The words pâte à choux are enough to instill fear in anyone without a diplôme de patisserie. But don’t be intimidated by the French’s fancy words and elegant reputation—it’s easier than you think to make excellent éclairs at home.
Pâte à choux, or cream puff paste, is actually one of the most basic French pastries. It takes just a few simple ingredients and a short stint in the oven to become the light, airy casing for some of your favorite dessert platter staples—including pastry cream-filled éclairs.
HOW TO FILL A PASTRY BAG
STEP #1 Holding the pastry bag in one hand, fold the top of the pastry bag down about halfway. Insert the tip into the point of the bag (it peeks through the hole about ½ inch or so) and press it securely in place.
STEP #2 Scrape the filling into the bag until the bag is half full.
STEP #3 Pull up the sides of the bag, push down the filling, and twist tightly. Push down on the bag to squeeze the air out and push the filling into the tip.
STEP #4 Grip the bag at the base of the bag, twist, and squeeze to form a shape. If the tip gets clogged while piping, move the tip over a bowl and apply more pressure to release the blockage. To get the hang of using a pastry bag, we suggest practicing on a sheet of parchment paper.
HOW TO MAKE THE ECLAIRS
STEP #1 Using a ½-inch plain tip and a large pastry bag, pipe eight 5 by 1-inch logs of pate a choux on the prepared baking sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
STEP #2 After the pastry shells have been baked and cooled, use the tip of a small knife to cut 3 small Xs along the top of each pastry. Pipe the pastry cream into the shells through each X.
STEP #3 Transfer the éclairs to a wire rack set over a sheet of parchment paper (for easy cleanup), and spoon the warm glaze evenly over the tops, being sure to cover the holes.