There are a few deceiving “so-called basic” dishes in the food world. Deceivingly difficult, that is. Take a béchamel sauce for example: only flour, butter and milk, but it can so easily become lumpy. Or pavlova: simple whisked egg whites and sugar, but it takes skill to create something that will keep it’s shape while still being soft and puffy on the inside. Or the simple act of melting chocolate: next thing you know the chocolate becomes hard and crumbly. Same thing with choux pastry: if you add just a touch too much egg, the pastry becomes runny, the eclairs won’t puff up, and you have to start all over again.
Well here is my version of simple chocolate eclairs. You don’t need to melt any chocolate, because I use a far simpler, cheaper, very tasty chocolate sauce to top these beauties. You can fill them with whipped cream or caramel or bananas or custard (or all of the above). I chose custard because I always have custard powder in my pantry and it is the cheapest option!
Chocolate eclairs are crowd pleasers, because they simply look terrific and festive and inviting – the perfect ending to a great meal, or simply a winning tea-time snack.
Ingredients for eclairs (choux pastry):
- 125 g butter, diced
- 250 ml (1 cup) water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 250 ml (1 cup) cake flour
- 4 large eggs
- Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Place the butter, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir untill the butter is melted, and remove from the heat as soon as it starts to boil.
- Add the flour to the saucepan all at once and stir with a wooden spoon untill it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot.
- Transfer the mixture to your stand mixer and mix on lowest speed for 1 minute to release steam.
- With the mixer on low speed, start adding the eggs one at a time, making sure that each egg is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next. If you are using eggs that are bigger than large, stop adding egg when you see the pastry become glossy but still holds shape. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can easily do the mixing by hand with a wooden spoon, it will just take a bit longer to mix. Be patient with the eggs, it will initially look like it won’t “gel” with the rest of the mixture, just be patient!)
- Arrange spoonsful of pastry on a greased or lined baking tin, leaving room for them to puff.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes untill golden brown. Remove from oven and prick with a small sharp knife, letting the steam escape. Cool completely.
Ingredients for chocolate sauce/topping:
- 250 g icing sugar (powdered sugar; confectioner’s sugar)
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
- roughly 50 ml warm water
- Sift icing sugar and cocoa powder together.
- Add water, butter and vanilla and stir well. The mixture must be glossy and very thick – too thick to pour/spoon over your eclairs. The trick is to heat it for a few seconds in the microwave just before spooning it over the eclairs. Add a touch more water if it is still too thick. Test the consistency on one of the eclairs: it shouldn’t be runny at all, it should be like lava. Reheat when necessary (the sauce will thicken on standing).
Make a small slit with a small sharp knife at the side of each eclair, when completely cooled. Fill your piping bag with your choice of filling (thick custard, whipped cream, etc.) and pipe a small amount (about a teaspoon or 2, depending on the size) into each eclair. Arrange on a serving dish, then drizzle (or spoon) generously with the chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.
Note: if you don’t have a piping bag, make slightly larger slits at the sides of each eclair, and simply fill the eclairs with a teaspoon!