What is a Classic French Eclair? | What is Pate a Choux? | What is Pastry Cream? | How to Make this Classic French Eclair Recipe | Do I have to Mix Choux Pastry by Hand? | Essential Baking Tools for Eclairs
This classic French eclair recipe is so delicious and yummy. The pate a choux is light and airy while the pastry cream is rich and creamy. We top it all off with some chocolate ganache for the perfect French eclair!
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What is a Classic French Eclair?
An eclair is a French pastry that has three elements: choux pastry, pastry cream, and chocolate ganache. It seems so simple, but it is completely delicious!
While there are many variations on the classic eclair recipe, nothing beats the classic. First master the basics of this recipe, and you can confidently try other pate a choux and pastry recipes.
As a side note, if you ever visit Paris, you have to stop in at the many pastry shops because many of them serve classic and modern eclairs! They come in all sorts of flavor combinations with beautiful colors, nuts, creams, fruits, etc.
What is Pate a Choux?
Pate a choux, also known as choux pastry, is a foundational French pastry made of flour, water, salt, sugar, butter, and eggs. When choux pastry bakes, the insides hollows out, leaving room for all sorts of delicious fillings.
Once you know how to make pate a choux, you can easily make many French recipes that call for this delicious pastry shell.
What is Pastry Cream?
Pastry cream is a classic French custard filling that works well for pastries, tarts, pies, and more. The recipe consists of milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and butter. To learn more, check out this post on vanilla pastry cream.
How to Maked this Classic French Eclair Recipe
This recipe requires a few hours of time between baking, cooling, and refrigerating. It might be a bit of a process, but it is so rewarding to make this French pastry!
- Start by making the pastry cream first because it needs at least 2 hours to cool and set up in the fridge. This pastry cream can be made a day or two ahead, but it is super fast and easy to make the same day as the eclair pastries.
- Next, make the choux pastry while the pastry cream is chilling. To begin, boil the water, butter, sugar, and salt. Then remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Return to the burner and stir for two minutes to remove the flour after taste.
- Stir each egg in one at a time, making sure each egg is fully mixed in before adding the next.
- Next, pipe the eclairs and bake. Cool completely and make chocolate ganache.
- To assemble the eclairs, make 3 holes in the bottoms of the pastry shells with a small piping tip, around the size of a Wilton #7 tip.
- Next, fill a pastry bag with pastry cream that is fitted with a #7 tip. Fill the shell by squeezing the pastry cream into each of the 3 holes to fully fill the whole shell.
- Lastly, dip the tops of the eclairs in the ganache. Eat once chocolate is dry, and refrigerate if they will be sitting out longer than 2 hours. This eclair recipe is best made and eaten in the same day so the shells stay firm, but they are still delicious for a day or two after!
Do I Have to Mix Choux Pastry by Hand?
Yes you do, at least up until the choux dough is ready for the eggs. If you do not wish to mix by hand, pour the choux dough into a mixer and use the paddle attachment to mix the eggs in one at a time.
Essential Baking Tools for French Eclairs
- Wilton #7 tip for filling the eclairs
- Piping bags for piping the pate a choux
- Ateco 807 or 806 tip for piping the eclairs
- French whisk for making pastry cream and ganache
- Crispearls for garnish (completely optional, not at all necessary!)
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Pate a choux
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 4 tsp powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup flour
- 1 recipe Vanilla Pastry Cream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped (optional)
- 6 oz heavy cream
- 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chips or a baking bar chopped up)
Pate a Choux
- In a large medium sized pot, add water, butter, salt, and powdered sugar. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture comes to a boil.
- As soon as the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat, add flour, and stir quickly. Return pot to heat and cook for 2 more minutes on medium heat to remove flour taste, stirring constantly.
- Remove dough from heat and add 1 eggs at a time. Stir continually so eggs don’t scramble or cook when they come in contact with the hot dough. The pate a choux will curdle with the addition of each egg, but the dough will come back together as you stir.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a piping bag and an Ateco #9 tip, pipe the pate a choux onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Each eclair should be 3/4″ x 4″.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce oven to 375 degrees, and bake for 18-23 minutes, or until shells are completely golden brown. If the tops start to brown too fast, cover them lightly with foil. Do not press the foil on the shells, as this will deflate their delicate structure.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
For the Ganache
- When you are ready to fill the pastry shells with pastry cream, it is time to make the ganache. Bring heavy cream to a boil over medium heat.
- Place chocolate in a bowl, and pour hot cream over the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to sit for 3-5 minutes, and then gently whisk the cream and melted chocolate together. Do not over whisk, as this can “break” the ganache, making it no longer smooth and creamy.
Assembling the Eclairs
- Optional: Whip the whipped cream to stiff peaks, and fold into the pastry cream. This is optional if you want a lighter pastry cream vs the standard pastry cream, which is a bit heavier.
- Poke 3 holes in the bottom of each eclair with a #6 or #7 tip, or poke a hole in one end of the eclair. Place the tip in a piping bag fitted with a coupler, and fill with pastry cream. (Be sure to stir pastry cream well before putting it into the bag so it is smooth.)
- Insert the tip into each hole of the eclair and fill until each section of the shell is completely filled. You will know it is full if the pastry cream starts to push out of one of the other holes just slightly.
- Repeat with all eclairs.
- Dip the tops of the eclairs in the melted ganache, and add any garnishes desired(such as these crispearls). Allow the eclairs to dry for storing in the refrigerator. Eclairs are best eaten the same day, but are still delicious for a couple of days longer. The firmness of the shell softens after being in the fridge for a while, so they are definitely best the first day.
This is a Baker Street original recipe.
Keywords: eclairs, classic eclair recipe, eclairs recipe, French pastries