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Best Easy Eclairs and Cream Puffs with Pastry Cream

Every serious baker must know how to make Pâte à Choux or Choux Paste. These buttery, crisp pastry shells go by many different names depending on the shape and size of the finished shell. We are going to show cream puffs and eclairs from Pâte à Choux.
Eclairs with whip cream

Before you begin, note that the pastry recipe will make 12 cream puffs OR 20 to 24 éclairs. The filling recipes (whipped cream and pastry cream) make enough for 12 pastries each. The icing recipe is a generous amount for icing 2 dozen éclairs. If you want to drizzle the éclairs with icing, cut the chocolate and cream in half.

 Pâte à Choux

1 cup (227g) water

1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter

¼ tsp. table salt

1 ¼ cups (150g) Panhandle Milling All-Purpose Flour

4 large eggs

Cream puff filling

2 cups (454g) heavy cream or whipping cream

1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar, or to taste

1 tsp.  Pure Vanilla Extract

Chocolate éclair filling

Pastry Cream (recipe below)

Ganache Icing

1 cup (170g) chocolate chips or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup (113g) heavy cream or whipping cream

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
  • Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted, and bring to a rolling boil.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, stirring vigorously, and add the flour immediately.
  • Return the pan to the burner and cook over medium heat, stirring all the while, until the mixture smooths out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than a minute.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It’ll still feel hot, but you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the temperature should be below 125°F.
  • Transfer the mixture to a mixer and beat the eggs one at a time; it’ll look curdled initially, but when you add the last egg, it should become smooth. Beat for at least 2 minutes after adding the last egg.
  • For cream puffs: Using a generously filled tablespoon cookie scoop or a level muffin scoop, drop the thick batter onto the prepared baking sheets in 3- to 4-tablespoon mounds. Space the mounds about 3″ apart to allow for expansion.
  • For éclairs: Pipe the batter into 5″ logs about 1/2″ to 3/4″ in diameter using a pastry bag. If you don’t have a pastry bag, place a sandwich bag into a glass, rolling its edge over the rim to hold it in place. Spoon the batter into the bag. Cut off 1 corner of the bag, making a 1/2″ cut. Squeeze the batter onto the baking sheet through the hole in the corner.
  • Bake the pastries for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 25 minutes, until the pastries are a medium golden brown. Don’t open the oven door while the pastries are baking.
  • Remove the pastries from the oven. Make a small slit in the top of each, and return them to the oven for 5 minutes to allow the steam to escape. Place them on a rack to cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, split each in half to make top and bottom pieces; splitting and exposing the centers to air will help keep them from becoming soggy.

To make the cream puff filling:

  • Pour the cream into a mixing bowl and whip it quickly (using your mixer’s whisk attachment if you have one). Sprinkle in the sugar gradually as the cream whips.
  • Whip until stiff, but be careful not to over-whip; cream should still look smooth.
  • Fill the bottom halves of the puffs with whipped cream, then replace their tops. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

To make the éclair filling:

  • Prepare your favorite pastry cream filling; see the recipe below for our favorite. You’ll need about 3 cups of filling.
  • Spoon the filling into the éclair shells.

To make the icing:

  • Place the chocolate chips or chunks and cream in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup.
  • Heat over low heat (or in the microwave) until the cream is very hot.
  • Remove from the heat and stir until the chocolate melts and the icing is smooth. Spoon over the éclairs, spreading to the edges. Serve immediately.

Pastry Cream

1/3 cup (80 gr) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (40 gr) Panhandle Milling All-purpose Flour
¼ tsp.  salt
2 cups (480 ml) evaporated milk
4 Tbsp. (60 gr) butter
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract

For the Pastry Cream:

  • Whisk together sugar, flour, and salt in a medium saucepan.
  • Add evaporated milk; whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat while whisking until it thickens – this should take about 1 – 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and let it boil for 10 minutes, still whisking; then remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
  • Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl if desired.
  • Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the cream’s surface to prevent skin from forming. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature.
  • Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days. Just before using, whisk until smooth.

*With this amount of sugar, the filling is barely sweet. To use as a pie filling, increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (149g).

Tips from our Chef

  • Want to prepare pastries ahead? Make the shells and store them at room temperature, lightly covered. Your best bet is to whip the cream no more than several hours ahead.
  • Pastry cream filling/pudding can be made several days ahead. Icing can be made several days ahead and reheated. Fill (and ice) pastries just before serving.
  • For a special taste treat, infuse your pastry’s cream filling with any flavors or add fresh fruit to the cream puff for a refreshing Spring dessert.