This pastry has always challenged me, but I found this recipe and troubleshooting guide at TheFlavorBlender.com and now I have no fear of the éclair or cream puff.
8 oz. water
4 oz. unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
4.5 oz. sifted flour
8 oz. eggs (weighed without the shell, about 4 large eggs)
generous pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place salt, water, and butter in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the water is just starting to boil (butter should be melted at this point), remove from the heat and add the flour in one go. Mix the flour in so that it absorbs all of the water (use a wooden spoon or spatula to do this). When the flour has absorbed the water and it’s forming a dough, return the pan to the stove (medium heat).
Cook the dough for 2-5 minutes while you move it around in the pan until you get a dough that pulls away from the sides of the pan, and when you stick a spoon in the dough, it stays upright.
Transfer the dough to a bowl. With a hand held mixer (or whisk), mix the dough while adding the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Make sure the eggs are lightly beaten so that you can stop adding eggs immediately, when you reach the right consistency – a dough with a glossy sheen with pipeable consistency.
Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper.
Pipe the desired shape on to the baking sheet – either using a piping bag fitted with a large tip, or spoon it on to the tray, using a teaspoon. I did classic éclair shapes and also tried cream puffs. They almost triple in size so make sure to take that into account when piping. With a damp finger, flatten any pointy tips. Bake in preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes in the center of the oven, or until the choux pastry shells puff up and are golden brown on top. Do not open the oven door at least till you have reached the 25 minute mark. Importantly, baking time depends on the size of your pastry shell.
Remove from the oven, and prick each shell with a toothpick and let it cool completely.
Fill with whatever you want. I used pastry cream and then dipped them in a mixture of melted chocolate, butter, and powdered sugar.