By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
The éclair is a delicate oblong choux-dough pastry filled with decadent cream and topped with a delicious icing. It gets its name from the shine you see on the glaze; éclair is the French word for "lightning" . . . maybe because of the glistening glaze or maybe because you eat it in a flash!
The éclair originated in France during the nineteenth century, where it was called "pain à la Duchesse" until 1850. Some food historians state that the first chef who invented this puff pastry was Marie-Antoine Carême, while others state that “pasta choux” was invented by chef Pantanelli in 1500 for Caterina de' Medici.
It doesn't really matter how old this recipe is—the result is always amazing!
Making éclairs is not that difficult, but to make the perfect éclair, here are some important tips:
The dough must not be runny, or the puff pastries will come out flat.
Never add raw flour to your choux pastry to “fix” runny dough.
Don’t open the oven too early while baking. It causes steam to escape, which makes the éclair shells collapse.
Dissolve sugar very well if you want to avoid cracks.
Don’t bake at a high temperature.
The simple trick to having beautifully glazed chocolate éclairs is to dip them in the glaze rather than pouring the glaze over the éclairs.
And now, let’s start with this fantastic recipe!
Classic Chocolate Éclairs
For the Choux Pastry Dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Glaze:
4 oz semisweet chocolate (chopped)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp confectioner's sugar
Make the choux dough:
In a medium saucepan, melt butter in water. Add salt and flour. Stir until you have a sticky batter.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is smooth.
Preheat oven to 425° F and lightly grease a baking sheet.
Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe eight 5-inch lengths onto the baking sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes until the éclairs puff up and turn golden brown.
Remove them from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before filling.
Make the filling:
Warm milk over low heat until it is just hot enough to steam.
Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.
Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture.
Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk, continue stirring, and heat it until thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and chill before filling pastry.
Make the glaze:
For frosting, in a microwave, melt chocolate and cream; stir until smooth.
Stir in sugar and enough hot water to achieve a smooth consistency.
Frost the éclairs by dipping in chocolate.
Store in refrigerator.
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).