Recipe 5 of 61: Chocolate Éclairs

Technically, the next recipe in The Art of French Pastry is puff pastry; however, as it is going to be used four times in other recipes in this book, I decided on skipping it. It is very time consuming, and I didn’t want to waste it. Plus, the next recipe is éclairs ♥︎

I grew up on éclairs. At least, I thought I did. I thought Long Johns were éclairs. We got those from the local gas station all the time as kids. Little did I know….Long Johns are actually long rectangular donuts made with yeast dough and fried. They’re usually filled with bavarian cream or a very sweet frosting. Éclairs are made with non-yeast leavened dough (pâte à choux) and baked. They’re primarily filled with pastry cream but I’ve seen them filled with buttercream as well.

Jacquy’s éclair recipe is made with chocolate pastry cream and chocolate glaze. I made his recipe aaaannnnnnnddddddd made my own twist on an éclair, which I’m super excited about and will include in the next post ♥︎

Now, I also made his recipe back in 2017. Looking back at the photos, I realized that I never actually made a good batch. I tried it three times, and they either turned out not filled enough with cream and the cream was a tad too liquidy, not baked long enough and extremely flat, or the chocolate topping seized up and made them all look like crap…you can see for yourself:

After the third time with the chocolate seizing, I got really frustrated. I felt like éclairs should be simple, and for some reason, I wasn’t getting the results I wanted and just gave up. Fast forward three years, and I’ve realized there’s a lot to know to perfect each step in making éclairs in order to get to the point where they’re “simple”.

Chocolate Éclairs

Difficulty: 4/5

Taste: 4/5…éclairs remind me of cream puffs. Honestly, the taste completely depends on the filling, and I don’t feel like Jacquy’s chocolate pastry cream recipe is the best (I’ll explain at the bottom in the What did I learn section).

How long it took me: Oops, I forgot to keep track. From start to finish, I’d say about 4-5 hours.

No, you’re not supposed to have this much filling in an éclair lol, but it looked so pretty! And yes, it was incredibly messy!

Jacquy’s éclairs start out with making half a batch of pâte à choux. The only difference in éclairs compared to other pastries using pâte à choux is the shape. Now, my shape for éclairs wasn’t quite right because I didn’t realize I didn’t own a 3/8 inch piping tip until I was ready to pipe (in other words, READ the equipment list and directions twice lol)! I ended up using a 1A tip, which worked ok, but it was a tad too big and made the pâte à choux come out too quickly, making it harder to pipe into the correct shape.

The best advice I have when you have the correct piping tip is to pipe continuously. Don’t go slow. Move constantly. Your dough will start to look like a really fat worm with lumps if you go slow. See below. This was my first attempt in 2017. You can also tell that I added too much egg to the pâte à choux because it piped very flat.

In my next post when I create my own éclair filling, I worked hard on trying to pipe quickly and smoothly, so you’ll get to see what it looks like 🙂 The below photos are from the current batch for Jacquy’s recipe. They didn’t turn out too bad.

Again, Jacquy recommends when you’re piping to dip the end of the piping tip quickly to touch the pan when you’re done piping so that it forces the pâte á choux’s “tail” to stick to the pan; however, I must be lazy because I still haven’t done that yet…instead I use a dab of water on each “tail”, and they smooth out fine. If I ever go to pastry school or get a job working with pastries, I promise to pipe the correct way; however, my way works for me.

Once the éclairs are out of the oven, Jacquy recommends cutting them laterally, but leaving the top and bottom to be attached still on one side. I personally prefer éclairs that are piped though the bottom. I feel like it looks clean and professional. It’s also a lot easier to eat, with hardly any mess…

A very unflattering picture of me, but you can see what I mean.

Chocolate pastry cream. The only difference in chocolate pastry cream and vanilla pastry cream is that chocolate is melted into the pastry cream 🙂 Jacquy recommends using 70% dark chocolate couverture, and I agree. Chocolate couverture means that it contains at least 31% cocoa butter. Jacquy states that when cocoa butter melts, it liquefies and brings a great fluidity to the chocolate. The cocoa butter is what makes the chocolate melt in your mouth when you eat it.

I also feel that if you decide to make éclairs or any type of pastry with added chocolate, you must use high-quality chocolate. Using couverture ensures that you are using the best of the best. Honestly, whenever I’m baking, I always make sure to use high-quality ingredients because it makes such a difference in flavor! If chocolate, for example, is the main flavor in your dessert, like this one, don’t you want it to stand out from the rest? Using high-quality ingredients also guarantees there are fewer added chemicals or colorings and such because it doesn’t need it.

Making the glaze. Jacquy’s glaze consists of unsweetened chocolate, warm simple syrup made from sugar and water, and fondant that are all melted together. My glaze didn’t turn out anything like Jacquy’s. I think it had to do with the fact that my fondant was a tad expired….I purchased dry fondant, which I mixed with water and melted butter until I got the consistency I wanted, but it was never 100% perfect.

Looking at the below photos, you can tell that this time, the fondant did turn out glossier compared to 2017, it just wasn’t up to my high standards. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to lines, and these were not perfect in the slightest nor were they smooth. You can also see in the background broken éclair shells. Just keepin’ it real. Again, this recipe is not my favorite.

At least biting into the éclair, you can see I filled them properly!

I’m just disappointed in the cuts I made horizontally to fill the éclair shells (you can totally see they’re not straight) as well as the sides of the glaze not being straight; however, taste was good.

So what did I learn? I found that I am not a fan of horizontally cut éclairs-they’re extremely messy. Also, in my opinion, Jacquy’s pastry cream is too liquidy for éclairs. I feel that éclairs should be able to sit out for awhile, unrefrigerated, and his pastry cream just seeped out. If you plan on cutting your éclairs horizontally, make sure you find a filling that holds up-no one wants the inside going everywhere when they try to eat it!

I felt pretty disappointed with this recipe; however, I didn’t give up. I decided to redeem myself by trying a different filling as well as working on my piping skills and ended up feeling a lot more confident about making éclairs. Coming soon, passion fruit éclairs ♥︎

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