This is the only eclair recipe you will ever need! A foolproof eclair recipe that finally works!
Have you ever experienced making flat or soggy eclairs? Or having huge cracks all over the surface? You might have tried all the recipes that claim the 'perfect eclair', and still ended up with flat, sad looking ones? Never again!
Here you have everything you need to know about how to make the perfect French patisserie style looking eclairs in your home kitchen! My foolproof eclair tutorial will guide you through the recipe step by step so you can enjoy this delicate French dessert every time you fancy a vanilla or chocolate eclair.
Mastering eclair is one of the most rewarding skills for a home bakers. You will be able to make these gorgeous French pastries very soon and fill them with endless variety of delicious creams.
What is eclair exactly and what are the typical mistakes?
Choux pastry (eclair, cream puff) is made of a few basic ingredients like sugar, butter, flour, milk and egg however it is important to read and follow the instructions carefully in order to avoid typical mistakes such as 1. cracked surface, 2. soggy inside, 3. flat and deflated eclair 4. no airpocket to fill… just to name a few.
The result we are looking for is oblong shape pastry which is risen evenly (so no major cracks on the side), holds its shape while baking and has a lovely huge air pocket inside which can be filled with a huge variation of creams.
The most important factors to bake perfectly shaped, evenly risen eclairs are
- using the right ingredients eg. high protein content bread flour
- using the right equipment, eg. French star piping nozzle
- learning the right technique, eg. piping skill
- finding the right baking temperature: in my oven it is a 170C / 338F
Perfecting eclairs require practise and precision but totally doable for everyone and there is nothing as rewarding as serving your home made eclairs!
My Top 5 Baking Tips for home bakers
- Read the recipe carefully including my tips and recommendations on how to avoid and fix typical issues during baking
- Avoid using substitutes and changing the recipe unless you are aware of how to fully reformulate the recipe in order to keep the balance in texture as well as flavour. Reducing sugar, replacing egg, using ingredients not on the right temperature etc. will all have an impact on your baking
- For consistent, happy baking experience always measure your ingredients with the help of a Digital scale. Cup measurement is provided as an indicative figure only and might be used for less complex and large batch recipes however it is not an appropriate method for more delicate, complex pastries
- Did you know that most home ovens can significantly under or oven run? Also, oven temperature hugely drops when opening the oven door therefore it is recommended to always pre-heat the oven above the required baking temperature.
- Temperature is so important when it comes to baking and accurate oven temperature is key, can make or break any recipe. Make sure you invest into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to avoid under baked, burnt, sad looking desserts
Now let’s start with some important notes regarding the ingredients of this classic eclair recipe
For the choux pastry
- Milk: Whole milk is the best, definitely avoid using milk substitutes for this recipe unless you are aware of how to reformulate the recipe
- Sugar: This choux dough is made with using simple granulated sugar. While heating the mixture up make sure sugar fully dissolves. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here
- Water: Simple tap water is fine. Milk-water ratio in this recipe is 50-50% to start with then if you are more experienced, feel free to play around with different ratios
- Salt: An essential ingredient in most of the dessert recipes. Balances flavour and enhances other ingredients, in choux pastry recipe it also contributes to the right texture
- Butter: Use always unsalted as you want to be in control of the quantity of the salt. I am using 82% fat content butter in all my recipes. While in most of the recipes butter needs to be on room temperature, this is an exception. Since butter will be heated it is fine to use it straight out of the fridge
- Flour: Make sure to use high protein content bread flour to achieve that lovely huge air pocket. It might not be called bread flour in your country, however based on the protein % you will be able to identify the right kind of flour. I am using 13% protein content flour in this recipe. Quite honestly, I got different results with different protein content bread flours too, it is worth experimenting until you find the one you get the best results with. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my article in here
- Egg: Room temperature as always
Now let’s continue with my top 6 tips to master the technique of making this classic eclair recipe
1. How to cook choux dough for this eclair recipe
- Eclair is made of a dough called choux that is a cooked dough meaning the butter milk water flour mixture needs to be cooked for approx. 3-5 minutes over medium heat mixing constantly. Make sure you sift flour before adding to the mixture as you want to avoid lumps. This is not optional, you just have to sift it
- The cooking process is ready when some moist evaporates from the dough, practically when you stick a spoon in the dough, it stays upright. This will take about 3-5 minutes depending on your stove and saucepan and by that time there should be a thin skin formed on the bottom up the saucepan (again depends on the saucepan)
- Mixing egg in will need somewhat your judgement. Only add a small amount of egg at a time, consistently whisking with an electric hand mixer after each addition. First it might separate but keep whisking and the dough should reach a glossy, pipeable consistency. Please note that depending on the flour you use and how much you “dried” the batter earlier you might need to use slightly more or less egg than it is stated in the recipe
- The eclair dough is not the type of dough where you can add a bit of this, a bit of that. The steps and their order in the recipe are strict therefore make sure you follow them. For example you can't add more flour if you realize that you added too much egg. If for some reason you are unhappy with the consistency of your dough and unable to pipe it due to too much egg, please start over again
2. How to pipe eclairs
- As mentioned above, while mixing the egg in you have to take into consideration to mix in as much egg to get a shiny, pipeable consistency. The mixture should not be too firm neither too runny
- For an even, burst free baking it is important to get rid of any air bubbles before piping. You can achieve this by pressing the air pockets out of the piping bag before piping. Also while moving choux batter into the piping bag make sure you avoid "mixing in" air bubbles
- For piping eclairs you have to use French star tip , again this is a must for neat looking eclairs. Believe me, you won't get the same crack free, neat looking result with any other piping nozzle, particularly do not use round piping nozzle
- Pipe in 45° angle, as evenly as you can. It might look skinny as you pipe but the dough will rise, don't worry. To be honest, piping eclair requires some practise and once you make 5-10x batches you will be able to pipe the dough much more even and beautiful. Just keep practicing!
- You might find that after piping there are small peaks at the end of the eclair shape logs, feel free to gently press them down with lightly wet finger tip
3. Silicon baking mat or parchment paper?
None of these! Use Perforated “air” baking mat to bake this eclair recipe! I have been using this equipment for baking tarts and eclairs for more than a year now from a brand called Silikomart and loving it. Thanks to the holes in the mat, the heat spreads evenly throughout the mats’ surface guaranteeing perfect and even baking on the eclairs. Use the Perforated “air” baking mat on top of the oven rack so that the air can circulate properly. If you do not own this wonderful baking equipment it´s worth to consider investing into it or alternatively line a baking tray with parchment but it is just easier and nicer to bake choux pastry with Perforated “air” baking mat. Do not use silicone baking mat for choux as I found that the pastry tends to get wet on silicone.
4. What is the right baking temperature for baking eclairs?
- Some suggest to start with high baking temperature then decrease for the second half of the baking time. I find even baking temperature works better, supports more even baking and beautiful golden colour. Having said that I like to pre-heat oven to a higher temperature ( 200 C / 392 F) then decrease it to 170 C / 338 F when placing the eclair shape logs in, please see instructions in the recipe
- If you do not get success with even 170C / 338F baking temp, try baking in higher temp for the first 15 minutes then reduce the temp. Eclair is a delicate matter and you will have to experiment with your own oven
- Do not open the oven door in the first 30 minutes under any circumstances or they will deflate
- Make sure you invest into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to avoid typical eclair disasters that are caused by inaccurate temp
5. Does it take long to make eclair?
Making this eclair recipe literally takes no time, you will cook the dough for a few minutes, pipe and bake. Easy peasy. However before baking the eclairs, it is a must to freeze the piped dough, this will ensure even rise without cracks. I find it is enough to freeze the dough for 30 minutes while you are heating up the oven but the longer the better, maybe freeze it properly for 1-2hours if you are baking it the first time. Please do not skip this step.
6. Eclair troubleshooting aka why what's wrong with my eclairs?
Issue No.1. : The piped eclair does not hold its shape
Solution: Your dough sounds too wet, mix in less egg next time
Issue No.2. : My eclairs did not rise in the oven
Solution: Most likely you need to increase the baking temp. Or perhaps the issue is related with issue No.1.: your dough was too wet and get baked more like a pancake without rising properly. Make it less wet next time (less egg)
Issue No.3.: My eclairs deflated after baking
Solution: Most likely your eclairs were not baked well, bake it longer next time
Issue No.4.: My eclairs are having huge cracks on the top
Solution: There are a number of reasons causing cracks on eclairs therefore a number of solutions can be considered. First and foremost, make sure you use French star piping nozzle as with a simple round nozzle almost 100% you will get cracks on the eclair surface. Inappropriate piping technique eg. applying uneven pressure while piping can also cause cracks on the eclair. Truth it, piping skill is something you will have to practise and it will improve over time. Too high oven temp and fan in the oven can also cause cracks on the top, try to find the sweet spot in terms of oven temp, a temp that provides a nice rise but without cracks and do not use fan in the oven.
Issue No.5.: My eclairs are not hollow inside
Solution: Again, there can be a number of issues causing not hollow eclairs. It is either related with issue No.2.: Inappropriate rise - if so you know how to fix it. If you have a nice rise on your eclairs but they are not hollow enough inside then most likely your flour has not enough protein. Even if you use bread flour, try a few different ones eg. 12, 13, 14% protein content and stick to the one that gives the best result.
Check my vanilla and chocolate pastry cream recipes in here! They are silky, creamy, buttery, the most delicious pastry cream ever!
Try some of my other Choux pastry recipes
Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin - This choux pastry is filled with silky vanilla pastry cream (Crème Pâtissière) and topped with a crunchy caramelised sugar layer just like traditional Crème Brûlée! It´s delicate texture and delicious flavour will certainly impress everyone. Recipe in here
Apple Pie Choux au craquelin - This Apple Pie Choux au craquelin (crispy cream puff) is the perfect combination of American Apple pie and French Choux pastry, a showstopper dessert that will be the start this Fall! I love how the crispy Choux au craquelin bonds with the creamy homemade Apple pie filling while the whipped mascarpone on top balancing the flavours. Recipe in here
Paris-Brest – Paris-Brest, a delicate ring shape Choux pastry with Hazelnut Praline Crème Mousseline filling, is definitely the Queen of French pastries! Crispy Pâte à Choux bonds together with silky, nutty Creme Mousseline filling in my Classic French recipe! Extra praline paste and roasted hazelnuts in the filling brings additional crunchiness making this Paris-Brest one of the most impressive desserts of all! Recipe in here
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The perfect eclair recipe
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Sift flour then measure and set aside
- Place butter, water, milk, salt and sugar into a saucepan over medium heat
- As soon as the mixture starts to boil remove from heat, add the flour in one go and whisk vigorously with a Rubber spatula until it forms one smooth ball and flour bits are not visible
- Place the saucepan back to the stove and cook the dough for 3-5 min over medium heat mixing constantly. There should be a thin skin formed on the bottom up the saucepan
- Transfer the dough into a bowl and let it cool down slightly before mixing the egg in. Only add a small amount of egg at a time, consistently whisking after each addition. You should reach a consistency which is not too runny, not too firm but just fine to pipe. The exact quantity of egg will need somewhat your judgement
- Pre-heat oven to 200 C / 392 F (no fan)
- Lower oven temperature to 170 C / 338 F (no fan) and bake the eclairs for 40 min. Do not open the oven door in the first 30 min. If you are baking it the first time it is a good idea to take one eclair out of the oven at 40 min and check its consistency. If it is golden in colour, nicely puffed up, does not deflate on room temperature and the middle of the eclair is not raw (it is ok if it's a bit wet, it will dry while cooling down) then it is considered to be done
- Cool either on the perforated air mat or if baked on parchment then cool them on cooling rack
- Fill with chocolate, vanilla of coffee pastry cream. Use my recipes in here