Classic Éclairs & Variations

There are some things that just make you feel like a baking badass. Éclairs are one of them, and with the right recipe, "whipping up a batch" can really be as effortless as it sounds. 

Traditional french éclairs aren't just an amazing addition to your classic recipe repertoire, but also a exceptional building block for more non-traditional desserts than you can imagine. The truth is, I rarely gather the strength to master a "classic" unless I can promptly demolish it afterwards – I just find inventing new recipes more creatively fulfilling than following old ones – so if that sounds like you too, LEARN HOW TO PROPERLY MAKE ÉCLAIRS. The creative possibilities for working with Pâte a Choux are literally endless, and you will never run out of sweet or savory things to stuff inside these delicious puffs.

Also, I know diet-consciousness isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of French pastry, but using Pâte a Choux is also a lux way to cut some calories out of your life, as the resulting puffs are relatively low in carbs and high in protein (they're basically all crust, filled with air). So yeah, do what you want with that little bit of info, like filling your puffs with a savory chicken salad. Or just screw it all and fill them with cream. Like we're about to do. Okay, let's get started!

Classic éclairs consist of three parts: Pâte a Choux, cream and a chocolate fondant topping. Here we use a simple variation on pastry cream and a classic ganache topping, to keep it simple, but we're staying true to French Pâte a Choux, because there really is only one variation in the world of American Pâte a Choux, and it involves NOT using a kitchen scale. This isn't a deal breaker (and we'll share both types of measurements), but really, it will make a world of difference in the final product. I use this cheap little Escali scale ($24.99) in my kitchen, which comes in a whole rainbow of colors, and you really should just buy one and have your world rocked. Plus, it will make famous French pastry chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, whose recipe this is adapted from, proud of you and America in general - so do your part for our great rouge, blanc et bleu.

Lastly, a few ideas for variations, to help get the juices flowing once you've mastered the foundation:

  • Fill with Two-Step Banana Pudding and drizzle with Salted Caramel for banoffee eclairs 
  • Purée berries of your choosing, strain to remove seeds, then fold into cream mixture for an incredible fruit filling
  • Pipe Pâte a Choux in small rounds instead of éclairs. After baking, cut in half, fill with a scoop of ice cream, and drizzle with hot fudge

Classic French Éclairs 

For the Pâte a Choux

125 grams (½ cup) whole milk

125 grams (½ cup plus 2½ teaspoons) water

110 grams (7 ½ tablespoons) French butter, such as Président

5 grams (1 teaspoon) granulated coconut flower nectar

2 grams (¼ teaspoon) sea salt

140 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) pastry flour, sifted

220 grams whole eggs (about 4-5 extra large), plus more as needed

1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon milk for egg wash


1. Preheat oven to 400 F and line a sheet pan with parchment (or use a Silpat). 

2. Combine milk, water, butter, granulated coconut flower nectar and salt in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, whisk ingredients until fully combined and mixture has come to a boil.

3. Remove from heat, then in one addition, add the pastry flour and whisk vigorously until fully combined.

4. Return to medium heat, and with a wooden spoon or spatula, stir until mixture pulls away from sides and forms a ball.

5. Remove from heat and carefully deposit dough in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn speed to medium, then gradually add egg yolks, one by one, until each is fully incorporated. Stop the mixer, scape down the sides, then give it one last mixing to make sure every last bit of egg is blended in.

6. Spoon about half of the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip (kitchen hack: a heavy duty plastic freezer bag with about 1/4 inch snipped from the corner can work in a pinch). Pipe about 10-12 5-inch éclairs onto the sheet, leaving at least an inch between each one. Lightly Brush with egg wash. 

7. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 F and bake for another 15 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely. Repeat with remaining Pâte a Choux, or pop in the fridge or freezer for later.


For the filling

1/3 cup cream

1 cup milk  

1/2 cup granulated coconut flower nectar

2 tbsp cornstarch

3 egg yolks

3 tbsp butter

Pinch of salt


1. Combine all ingredients except butter in a blender, and blend until very smooth.

2. Pour blender contents into a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, cook, whisking constantly until mixture has thickened (it will be lumpy at first, then cohesive).

3. Remove from heat, add butter, and whisk constantly until butter is fully melted and mixture is smooth and shiny. Cream should be as thick as pudding, but not as thick as greek yogurt, so if it needs thinning add some more milk or cream, a few tablespoons at a time.


For the ganache

One 2.5oz chocolate bar (your choice!)

1/3 cup cream


1. Chop chocolate into small chunks and place in medium, heatproof bowl.

2. Heat cream until steaming, over the stove or in the microwave.

3. Pour cream over chocolate. Allow to sit, undisturbed, for about 10 minutes, to allow chocolate to melt. 

4. Whisk milk and chocolate until fully combined.


To assemble:

The easiest way to fill an eclair is to cut in half, spoon in filling and drizzle with ganache. But if you want to try the more advanced (and less messy) version, fit a pastry bag with a narrow circular tip then fill bag with cream. On one side of each éclair, poke a small hole, then insert pastry tip and squeeze in cream until full. Dip filled éclairs halfway into warm ganache, face down, then tilt upwards so extra ganache drizzles back into the bowl. Place éclair on baking sheet and allow ganache to cool and set. Enjoy!



Honeycrisp Apple Tart

Crisp fall apples pair with a lemony yogurt cream in this simple to make but sophisticated to behold pastry. Highbrow enough for a dinner party, but chill enough for brunch, this tart owes its brightness to in meyer lemon, and its depth to cinnamon and the caramel undertones of coconut flower nectar.

I'll never understand why people get so intimidated by tarts. They might look like a thousand bucks, but even some of the prettiest ones are nothing other than the dessert world's take on pizza: Make a crust, throw some stuff on it, delight almost everyone. In fact, the word "tart" is so ambiguously open to interpretation that even wikipedia admits there are "no sharp distinctions" between tarts and pies, flans or even quiches. All of this is to basically say that, look, if you make something that has pastry crust on the bottom (again, just the bottom - whether that crust covers the sides and top are open to interpretation), you have successfully made a tart. Seriously.

Think of this recipe as a kind of tart 101: We're going to get pretty detailed on the pastry, but keep the filling is as easy as they come. Because once you master the crust, you've also formed your foundation for an endless flow of creativity, from apple pies to homemade pop tarts to savory quiches filled with caramelized onions and gruyere. 

Here, we use Siggi's yogurt and honeycrisp apples to keep our pastry cream thick and our filling seasonal, but you can swap the Siggis for plain greek yogurt, and any type of apple for the honeycrisps. A meyer lemon brings brightness to the filling, and its juice keeps the apple slices from going brown, but again, using a regular lemon is fine. Like I mentioned, when it comes to tarts, fillings can be pretty flexible. 

Honeycrisp Apple Tart

For the tart:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp granulated coconut flower nectar (optional)

1 cup butter, very cold and cut into small cubes

1/3 cup + 1 tbsp ice water


For the yogurt pastry cream:

1 1/2 cups Icelandic or greek yogurt 

1/3 cup granulated coconut flower nectar

1 tbsp meyer lemon peel

1 tsp vanilla


For the apples:

2 large honeycrisp apples

3 tbsp butter

Juice of one meyer lemon

1/3 cup granulated coconut flower nectar

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt


1. For the tart: Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter cubes, and with a food processor, pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture until butter is in small pieces, about the size of peas. The point here is to work quickly so the butter doesn't become overly soft or melt, so if you start to notice the butter pieces getting too squishy as you work (which happens more regularly when you use your hands), just pop the whole mixing bowl in the freezer for five minutes, then resume. 

When flour mixture is ready, gently fold in the ice water using a fork or spatula. Don't overmix; when the dough forms a loose but very flaky ball, it's ready. Using your hands, form a flat ball with the dough, then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

To make your tart shell, preheat the over to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Grease and flour an 11 inch tart pan and set aside. Lightly flour a countertop surface, then place chilled dough on top of the floured surface and dust a little more flour on top. Using a rolling pin, evenly roll your dough to a 1/4 inch thick circle, pausing regularly to flip your dough and lightly re-flour the surfaces of both the countertop and the dough. Center the rolled dough over your tart pan, then ensure there are no air gaps between the dough and your pan by gently pressing dough to the bottom and sides. Trim excess dough from the edges.

Using a fork, poke the dough every two inches or so to allow steam to escape when it bakes. You can place your tart pan in the oven just like this for a puffier crust, or line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked beans to produce a denser one. 

Bake tart in oven for 25 minutes. If you're using the pie weight method, remove tart after twenty minutes, carefully remove the parchment paper and weights, then return to the oven for 5 more minutes. When tart is golden brown, remove from over and cool.

2. For the pastry cream: Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk very thoroughly. Thank God for the simpleness of this step after that tart shell.

3. For the apples: Slice apples into very thin slices, about 1/5th of an inch. Place lemon juice, butter, cinnamon, salt and coconut sugar in a large saute pan, and cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and mixture is transparent. Add sliced apples and cook until apples have softened, but before they turn to mush - about 8-12 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

4. To assemble: Spread pastry cream evenly inside tart shell. Beginning at one edge of the tart, vertically place a slice of apple on top of the pastry cream, then working in a circle, add another apple slice, slightly overlapping the former. When you've made a complete circle, begin that process again, overlapping your first circular row of apples by about an inch. Continue until you reach the center of the tart. Eat immediately or refrigerate.