Eating eclairs filled with luscious vanilla cream and chocolate glaze was one of my greatest childhood pleasures. Then, of course, there were chocolate, coffee, or hazelnut-filled eclairs besides vanilla. But the classic eclair with vanilla custard remains my true love.
Eclairs were a type of cake we would find everywhere in Romania in pastry shops. You could find all sorts of eclairs, some good and some not as good (but for us children growing up in communism, they were the best thing in the world). In some households, our parents would treat us with a homemade eclair (or cream puff). What a joyful day was a day like that! I remember eating half of the vanilla cream from the bowl before my mother would fill the eclairs.
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Growing up, I kept a special place in my heart for the eclairs. And I decided to bake them for the first time a couple of weeks ago. They brought back childhood memories and filled our house (and bellies) with joy and sweetness. So here’s my easy recipe for classic French eclairs:
Classic French Eclair with Vanilla Cream – step by step recipe
Eclairs are a long choux pastry filled with a type of custard cream and topped with glaze. Choux pastry is easy to make and can be used for other French patisserie desserts (profiteroles, cream puffs). The filling in this recipe is Creme patissiere (pastry vanilla cream or French pastry cream). This cream is very similar to a vanilla custard but thicker, making it easier to pipe. As the choux, you can use Creme patissiere for many other pastries as a filling.
Tip: While the eclairs are baking, don’t open the oven; this will make the eclair shells deflate. Let them be completely baked before opening the oven.
For the choux pastry:
½ (100 ml) cups water;
½ (125 ml) cups milk;
¼ teaspoon salt;
8 tablespoons (120 grams) butter;
1 cup (150 grams) flour;
1 tablespoon sugar
For the filling:
3 cups whole milk;
½ cup sugar;
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract;
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
4 large egg yolks
½ stick butter
A pinch of salt
For the glaze:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
Make the eclair shells:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, salt, sugar, and cold butter (cut into small pieces). Bring to a boil and stir until butter is melted.
3. When the mixture boils, stop the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon and return to low heat for one more minute until the dough gets the shape of a ball and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan.
4. Transfer the dough to another bowl and let it cool for five minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix at low speed until everything is well incorporated, and the dough is smooth.
5. With the ad of a spoon, put the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1-inch round tip and pipe 5-inch long eclairs onto the baking sheet.
6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the eclairs turn golden brown. Don’t open the oven while the eclairs are baking; this will make your pastries deflate! Let them cool in the oven for another 30 minutes and then on a wire rack until they are fully cooled.
Make the filling:
7. Prepare an ice bath (a big bowl or saucepan with ice).
8. In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 ½ cups of milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean. If you’re using vanilla extract, you will add it at the end. Let it simmer and whisk for the sugar to get dissolved.
9. In a separate bowl, put together the rest of the milk (½ cup), cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks.
10. When the milk starts to boil, remove it from the heat. Slowly pour a bit of the hot milk mixture into the cold mixture; this prevents the egg yolks from turning into scrambled eggs at the next step.
11. Pour the egg mixture into the hot milk and bring to a boil until the mixture gets thicker and you see bubbles coming to the surface. Lower the heat and cook for another 2 minutes. Whisk constantly to prevent lumps.
12. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer into a bowl placed into the ice bath; this will stop the eggs from cooking more than necessary. Add the butter and vanilla extract. Whisk until the butter is completely mixed in.
13. Cover the custard with plastic foil, making sure the foil touches the surface of the custard; this prevents the skin from forming on the cream surface. Let it cool at room temperature, and then refrigerate for a few hours until it’s completely chilled.
Make the glaze:
14. Put the heavy cream in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Remove it from the heat.
15. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate melts and you get a smooth mixture.
16. Let it cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally. You can use the glaze when it is completely cooled down.
Assemble the Eclairs:
17. Slice the eclair shells lengthwise and fill them up with custard. (Whisk the custard before for extra smoothness). You can also use the poking from the bottom method: poke the bottom of the eclairs and then fill them up with custard using a pastry bag with a piping tip. I prefer the first method because it’s easier and less messy.
18. Spread 1 tablespoon (or more) of chocolate glaze on top of the eclairs. Let them cool. Pofta buna!