- For the pastry
- 75g/2½oz butter, diced
- 200ml/7fl oz water
- 100g/4oz strong plain flour
- 3 free-range eggs, beaten
- For the cream
- 250ml/9fl oz double or whipping cream
- For the chocolate icing
- 100g/4oz caster sugar
- 100ml/3½oz water
- 50g/2oz dark chocolate
- 25g/1oz unsalted butter
1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Place the butter, water and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon as the butter melts.
2. Meanwhile, sift the flour into a small bowl.
3. When the butter has melted, turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil. Switch off the heat and quickly tip the flour into the saucepan. Immediately beat the flour into the liquid with the wooden spoon to mix all the ingredients together. Stop beating when the mixture swells into a smooth dough that comes away from the sides of the saucepan. This should take only a few seconds.
4. Let the mixture cool for 3-4 minutes. Pour in a little of the beaten egg into the flour mixture and beat it in well. Keep adding and beating in the egg, a little at a time, until the dough looks thick, smooth and shiny and still holds its shape well. You may not need the last two or three tablespoonfuls of egg if your eggs are large.
5. Spoon the mixture into a freezer bag (you'll need to scrape it out of the pan with a plastic spatula). Fold down the top of the bag to squeeze the dough to the bottom. Snip off one of the bottom corners of the bag to give you a hole about 1cm long.
6. Line two flat baking sheets with baking parchment. Squeeze the mixture into chipolata-sized sausage shapes on to the parchment, allowing about 4cm between each one (they will at least double in size in the oven). You should be able to make about 12.
7. Wearing oven gloves, place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Take the éclairs out when they are puffed up, golden brown all over, and feel hard when you poke one with a knife.
8. Immediately take each éclair off the baking sheet (they will be very hot, so wear oven gloves) and, with the point of a knife, gently slit the side to let out the steam. (Otherwise, the steam sits trapped in the éclair and turns back to water, leaving you with a soggy bun.) Leave them to cool and dry out on a wire rack.
9. Whip the cream in a small bowl until it is just thick enough to hold its shape. Place it in the fridge while you make the chocolate icing.
10. For the icing, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a low heat. Heat gently, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and boil fast for three minutes. Switch off the hob and wait for a few minutes for the syrup to cool down (you can speed this up by dipping the base of the pan in a bowl of cold water if you like). Meanwhile, break up the chocolate and cut the butter into chunks.
11. When the syrup is very warm, rather than very hot, add the chocolate and butter. Stir until both have melted and blended to a smooth, glossy sauce. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally. When the sauce starts to thicken, it's ready to ice your éclairs.
12. When the buns are cool, use a teaspoon to fill the inside of each éclair with whipped cream (you may need to enlarge the slit you made before). Then take a different teaspoon and smear the chocolate icing generously over each éclair. Leave the éclairs on the wire rack until the icing has set. In the unlikely event that you're not going to eat them straight away, you can put them in the fridge for a few hours.