Fancy recreating the éclairs at Fauchon? Yes. Me too. But my recipe for éclairs come a very close second. Whip this up, then stand back and admire your work. It won’t be long before you swoop in and bite down into the crisp pastry case, soft pillows of cream and the final crack of the dark chocolate topping. This is my take on the éclair but you can’t make an éclair without choux pastry. It’s really easy to make and is so versatile, if you don’t have a sweet tooth you can make savoury bite-sized versions.
These days chefs let their imaginations run wild and it’s not just chocolate or coffee toppings or flavoured fillings on offer, there are shops in Paris dedicated to the pastry selling only éclairs. From the fruit filled to the savoury, including foie gras and fig.
Lakeland’s PerfoBake range is an absolute pleasure to bake with and the results are definitely better than my efforts with piping straight onto a greased baking tray. The base of the tray is micro-perforated which increases air-flow and allows the moisture to escape and the result is a crispy bottomed case. The éclairs are really easy to remove without any greasing required and to clean, all that’s needed is a good soapy scrub. Because it’s made of silicone it’s easily rolled up and stored.
For the choux pastry
65g sifted plain flour
pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing baking sheets if using
2 eggs, beaten
For the filling
200g double cream
5tsp sifted icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
For the icing
- 100g chocolate – I used Green and Blacks dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. If you don’t have the PerfoBake tray then grease a baking tray.
Sift the flour onto a sheet of greaseproof paper.
Put 120mls water into a medium-sized pan with the salt and butter and heat gently until the butter has completely melted but don’t let the water boil. Quickly bring the mixture to the boil and tip in the flour all at once. Remove the pan from the heat and beat with a wooden spoon. Put the pan back on a low heat and beat the dough for about a minute to slightly cook the dough – it should come away from the sides of the pan to make a smooth, glossy ball. Tip the dough into a large mixing bowl and leave to cool until tepid.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, then gradually beat them into the dough with an electric whisk, (or vigorously with a wooden spoon if you don’t have one). The dough will be very shiny and paste-like, and fall from a spoon when lightly shaken – you may not need all the egg. Spoon the pastry into a piping bag fitted with a 1.25cm plain nozzle and pipe into the mould. If you don’t have it pipe 12 x 10cm lengths onto the greased baking tray until all your mixture is used. Place the mould on a baking tray which you need to sprinkle with a few drops of water. This will help to steam and crisp the pastry. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, reducing the temperature to reduce 170C/325F/Gas 3 and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until golden-brown and crisp. Be sure not to open the door throughout the cooking process.
If you have the Lakeland mould leave out the next step.
Remove the tray and make a small hole in the side of each éclair to allow steam to escape. Return to the oven and bake for a further five minutes, or until the pastry is completely crisp.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until just stiff and once the éclairs have cooled down, cut down the side of each and pipe in the whipped cream. Once they’re cooled, cut down the length of one side of each éclair and pipe in the whipped cream. Melt the chocolate, which you will have broken up into equal pieces, in the microwave (1 minute on high and then 30 second increments but keep a very close eye on it) or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Spread the chocolate over the top of each and let the chocolate set before serving.