Alright, today we’ll talk choux pastry. You know this dough that helps making eclairs, profiteroles, Paris-Brest and many more other French classics. In French, this famous and delicate dough is called “pâte à choux”. The ingredients are very basic but yet (like any French desserts) the recipe requires some important details in order to achieve a light, airy and crispy pastry.
First of all, let me introduce you to one of the most eaten pastry in my country; éclairs. It can be found filled with chocolate, with coffee, with vanilla cream and the list endless! These divine creations are known to be born in the early 1800’s, by a very famous and talented pastry chef woman, Marie Antonin Careme. His story is quite touching ans interesting as he became homeless at the age of 8, and kept on baking to make a living. He then became very successful, it became his passion and he ended up opening his own pastry shop.
Previously called “pain à la duchesse” (the duchess bread), the word “éclair” took over; in French it means lightening. Some say this is because of the éclair sparkly glaze, while others say it refers to how quickly they are eaten – in a flash! You won’t believe that French people have an éclair national day, on June 22nd! Yes, we, French people, like to give excuses to celebrate food throughout the year!
Now back to the 20th Century! Many bakeries offer éclairs, choux, profiteroles. Today, you will discover all the tips and tricks in order to amaze your family, guests and homemade is simply always better than store bought!
What is perfect éclair?
It should be light with a crispy shell and it should also have this airy texture with air pockets inside. You need to make sure to use a scale for that recipe in order to get the perfect batter. If you go for measuring cups, keep an eye on the batter to be on the right track. You’re looking for a silky, smooth batter that holds itself together. Also, I recommend you to use a stand mixer for the whole recipe; it will be so useful and quicker.
How to make éclairs?
WEIGH your ingredients for that recipe please! You will need a mixture of water and milk, butter, sugar, sifted flour and eggs. All the ingredients, except for the eggs, need to be heated BUT the tricky part is that you want the butter to melt before the mix comes to a boil! So I suggest you to use very very soft butter, it will melt faster and your batter won’t be ruined. When it comes to a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat right away as you do not want it to burn!
Add in sifted flour to combine, away from the heat, only few seconds. Then place back your pan back on the heat. I prefer to use a wooden spatula here but you can use a regular one. You have to mix vigorously and constantly, making sure there are no lumps, for about 2 minutes. This step is important because you want to the water to evaporate. You will know the dough is ready when the dough becomes firm and there should be a film of dough forming in your pan. It should be a smooth and nice dough ball. It needs to cool down completely before adding the eggs; if you add the right away, it will cook them and the batter will be good to throw. Therefore, I recommend you to place the dough on the sides of your stand mixer bowl, it will accelerate the cooling process.
Adding the eggs. Another important step! Here, you want to add in eggs slowly and not pouring them all at once because if you do so, the batter might end up being too liquid and that will be too late to fix it or to make any éclairs! The eggs here will add some glossiness and will add the extra touch to reach the desired consistency. I recommend you mix the eggs together in a separate bowl and add them gradually; wait for the first egg batch to be fully incorporated before adding the rest so you can keep an eye on the batter consistency. Now, no panic, tour batter will start to look lumpy and weird; not too worry, as you add in the rest of the eggs it will become smoother.
How do I know when my batter is ready? Do I need to add more eggs? First, the recipe I am sharing with you today will help you to practice. I have placed the exact amount of eggs that you will need so you won’t have to think whether you need to add extra eggs. Some bigger batch recipes use maximum 4 eggs sometimes less. Start with that recipe to get your hand used to the batter and then you can increase the ingredients quantities. Then, I will teach you a trick on how to know when the batter is ready to be piped; use the paddle attachment or place a spatula into the batter. Slowly stir the dough and uplift the paddle or spatula; if the dough forms a V shape at the end of either tool (see below), then you know you’re ready to go!
Piping time! Traditionally, éclairs are piped using a French star tip like below, because it will help reducing the risks of cracking while baking them. a star-shaped tip, about 1.5cm diameter, with as many fine “teeth” as possible. The teeth create ridges in the dough that helps it expand without cracking. If you only have round tip, lightly run a fork to create lines on top of the dough before baking.
Place the dough in a pipping bag. You can either use silimat (silicon mat) or parchment paper (they will cook better on a silimat as the heat will be evenly distributed). I have a choux pastry mat that I ordered from Ali express, however many templates are available for download online so feel free to use them and place them under your mat. Now, let’s be consistent! You have to make sure to keep the piping bag at a 45 degrees angle; not vertical nor horizontal! It is the best way to get éclairs that are not too thick , not too long. You also must keep a consistent piping pressure, so make sure to fill up your piping bag properly and apply the right pressure on it throughout the piping process. The éclairs should be about 10cm long and 2 cm large. Make the end of the éclairs slightly larger than the middle . End the piping process by gently by gently moving your wrist upwards, if any point appears at the end, wet your finger with some water and pat down. To get more crunchiness and caramelized touch, I like to sprinkle some icing sugar before baking my pastries.
Baking time! The oven should be preheated oven at 190 Celsius. Usually, éclairs will bake for 25-30 minutes. It has to reach a golden brown color on the top. Do not open the oven before at least 25min. After that, the éclairs should have formed their crust, you can then open the oven and quickly prick them slightly on the top. You can bake them for another 5 minutes and once done, prick the edges of the pastries. Cool down completely on the mat before filling. I sandwiched mines with some easy lemon curd and topped with Swiss meringue. You can fill them with pastry cream, ganache, buttercream, the choice is yours! For the classic version, they éclairs are topped with a glaze; chocolate, coffee etc…
Freezing the éclairs. You can freeze unbaked eclairs shells up to one month. Filled baked éclairs need to be frozen separately on a tray first for 1 hour and then placed in an airtight container for up to 4 days, even thought they do o taste better on the same day (do not stack them, use parchment paper between them). You can just defrost them on the kitchen counter for one hour before serving. I do believe that the choux pastries, whichever they are, taste way better on the same day so go ahead and indulge yourself!
Have you made the recipe? Head to @feirouzbakes on Instagram and share with me your creations.
Preparation: 10min Baking time:25-30min Yield: 6 people
- 60ml water
- 60ml milk
- 40g very soft unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 75g sifted all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 beaten eggs
Filling: classic lemon curd and decoration with Swiss meringue
Material: saucepan, spatulas, stand mixer with paddle attachment, silimat or parchment paper, French star tip, piping bag, kitchen scale
- Preheat the oven 190 degrees Celsius and line your silimat or parchment paper on a baking tray.
- Place all the ingredients except the eggs, in a sauce pan. See the notes regarding the butter. Make sure to melt all the ingredients DO NOT STIR.
- Once all melted and starts to simmer, take out from the stove and add in the flour at once. Combine the flour to the melted ingredients and combine.
- Place back the pan on the heat and dry the dough out (see notes above) until a slight yer of dough appears at the bottom of the pan (2-3 minutes) Should be a regular dough ball.
- Cool down the dough completely by placing it on the sides of the stand mixer bowl.
- Add in the eggs slowly, making sure that it is well combined with the rest before adding in more eggs. Mix using the paddle attachment on a medium speed.
- Once all eggs are added, check the dough consistency (see the notes above).
- Place the batter in the piping bag with a French star tip. Slowly and with a regular pressure, pipe at a 45 degrees angle (refer to the notes above).
- Place in the medium rack of your oven for 25 min. Do not open the oven before then. Prick the eclairs top lightly and bake back for another 5 minutes .
- Once golden brown, prick the tips of the pastries and let cool down completely before filling with your favorites!
Refer to the note in the article regarding freezing instructions.