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What are Eclairs?

Chocolate eclairs may be filled with vanilla pastry cream.
Traditionally, eclairs are topped with chocolate ganache.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: David Smith, Luisa Contreras
  • Last Modified Date: 26 June 2014
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Eclairs are pastries made from choux paste, the same traditional pastry dough used for cream puffs. They are usually piped into logs about three to four inches (7.62-10.16cm) long, and baked. Once baked and cooled, eclairs can be filled with whipped cream, a variety of custards, mousses, or fruit. Traditional eclairs tend to be filled with whipped cream or custard and topped with chocolate ganache.

French chefs are credited with the invention of eclairs, over 300 years ago. Choux pastry is typically French, although it was soon adopted by British countries, and quickly spread to other European countries. There are New World Recipes for choux dating back to the early 18th century. Choux is essentially a combination of eggs, water, butter and flour, which is mixed over low heat to melt the butter. Eggs needed to be added carefully so as not to make scrambled eggs in the process.

Choux dropped from spoons can make delightful shells for cream puffs or for savory fillings like chicken salad. Usually the shape of eclairs requires piping the dough to achieve the long shape. Eclairs can also be filled with savory ingredients, and might make perfect appetizers.

Some cooks fill eclairs by slicing them lengthwise and removing a portion of the inside of the pastry. This gives more room for the filling. Others make a small hole in one side of the eclair and simply pipe the filling into the eclair. Preference for either method varies.

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Some American recipes do not rely on the typical choux paste for eclair type cakes. These may be referred to as eclair cakes instead of eclair pastries, since they are typically made from cake batter. It’s actually quite common to see doughnuts that greatly resemble eclairs, though they will taste quite different given the sweeter batter and the cakey texture. As well, doughnuts resembling eclairs may be greasy because their cooking process involves frying as opposed to baking.

If making eclairs daunts you, it is quite easy to obtain them at most bakeries. One may want to use a European styled bakery to be certain to get the choux paste traditional eclairs. As well, one can consult with the bakery regarding different fillings, though most people are quite happy with the standard chocolate eclair. Since eclairs usually contain either custards or cream-based fillings, don’t forget to refrigerate these dainty pastries until just prior to serving

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Discuss this Article

aishia
Post 9

@orangey03 - My mom and I used to co-teach a high school age cooking class, and when we prepared the chocolate eclairs recipe not long ago, that's exactly what we used, too -- instant french vanilla pudding mix. Some people dislike instant pudding as a filling, but I think it actually helped the flavor of the eclairs.

If you are French or you've had some authentic French eclairs, our pudding filled ones might not be considered exactly gourmet, but for somebody like me -- a person whose only experience with eating eclairs has been to buy one from the donut section of my grocery store's bakery -- the instant pudding filling made them taste how I expected them to.

I love eclairs, instant pudding filling and all, so I was extremely happy with how the recipe turned out. So were all of the kids in the class; apparently their moms all expect them to bring home whatever they cook in class so that the moms can eat it. I guess we're doing our cooking instruction right, instant pudding filled eclairs and all!

orangey03
Post 8

I love baking eclairs, but I don’t have time to make any elaborate fillings. It seems I’m always at work or doing chores, so I looked for a way to cheat and find an easy filling.

While skimming through various eclair filling recipes and trying to find the one with the least ingredients and the least amount of preparation time, I found a secret in parentheses out beside one recipe. It informed me that you could use a package of french vanilla instant pudding for the filling.

The recipe noted that you could either use the pudding on its own or you could fold in whipped cream with it. I love the consistency of pudding as a filling, so I just went with the easiest way, and it tasted great!

shell4life
Post 7

I like to make my own custard filling for eclairs. I found a recipe that is fairly easy and makes enough to fill ten eclairs. This is good for me, because I live with extended family.

To make the filling, you combine one-third cup sugar, one tablespoon each flour and cornstarch, and one-fourth teaspoon salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Gradually, you stir in one and a half cups of milk. You must stir it constantly over medium heat until it boils and thickens.

Remove the pan and add one egg yolk. Stir while cooking on low for another two minutes, and then stir in one teaspoon of vanilla. Then, cover the pan with plastic wrap and cool. Whip one-half cup of whipping cream with a mixer and fold into the custard once it has cooled.

cloudel
Post 6

@lighth0se33 - I can’t eat the really rich eclairs much either. I looked through several eclair recipes and found one for a filling that sounds somewhat healthy. The filling is for Ambrosia Eclairs.

You take one teaspoon of shredded orange peel, one-half cup of orange juice, and one tablespoon each of sugar and cornstarch and cook them in a saucepan. You stir them until they are bubbly. After you see the bubbles, cook them while stirring for two more minutes.

Next, you remove the pan and cool the mixture just a bit. Then, you fold in 1 carton of plain yogurt and one chopped banana and chill it for two hours. After that, you beat the egg white until it forms soft peaks, add two tablespoons of sugar, and beat it again. Then you fold it into the yogurt mixture and chill some more.

When you are ready to serve the eclairs, split them open and fill them with this yogurt mixture. If you wish, you can sprinkle the tops of the eclairs with powdered sugar. This recipe makes enough filling for 6 eclairs.

lighth0se33
Post 5

Though I do love the flavor and texture of traditional chocolate eclairs, I cannot eat more than half of one at a time. The sugar overload and the richness of the creamy filling are just too much.

I like eclairs filled with strawberry ice cream or frozen chocolate yogurt. My sister is a pastry chef, and when she comes over for a visit, she makes these for me.

The only downside is that I have to eat them right away. I can't freeze them because thawing them out would melt the ice cream in the center.

She doesn't put any sort of topping or frosting on these ice cream eclairs. That would make them too sweet. The baked dough balances out the sweetness of the ice cream perfectly.

comfyshoes
Post 4

@Subway11 - I like cream éclairs but I prefer Spanish pastries instead. I love guava filled pastries and the guava and cheese combination is really sinful. I don’t want to even know how many calories they have but I do treat myself one in a while on Sundays after church.

I take a box of these pastries to my father in law’s house and leave them there. This way I get to have my pastry but I am not tempted with having the remaining box at my home. I tried to bring éclairs but my father in law prefers guava pastries instead because they are so much sweeter.

They are also glazed with sugar on the top so you really can’t have too many of these because they are really sweet.

subway11
Post 3

@Wander- I love cream éclair desserts too. I usually try to buy the mini cream éclairs because that way I don’t get all of those calories. I love to have éclairs with a nice cup of espresso. It is great in the mid afternoon when you are feeling a little tired. It really is a great pick me up but you just can’t have cream éclairs all of the time because they are fattening. A five inch custard éclair has almost three hundred calories.

wander
Post 2

After reading this article I am wondering if I ever really had an eclair? I usually purchase mine at a local donut shop for a treat and was under the impression that their were genuine eclairs. I love the filling, the texture, and pretty much everything about them.

I am thinking that if my eclairs were a little greasy they may have actually been a kind of donut in disguise all along. This really surprises me.

I think my new mission is to head out and try and find a real eclair to see what I have been missing. I may have to leave my donut shop version behind.

Mae82
Post 1

Wow, eclairs have to be one of the most sinful pastries at the bakery, but they are amazingly delicious. If you are looking for a sugar overload with some chocolate goodness thrown in for good measure buying an eclair can be a fantastic treat.

I remember when I was younger, my mom would always buy me an eclair on special occasions, like getting great grades in school or winning an award.

These events were fortunately few and far between, because I certainly would have ended up puffed like an eclair if I had consumed too many. Certainly a rich dessert for special times only.

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