Chocolate éclairs

Ever since I was little I can remember my mum making the most amazing chocolate éclairs. She would make them for birthdays, BBQ’s, and at Christmas, and to me, they’re one of the best things she makes. They’re not éclairs in the traditional sense, instead of long, slim oblongs, they’re little dollops of light, puffy deliciousness. Choux is not a difficult pastry, you don’t need a light hand and there’s no fussy rolling. Their light airiness is caused by the high water content which turns to steam in the oven and forces the shell outwards.

Like lots of other things I’ve baked, it took me a couple of attempts to get these right. The key is making sure they’ve been in the oven for long enough, otherwise they’ll be soggy and deflate when you take them out.

Chocolate éclairs
1c flour
80g salted butter (I always use salted, if you’re using unsalted, add a pinch of salt to the flour.) Cut it into little cubes.
1c cold water
3 eggs

Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Sift the flour onto a piece of baking paper, then it’s easy to shoot it straight into the pot. Set aside.
Add the water and butter to a small pot and bring to a rolling boil.
Once it’s boiling, quickly add the flour and remove from the heat. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the side of the pot and you’re left with a ball of dough.
Tip it into the bowl of your stand mixer and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Start your mixer on low and add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the egg is well incorporated. It will look curdled at first. Add the other eggs one by one, beating well in between.
Once you’ve added the last egg, beat until the mixture looks smooth and glossy.

Drop teaspoonfuls onto a baking tray covered in baking paper. If you’re lucky and have one of those silicone baking sheets, use that. Leave about 4cm between each one.
When you’ve finished scooping, sprinkle cold water in the gaps between each éclair.
Bake at 200°C for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 30-35 minutes. Give one a tap and if it sounds hollow, it’s ready. Pierce each one with a skewer to let the steam out. (Pierce them on the top so you can cover the hole with icing and cream doesn’t ooze out the bottom.) Leave them to cool on the tray before icing and filling.

Chantilly cream
300ml cream
1 dessert spoon icing sugar
Splash of vanilla extract

Whip together until soft peaks form.

Chocolate icing
2½ cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons butter, melted (you don’t need to be too accurate here, butter is good!)
1 heaped dessert spoon of cocoa
Splash of vanilla extract
Boiling water

Mix everything together until smooth, adding little splashes of water as necessary. I like to use a butter knife for this. If your icing is too runny, just add a little bit more icing sugar.

Notes:

  • Years ago I read a hint that recommended sprinkling water in between the uncooked choux before the tray went into the oven. The water turns to steam and helps the pastry to puff. Don’t miss this step!
  • It’s best to ice the éclairs after you’ve filled them with cream as the pressure from spreading the icing on will cause the cream to splosh out. Split them, ice them and then pop them into the fridge for a bit before filling them.
  • If you don’t have a stand mixer you can beat in the eggs by hand but prepare to put in some elbow grease.
  • If you’d like to pipe in the cream, use a skewer to poke a hole in the bottom of each éclair as soon as they come out of the oven.

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