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The guide to perfect (and delicious) eclairs

You’re guaranteed to be the host with the most after debuting this all-out dessert. 

Pastry perfection 

Choux pastry (pronounced like “shoe”) is a magical thing. The unique ratio of five ingredients that everyone has at home allows the pastry to steam in the oven and magically rise to create feather-light buns that are hollow in the centre. The centres are then filled with anything from custard and ganache to chocolate mousse. 

Crispy crust  

Choux buns can be made and stored in a sealed container for up to three days in advance, but keep in mind that over time they become soft. To crisp them up before assembling, simply pop them into the oven at 180°C for 10 minutes. 


Boil butter, water and salt


Add flour to create a choux


Add eggs to create the dough or pastry

Perfect choux pastry 

A pastry that can be dressed up or down to fit into any event. Stack them to create a tower or simply serve as single bite-size buns. A piping bag with a large round nozzle will come in handy. 

Makes 20-30 buns


¼ cup + 1 Tbsp (75g) butter 
¾ cup (180ml) warm water 
Pinch of fine salt 
2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp (110g) flour 
4 large eggs 


  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease two baking trays. 
  2. Add butter, water and salt into a pot and bring to a boil. (Cover with a lid to avoid evaporation.) 
  3. Once bubbling, add flour all at once and stir vigorously until a smooth and lump-free ball forms that pulls away from the side of the pot. 
  4. Place pastry in a glass bowl and flatten against the base and sides for quick and easy cooling. (Cooling is essential to avoid eggs cooking once they touch the pastry.) 
  5. Once cool to the touch, add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated before adding the next. 
  6. After adding the last egg, your pastry should be smooth and shiny, and fall in a consistent, thickened stream when you lift your spoon. 
  7. Snip the corner off a disposable piping bag and fit with your nozzle. Place nozzle folded upward in a tall glass to avoid the filling pouring out, and wrap the opening of the bag around the rim of the glass. 
  8. Fill bag ¾ full of pastry, pick up the bag and twist tightly to close.
  9. Pipe 3cm rounds of pastry onto the trays, keeping them 4cm apart. 
  10. With a wet teaspoon or finger, flatten any pointy tops on pastry, then splash specks of water over trays and onto buns. (Splashing lightly with water ensures a crispy top. This is because the water turns into steam in the oven.) 
  11. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate trays 180 degrees and reduce heat to 180°C. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until pastry is puffed and is golden. 
  12. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack. 
  13. Store cooled pastries in an airtight container until ready to fill and serve.

Remember: once the filling is added, the pastry will start to soften, so make sure to add your filling just before serving if possible. 

The all-important filling 

For the topping, melted dark chocolate is an absolute winner, but you can also have fun with white or milk chocolate, icing glaze (icing sugar and hot water with food colouring) and decorate with chopped nuts, edible flowers or caramel. 

Crème pâtissière  

Makes 3 cups 

This classic yet versatile dessert is the perfect way to add some creamy flavour to your choux pastry. 


½ cup (100g) granulated sugar 
¼ cup (30g) corn flour 
½ tsp (3ml) fine salt 
4 egg yolks 
2 cups (500ml) milk 
2 tsp (10ml) vanilla essence 
1 Tbsp (15g) butter  


  1. Whisk together sugar, corn flour, salt and egg yolks until smooth and light. Set aside. 
  2. Add milk, vanilla and butter to a small pot, heat until steaming hot.
  3. Add hot milk in a thin, steady stream while whisking in the egg mixture. (This slow addition of a hot ingredient is called tempering and prevents the yolks from cooking.) 
  4. Return milk and egg mixture to the pot over medium-high heat. Cook while continuously whisking until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. 
  5. For the smoothest custard, pass mixture through a fine mesh sieve. 
  6. Spoon into a bowl, cover with clingwrap directly on the surface and cool completely. Refrigerate for at least two hours. 
  7. Prick the base of pastry buns and use a piping bag to fill your pastry with the cooled custard, or slice in half and dollop into the cavity, sandwich closed and dip tops in melted chocolate.

Flavour bending  

Custard, or as the French say Crème Pâtissière, can be infused with many different flavours. Try these combos:  

– For a chocolate custard, add 2 Tbsp cocoa to the egg yolk mixture, and stir through 80g chopped dark chocolate to the finished thickened custard. 
– For a coffee flavour, add 5 Tbsp instant coffee to the milk. 
– For a fragrant spiced custard, heat the milk with 1 star anise and 1 cinnamon stick – strain these out before adding to the egg mixture. 
– If you’re looking for a fresher filling, whip cream with sugar to taste, slice choux buns in half and dollop into the cavity. 
– For a zesty tang, swirl berry compote or heated jam through your custard before filling. 

Words by: Sjaan Van Der Ploeg 
Photographs: Zhann Solomons 

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