The Eclair is a classic French pastry traditionally made with choux dough, pastry cream filling, and dipped in a rich chocolate glaze. They’re a fancy dessert that’s easy to make at home!
This Chocolate Eclair Recipe post was written in partnership with Nielsen-Massey, all opinions are 100% my own.
Guys, I’ve been dreaming of eclairs since my trip to Paris in December, but the problem is I live in Maine and there isn’t exactly an abundance of French Pâtisseries near me and the eclairs that can be found at the local bakeries just don’t do it for me. But then again, could any eclair be as good as one from France? Doubtful.
So I’ve resorted to baking my own at home. And while they take a bit of time because all the components need to be prepared separately and they all have to cool before being assembled, they are actually quite easy to make as long as you follow the directions and measurements to a T.
Why I Choose Nielsen-Massey Products:
- Nielsen-Massey uses as few ingredients as possible when producing its pure vanilla extracts to create the highest-quality product available.
- Nielsen-Massey is a family owned and operated producer of premier pure vanillas and flavor extracts.
- All Nielsen-Massey products are all-natural, allergen-free GMO-free, certified gluten-free, and certified Kosher.
- The entire vanilla-cultivation process, from planting to market, can take from five to six years. Following harvest, beans must be cured before use.
- For two weeks, farmers spread beans in the hot sun during the day and wrap them in blankets to sweat at night.
- The beans are conditioned on racks for an additional two weeks
- Finally, beans are aged for 6 to 8 months in wooden boxes to allow the complex flavor notes to emerge.
- Nielsen-Massey uses a proprietary cold extraction process instead of heat extraction to preserve the 300+ distinctive flavor compounds present in vanilla beans, giving Nielsen-Massey extracts a rich, complex flavor profile.
What Is An Eclair?
An eclair is a light, hollow choux pastry filled with cream and topped with icing. Most bakeries offer eclairs in many flavors, including chocolate, caramel, and coffee.
This recipe is for mini eclairs, which are perfect for brunches, showers, and more! These also freeze really well, so even if you just feel like making them for yourself, you’ll have plenty in reserve for when company comes over or another craving hits!
How To Freeze:
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange eclairs 1-inch apart on the baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour. You do this step first to allow the chocolate to freeze so that it doesn’t stick and then freeze the pastries together.
- Remove from baking sheet and transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover the pastries with plastic wrap before placing the lid on to help reduce the risk of freezer burn.
- Keep frozen for up to 2 months, frozen mini eclairs will take about 10 minutes to soften.
The Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream is the star of these eclairs! It’s been enhanced with Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Vanilla Beans and Pure Vanilla Extract which gives it a fruity, anise-like flavor with floral notes.
This vanilla has a delicate flavor that does not hold up well to heat but is perfect for cold dishes such as ice cream, pastry cream, fruit sauces, and smoothies.
The pastry cream is made with whole milk, a vanilla bean, vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, and butter. It is a thick and creamy filling and will need to chill for at least 2 hours before use, but can be made up to 24 hours in advance.
While the ingredients are simple, this is the most technical piece of this recipe as your pastry cream can go from perfect to perfectly awful in mere seconds. Here are a few tips for making pastry cream:
- Use a large stainless steel pot, this will help to heat the cream more evenly and ensure that the center and top thickens without burning the bottom.
- Bring the milk and vanilla just to boiling and remove from heat immediately after in order to infuse.
- Whip your eggs and sugar for at least 2 minutes before adding the cornstarch.
- After adding the cornstarch, temper the eggs with 1/4 cup of the vanilla milk before adding the rest, this will prevent your eggs from cooking.
- Strain your mixture through a sieve when adding it back into the pan, this will ensure that any thick pieces of egg, vanilla bean, or anything else doesn’t make it into the final product.
- Whisk the mixture constantly after it’s been added back to the pot, this will help reduce the risk of burning.
- The mixture will thicken up FAST, as soon as it begins to really thicken, remove from heat but keep whisking and add in the butter.
- Transfer it to a bowl and use plastic wrap to cover it, making sure the plastic wrap touches the top of the pastry cream.
- Chill for at least 2 hours.
- Before using, pastry cream will need to be rewhipped with a stand or hand mixer for maximum smoothness.
- To make filling the pastries with cream easier, I recommend a Bismarck piping tip, this will allow you to get cream all the way to the back of the eclair.
Also, in order to make this pastry cream, you’ll need to know how to properly scrape a vanilla bean, so let me show you how!
How To Scrape a Vanilla Bean:
1. Start with a plump bean like a Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Vanilla Bean, you don’t want to use a dried up bean. Place the bean on a cutting board and use a paring knife to cut the bean in half lengthwise.
2. Next, use the spine of the knife to scrape out the vanilla bean specks from the bean.
3. Use the beautiful bean specks for tons of different things, in this case, pastry cream!
The dough for eclairs is actually really easy to make. It’s just 6 ingredients and comes together in minutes and with the pâte à choux (choux dough) you can make both eclairs and cream puffs/profiteroles, sounds like a winning dough to me!
Tips For Making Choux Dough:
- Avoid making this dough on humid or rainy days.
- Always use room temperature eggs and always add them one at a time.
- Always use a wooden spoon for mixing the dough in the pot.
- Scrap down the sides of the bowl between egg and mix well.
- Always start the oven at a high temperature and reduce after the dough has been cooking for a while.
- Always bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Use a pastry bag to pipe the dough onto the pan, you can cut a hole in the bag, but I prefer to use a 1A tip for even piping.
- Use clean kitchen shears to snip the dough near the piping tip when you reach the desired length, this reduces “tails”.
- Poke an end of each pastry with a toothpick after baking to let out steam and prevent sogginess.
- Always let the baked pastry cool completely before filling or topping them.
How To Make Choux Dough Ahead of Time:
This dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months before baking; simply thaw the dough overnight in the fridge before using.
The shaped or piped pastries can also be frozen for up to 3 months, make sure to freeze them 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet before adding them to a freezer bag or container to ensure they don’t stick together.
The chocolate ganache/glaze for the eclairs is the easiest component of the recipe. It’s made with just dark chocolate chips, heavy cream, and Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract for an extra rich finish to these tempting pastries.
This extract is crafted from the finest cocoa beans and embodies the complex flavor of dark chocolate and is ideal for adding extra layers to any recipe with chocolate as the base. I even use it my Chocolate Mojitos!
So there you have it, all the ins and outs of making sweet and decadent eclairs right at home. I know it seems like a lot of information, but they really aren’t as hard as it seems and nowhere near as time intensive as other French treats like croissants.
Plus, when you make them at home, you’ll get total bonus points with your friends and family, because let’s face it, these mini eclairs are an impressive little treat and everyone will love the light pastry filled with vanilla bean cream and topped with a rich chocolate ganache.
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- Bring the milk, Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Vanilla Bean, vanilla bean paste, and Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Vanilla Extract to a boil over medium heat in a large saucepan, whisking occasionally. Once it starts to boil, immediately remove it from heat and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse.
- Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, vigorously whisk together eggs and sugar for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in cornstarch and continue to whisk vigorously until lumps are gone.
- Remove the vanilla bean pods from the milk and throw away or As long as the bean still possesses its characteristic aroma and is moist and pliable, you can rinse, dry and use it again. Then whisk in about a 1/4 cup of the vanilla milk into the egg mixture, measurement doesn’t need to be exact, you just need to temper the eggs. Once the milk is fully incorporated, whisk in the remaining milk and set the saucepan aside, you’ll need it in just a minute.
- Pour the mixture through a sieve back into the saucepan, cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until cream begins to thicken and boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until completely melted.
- Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap gently touches the top of the pastry cream, chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Combine the butter, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Butter should have melted.
- Take the pan off the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes to form a dough. The dough will resemble mashed potatoes when ready.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a large bowl using a hand mixer. Beat on medium-low speed to let the heat out of the dough until the dough is just warm to the touch.
- With the mixer on medium-low, add the eggs one at a time and fully mixing in each one before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed between each addition.
- Transfer the dough to a pastry piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip and pipe the dough in even 3-inch strips. Use clean kitchen shears to snip the dough near the tip when you’re done piping each segment to reduce “tails”. Make sure strips of dough are 2 inches apart.
- In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk and the teaspoon of water and brush the tops of the dough with egg wash: This makes the pastry golden.
- Bake for 8 minutes at 400°F, then turn down the oven temp to 350°F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes. Exact baking time will depend on the size and shape of your pastries. Bake until the pastries are slightly puffed, golden-brown in color, and dry to the touch. They will detach easily from the parchment and feel hollow and light when you pick them up.
- Remove from the oven and “test” one of the pastries, if it still seems a bit soggy/eggy, lower the heat to 300°F and bake for another 5 minutes to help dry out the puffs
- Poke an end of each pastry with a toothpick to release any lingering steam from the inside and help prevent them from getting soggy.
- Cool the pastries completely on a cooling rack and bake off the remaining dough.
- Add chocolate chips to a small glass bowl and set aside.
- Add the heavy cream to a saucepan and bring to a light simmer, immediately remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips.
- Add in the Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract and allow the mixture to sit for 3 to 4 minutes before whisking into a rich chocolate ganache.
- Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whip using a whisk, stand mixer, or hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a Bismarck tip.
- Use a paring knife to slit one end of each of the pastries and insert the piping tip into the pastry to fill it with cream, pulling the tip out as you fill.
- Gently dip the tops of the eclairs into the ganache and place on parchment paper to let the ganache set.
- Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge until ready to consume.