recipe: Eclairs

Ooh la la...

Eclairs are the oblong shaped, cream-filled pastries that once adorned the display cases of only the tres French pastry shops and bakeries. Made from Pate a Choux, filled with Creme Legere (a mix of Pastry Creme and Whipped Creme) and glazed with Icing Fondant, the pastry got its name, which means "bolt of lightning", because people would eat them so quickly.

Today, getting your hands on an Eclair is not difficult. But like any pastry subject to mass production, there are many horrible interpretations out there. A hot dog bun with vanilla pudding is not an Eclair. That's more like an affront to the pastry gods... and they are not forgiving. 

While Chocolate, Vanilla and Coffee are the most traditional flavor profiles, the Creme Legere Filling, Fondant Glaze and decorative toppings of an Eclair can be mixed and matched in myriad ways. This is one of the best things about Eclairs: once you know the basic dough and cream recipes, you can make limitless varieties.

Sour Cherry Eclairs

- The Recipes -

The following recipes include everything you need for Eclairs: Pate a Choux for the shells, Pastry Cream for the filling and Icing Fondant for the glaze. 

For this particular batch, I thought a Sour Cherry flavor profile would be more interesting than plain Vanilla... so, I've also included a recipe for a Sour Cherry Compote. It simply gets folded with the Cream Filling.

Sour Cherry Cream Filled Eclairs:

Baked Eclair Shells: 1 Recipe - 30 x 5" Eclairs
Pastry Cream: 1 Recipe - 650g
Sour Cherry Compote: 1 Recipe 
Heavy Cream: 240g (1 Cup)
Icing Fondant: 1 Recipe - 750g 
Mini Chocolate Chips: For finishing 

Yield1,000g - Approximately 30 x 5" Eclairs

  • Water: 360g (1.5 Cups)
  • Butter, cubed: 140g (1.25 Sticks)
  • Sugar: 9g (1.5 Tsp)
  • Salt: 6g (1 Tsp)

  • Bread Flour: 270g (2 1/4 Cups)

  • Egg Whites*: 270g (9x)
  • Egg Yolks*: 115g (6x)

* The total amount of Eggs required is the equivalent of 6 Whole Large Eggs plus 3 Large Egg Whites


1. Using a large pot, bring the Water, Butter, Sugar and Salt to a boil over high heat. 

Chef's Note: It is important to cube the Butter into small pieces so that it melts completely before the Water comes to a full boil. If the Water boils too soon, there will be too much evaporation and the final dough will be too dry.

2. As soon as the Water reaches a boil, add the Bread Flour in a single addition. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture over medium-high heat until a homogeneous dough forms. Continue to actively stir the dough over the heat ("Dessecher") until it forms a ball that easily pulls away from the side of the pot - approximately two to three minutes.

Chef's Note: When adding the dry ingredients, stir aggressively - the dough should form quickly. Cooking the dough mixture for a couple of minutes causes the starches in the Bread Flour to gelatinize and also dries the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat the dough on medium speed for several minutes, releasing heat and steam. While the dough cools, beat the Egg Whites and Egg Yolks together in a separate bowl and set aside.

4. Once the dough is no longer hot, add the Eggs in no fewer than six additions. After each addition, mix the dough until the Egg is completely incorporated. When all of the Eggs have been added, the dough should be slightly fluid (When a trench is drawn through the center of the dough, it should fill back in within a couple of seconds). 

Chef's Note: It is important that the dough cools slightly before the Eggs are added or else the Eggs will cook. However, if the dough is too cold, the Eggs will not mix in well.

Wet Ingredients for Pate a Choux

Stirring the Pate a Choux on the Oven

Mixing Eggs into Pate a Choux

To Make Eclair Shells:

1. Preheat the oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Fahrenheit for convection ovens). As the oven heats, fill a Pastry Bag fitted with a #4 Star Tip with the Pate a Choux. 

Chef's Note: If your oven does not reach 550 degrees Fahrenheit, set it to the highest possible temperature. 

2. Pipe the dough into 5" Eclairs on a parchment lined sheet tray, leaving sufficient space between Eclairs as they will double in size.

Chef's Note: Consider making a template by marking 5" lines on the parchment paper with a marker - just remember to place the parchment back on the sheet tray ink-side-down. To prevent the parchment from sliding, it is helpful to "glue" the corners of the parchment to the sheet tray using a dollop of the Pate a Choux. 

3. Once the oven reaches temperature, brush the Eclairs with a light coating of egg wash. Place the Eclairs in the oven and immediately turn off the heat. Bake the Eclairs for 15 minutes with the oven turned off. After 15 minutes, turn the oven back on to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (350 degrees Fahrenheit for convection ovens) and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. The Eclairs are done when they are golden brown, including in any cracks, and sound hollow when tapped.

4. Transfer the Eclairs to a cooling rack. When fully cooled, the Eclairs can be filled and glazed. They can also be wrapped with plastic wrap and saved for future use.

Tools for Measuring Eclair Piping

Marked Parchment for Piping Eclairs

Marked Parchment for Piping Eclairs

Sticking Parchment to the Sheet Tray Using Pate a Choux

Star and Round Tips for Piping Eclairs

Pastry Bags Prepared for Piping Eclairs

#4 Round Tip Piped Eclairs

#4 Round Tip Piped Eclairs

#4 Star Tip Piped Eclairs


- The unbaked Pate a Choux can be refrigerated for up to three days.
- The Pate a Choux can be pre-piped into Eclairs and refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for several weeks. Pre-piped Eclairs can be baked directly from the Refrigerator or after 30 minutes of having been removed from the Freezer.
- Baked Eclair Shells can be stored, unfilled, for several days wrapped in plastic wrap. The Eclair Shells will become soft with time but can be 'recrisped' in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes. 
- Filled Eclairs should be served the day they are prepared.


  • Whole Milk: 480g (2 Cups)
  • Sugar: 100g (0.5 Cup)
  • Vanilla Extract: 6g (0.5 Tbls)
  • Salt: 3g (0.5 Tsp)

  • Corn Starch: 40g (1/3 Cup)
  • Egg Yolks: 90g (5x)


1. In a large saucepan, heat the Milk, Sugar, Vanilla and Salt to a gentle simmer, completely dissolving the Sugar. Stir frequently as Milk can easily scorch over high heat.

2. As the Milk mixture comes to temperature, whisk together the Egg Yolks and Cornstarch in a large bowl until smooth.

3. Once the Milk mixture reaches temperature, pour approximately half of it into the Egg mixture while whisking, tempering the Egg mixture. Return the saucepan to the stove and pour the tempered Egg mixture into the saucepan.

4. With the saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil while whisking actively. The mixture while quickly thicken. Continue to boil the Pastry Cream for two minutes, whisking constantly.

Chef's Note: If the Pastry Cream appears to be too hot (i.e. the Eggs are curdling / the Pastry Cream is becoming lumpy), immediately remove it from the heat and continue whisking. It is important to monitor your heat. Boiling the Pastry Cream for a full two minutes in necessary to activate the starches, but you do not want to burn the mixture. 

5. After two minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat. To cool the Pastry Cream, prepare a sheet tray by fully wrapping it with plastic wrap. Pour the Pastry Cream in a thin layer over the prepared sheet tray. Place another piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the Pastry Cream to prevent a skin from forming. Once the Pastry Cream has cooled to room temperature, place it in the refrigerator. 


- The Pastry Cream can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days. It should not be frozen.
- Before using Pastry Cream that has been refrigerated, beat it with a paddle attachment for several minutes to make it smooth again.  

Eggs and Corn Starch for Pastry Cream

Mixed Eggs and Corn Starch for Pastry Cream

Sheet Tray Wrapped in Plastic for Cooling Pastry Cream

Pastry Cream Cooling on a Plastic Wrap Prepared Sheet Tray

Sour Cherry Compote:

Yield 360g - Approximately 1.5 Cups

  • Cherries, pitted: 450g (2.5 Cups)
  • Sugar: 100g (0.5 Cup)
  • Water: 120g (0.5 Cup)
  • Rum: 60g (0.25 Cup)
  • Vanilla Extract: 6g (0.5 Tbls)
  • Salt: 6g (1 Tsp)


1. Combined all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil.

2. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cover the mixture with a parchment tent. Simmer the Compote for approximately 30 minutes, then stir briefly. Continue to cook the Compote for another 30 minutes. After a full hour of simmering, remove the parchment tent and cook for a final 30 minutes to thicken. 

Chef's Note: The final Compote should remain somewhat syrupy and not be as thick as a jam. 

Cherries for Compote

Cherry Compote Mixture Simmering

Parchment Tent Covering Simmering Cherry Compote

Cherry Compote

Icing Fondant:

Yield 750g - Approximately 3 Cups 

  • White Chocolate, chopped: 150g

  • Confectioner's Sugar: 480g (4 Cups)
  • Light Corn Syrup: 90g (3/8 Cup)
  • Water, hot: 60g (1/4 Cup)
  • Vanilla Extract*: 6g (0.5 Tbls)
  • Salt: 6g (1 Tsp)

* For a pure white Icing Fondant, use a clear Vanilla Extract.


1. Gently melt the White Chocolate over a double-boiler.

Chef's Note: Do not overheat the White Chocolate. It should be just melted and feel barely warm to touch.

2. As the White Chocolate melts, whisk together the Confectioner's Sugar, Light Corn Syrup, Water, Vanilla Extract and Salt in a medium saucepan. Gently heat the mixture over low heat until it is smooth and just barely warm to touch. When the White Chocolate is melted, add it to the Sugar Mixture and stir until it is full incorporated. If coloring the Icing Fondant, add the food coloring at this time.

3. Use the Fondant immediately or store it in the refrigerator for several weeks with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a crystallized skin from forming. If the Fondant is too thick (particularly after it has been refrigerated), stir in a little warm water, one tablespoon at a time.

Chef's Note: Icing Fondant should never be heated above 100 degrees Fahrenheit - just barely warm to touch.

Icing Fondant

- Assembly -

Baked Eclair Shells: 1 Recipe - 30 x 5" Eclairs
Pastry Cream: 1 Recipe - 650g
Sour Cherry Compote: 1 Recipe  - 360g
Heavy Cream: 240g (1 Cup)
Icing Fondant: 1 Recipe - 750g 
Mini Chocolate Chips: For finishing

Prepare the Creme Legere Filling:

1. Place the cooled Pastry Cream in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat it smooth for several minutes on medium speed.

2. If the filling is to be flavored, add the flavoring at this time. For this recipe, mix the Sour Cherry Compote with the Pastry Cream. Other options include melted Chocolate or various extracts (Coffee, Almond, Mint, etc.) - just add to taste.

3. In a separate bowl, whip the Heavy Cream to medium/stiff peaks. 

4. Fold the Whipped Cream into the Pastry Cream mixture in three additions. Cover the bowl of Creme Legere filling with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator.

Pastry Cream Beaten Smooth

Folding Cherry Compote with Pastry Cream

Folding Whipped Cream with the Cherry Compote and Pastry Cream Mixture

Creme Legere - Pastry Cream Mixed with Whipped Cream

Fill the Eclairs:

1. Once the Eclair shells have completely cooled, poke two holes in the bottom of each Eclair, about one inch from the left and right sides. The most effective tool for poking clean holes is a #1 star tip, as it cleanly pulls out the piece of dough. Alternatively, use a Bismarck piping tip, or anything that leaves a clean, small hole.

2. Fit a pastry bag with either a #1 tip or a Bismarck tip. Fill the pastry bag with the Creme Legere filling. Carefully fill the Eclair, using both holes to make sure the entire Eclair is filled evenly.

Chef's Note: A 5" Eclair can be filled with approximately 30g of Creme Legere.

Pastry Tips for Filling Eclairs

Using a #1 Star Tip to Poke Holes for Filling Eclairs

Glazing the Eclairs:

1. Test the Icing Fondant to make sure it is the proper consistency. It should be smooth and pourable, but not so thin that it will drip down the sides of the Eclairs. If the Icing Fondant is too thick, add a little water (1 tablespoon at a time) and heat it gently to no more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or just barely warm to touch.

2. Dip the Eclairs into the Icing Fondant, letting any excess Fondant drip from the Eclair before placing it on a cooling rack. The Eclairs should be dipped just so far as to create a "halo" of Fondant on top.

Chef's Note: The holes used to fill the Eclairs remain on the bottom. Do not try to glaze over the filling holes.

3. When adding decorative items, like Chocolate Chips, place them onto the Eclair before the Fondant dries, or they will not stick.

Glazed and Decorated Sour Cherry Eclairs

Overhead View of Glazed and Decorated Sour Cherry Eclairs

Side View of Glazed and Decorated Sour Cherry Eclairs

Sour Cherry Eclair with Cherries

Sour Cherry Eclair with Cherry

Inside of a Sour Cherry Eclair

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