When we moved to New Jersey and started school, Mom picked us up at the end of the day and brought a special treat: Eclairs. And frankly, it may have been Bavarian filled doughnuts. But I remembered eclairs. And for some reason, my kindergartner brain thought that meant we’d get eclairs on every first day of school. So the next year when mom picked us up, I was disappointed that there weren’t eclairs. It wasn’t until many years later when I was a teenager that I laughed and told my mom that story. She felt bad about my disappointment and decided to have eclairs for us on the first day of school. She was so kind to give us eclairs.
We saw Alton Brown make eclairs on Good Eats, and it became a tradition to make eclairs for the first day of school every year. I even did it for my roommates when I was at college. I switched out the recipe for the choux over the years because I’d sometimes get flat shells with Alton’s recipe–but I kept his suggestion to fill them with pudding and frost it with either melted chocolate chips or frosting. It saves so much time instead of making a full on pastry cream or ganache–and if Alton Brown says it’s good enough, so do I. Haha.
I haven’t tried making this one gluten free yet, but I’ll use cup for cup flour when I do. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Eclairs & Cream Puffs
Fancy and amazing, but time-consuming.
- 1 c. Water
- 1/2 c. Butter
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. Sugar
- 1 c. Flour
- 3 Eggs, plus 1 extra, if needed
- 1 Egg
- 1 1/2 tsp. Water
Éclair Filling (Vanilla Pudding)
- 1 Big Box Vanilla Pudding (instant or cook and serve)
- 3 C. Milk (can opt for 2 1/4 c. milk for thicker filling)
Cream Puff Filling (Whipped Cream)
- 1 c. Whipping Cream
- ½ c. Powdered Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
- 1 can Chocolate Frosting, warmed slightly in microwave OR
- 1/2 c. Cream
- 4 oz. Semisweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
For the choux pastry,
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat.
- Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
- Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, add 3 eggs, 1 egg at a time. Stop mixing after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining 1 egg and mix until incorporated.
- For eclairs: Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe fat lengths of dough (about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog) onto the lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. You should have 8 to 10 lengths. For cream puffs: Pipe large 2” circles.
- Egg Wash: In a bowl, whisk the egg and water together. Brush the surface of each eclair with the egg wash. Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps or points of dough that remain on the surface. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375° and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Pierce the end of each shell to release steam. Let cool on the baking sheet.
For eclair filling, prepare the pudding according to the directions on the box (or use 2 1/4 c. milk for thicker filling). Refrigerate until cold. To fill the eclairs, fit a medium-size plain pastry tip over your index finger and use it to make a hole in the end of each eclair. Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe the custard into the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside (don’t stuff them full).
For eclair frosting, you can make a simple version by simply microwaving a can of chocolate frosting until slightly soft (just a few seconds). OR In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm. Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze and set on a sheet pan. Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set. Serve chilled.
For cream puffs, whip all filling ingredients together until soft peaks form. Cut the tops off the circular shells and fill with whipped cream, then sprinkle tops with powdered sugar. Optional: Flavor the whipped cream (such as chocolate) and place berries in the bottom of the shell before piping in the whipped cream.