Pastarelle Al Cioccolato For The Daring Bakers

I am not a pastry chef. If anything, what I aim to be is a decent cook and a good artisan home-baker. But fine patisserie and cake decoration is definitely not my thing. So when I read that the monthly challenge for the Daring Bakers was to make pate a choux, and possibly shape it in artistic ways, I was totally out of my comfort zone.

Then I realized that pate a choux is the base to make one of my favorite childhood treats… chocolate eclairs, or pastarelle al cioccolato as we used to call them in Rome. And since I was totally unprepared to do fine patisserie, I ended up getting some piping bags (which I truly did not know how to use) and armed myself with patience and perseveration: just could not resist the desire of tasting pastarelle again.

For the filling, I chose to use the original Italian recipe for crema pasticcera al cioccolato that my mom has been using since forever (taken from an old -and extremely heavy- book I brought with me to Sweden, “il talismano della felicita'”), and for the pate a choux I used the amazingly good recipe posted by Kat from The Bobwhites, who was our creative monthly challenge hostess (scroll down for recipes and step-by-step pictures).


You need

Crema pasticcera al cioccolato (Italian chocolate custard): 180 g (1 and 1/2 cups) confectioners’ sugar, 150 g (1 and 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour, 6 egg yolks, pinch od salt, 1 liter (2.2 lbs) milk, peel of half lemon, 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, 100 g (3.5 oz) bitter-sweet chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa), 2 tablespoon cocoa powder.

Pate a Choux (for the eclairs shells): 115 g (1/2 cup) butter, 240 g (1 cup) water, 1/4 teaspoon (1½ g) salt, 140 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour, 4 large eggs.

Chocolate glaze: 125 g (4.4 oz) butter, 150 g (5.3 oz) bittersweet chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa).

How to

Crema pasticcera al cioccolato (Italian chocolate custard): Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the flour and continue whisking. Meanwhile bring the milk close to a boil, with the lemon peel in it. Remove the milk from heat and add, little by little, to the eggs mixture, continuing to whisk energically. Cook the batter stirring frequently until it becomes dense (but not gluey!). Use a standard mixer with a whisking device if you have it, it helps! Remove the lemon peel. When the crema seems almost done, add the melted chocolate, the cocoa powder and the vanilla. Add the butter while the crema is cooling down and stir occasionally.

Pate a Choux (for the eclairs shells): Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C . In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over until butter melts, then remove from stove. Add flour all at once and beat, beat, beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot. Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition.

Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick. Fill a piping bag with the batter and form long or round shapes on the baking sheet lined with baking paper (see picture below). Make sure to leave enough space… they rise amazingly much!

The most difficult thing for me was the baking time, which was not specified. I found that 35 minutes works great for me. After the first 18 minutes, I lowered the temperature from the initial  375°F/190°C to 320°F/160°C. It is fundamental to give the shells the time to stabilize. If they are taken out from the oven too early they will deflate (that’s what happened to my first batch – pictures are from the second, successful, batch).

Cooling down

Always disturbing my baking

Filling: when the shells are cool, fill them with the crema al cioccolato by inserting gently the tip of the piping bag in each shell, sideways.

For the chocolate glaze, just melt and combine the butter and the chocolate. Let rest a little while and then dipp the filled shells, upside down, in the glaze. Now let it solidify.

Isn’t baked pate a choux a true baking miracle?

Le pastarelle al cioccolato sono pronte! Chocolate eclairs ready to be served. Yum!

CONSIDERATIONS: Well, did I say I am not a pastry chef? Making these pastarelle was so empowering that I almost feel like one now. And the most amazing thing is that they truly tasted like those we used to buy at our favorite bakery when I was a child. Always on a Sunday afternoon and always enclosed in golden wrapping paper to bring to relatives’ and friends’ and share together over a cup of milk (for me) or good espresso (for the adults). More and more I realize how incredible baking (as well as cooking) really is. It can make you experience totally new flavors. Or bring back, surprisingly unspoiled, old flavors which we thought were gone forever. Like these pastarelle. And the pleasure of sharing them with family and friends. Always on a Sunday afternoon.

A friend said that my pictures look like some type of food porn…

Precisely, was my answer

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Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! 🙂

Latest posts by Barbara Elisi (see all)

36 replies
  1. sandra
    sandra says:

    Porca miseriaccia infame che pastarelle al cioccolato! Noi le chiamiamo mignon di bignè…. una tira l’altra…. la tua crema pasticcera mi fa ammattire…. bellissima!

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      thank YOU Mary!! they really are worth the effort. already planning to make them again. they taste so good that my family and friends (and myself) were in total awe.

  2. MC
    MC says:

    You have outdone yourself, Barbara! These pastarelle look fantastically appealing, so much so that I may end up trying my hand at them myself (coming from someone who has never been a huge fan of éclairs au chocolat, believe me, it is a very strong indication of how seductive these little pastries are). I love it that the filling looks so dark, creamy and luscious and the glazing so dark and shiny. And the photogaphy is stunning, as usual! Brava!!!

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      MC you know you always make me feel as if my favorite teacher in school is actually praising me. I also am not as fond of most of the eclairs I had as an adult, in different countries. but these were really like those they used to make in Rome. many years ago.

  3. Kim
    Kim says:

    THEY LOOK HEAVENLY! Okay now that I have gotten that exclamation out of the way, I have such similar expereinces when it comes to foods I have had in the past and found again as an adult. I must say reading your blog brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing the story of your childhood Sundays!

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      Kim, thank you so much for actually reading the text. and you must be one sensitive person to capture my feeling while I was writing (I also was close to tears, happy tears though). xox

  4. Roz
    Roz says:

    These little chocolate eclairs look absolutely incredible. And I particularly like the smaller size. Your mother’s filling will be a huge success with my family of chocoholics! Grazie, ciao bella!

  5. Shelley C
    Shelley C says:

    Yum, yum, YUM!! I love the idea of chocolate filled eclairs!! You did a fantastic job on this challenge. And I love all of your photos – really great work 🙂

  6. Korena
    Korena says:

    Empowerment through pastry! And I’m just going to go ahead and say that I love your food porn. I want one (OK, six) of these so badly right now – the chocolate filling with lemon sounds so good!

  7. rita cooks italian
    rita cooks italian says:

    Oh le pastarelle al cioccolato !! What a great coincidence, we both are from Rome and we both LOVE our Sundays pastarella treats!!! These are gorgeous! I baked several times these type of pastarelle and I used a similar recipe (my secret Italian book is ‘Vera, Il Nuovo Annabella in Cucina’ di Rizzoli). Do you beat the egg by hand or use an electric mixer?? I beat by hand and it is very tiring. Ciao e COMPLIMENTI sono bellissime.

  8. Federica
    Federica says:

    Forse non ti sentirai una pasticcera ma questi bignè ti sono venuti alla perfezione, belli gonfi e vuoti all’interno. E farciti con quel ricco ripieno cioccolatoso sono una tentazione unica. Buona serata, baci 🙂

  9. Barb Bamber
    Barb Bamber says:

    Barbara!! Oh my gosh these look amazing! I’ve longed to try this sort of recipe for so very long but never had the courage. (deep down in my soul I think I’m also afraid I will hide them in my cupboard and eat the entire batch myself) You’ve made it look so achievable and your photos are definitely food porn… wonderful food porn!! xx Smidge

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      thanks a lot Barb. I really want to make them achievable so people won’t miss out the pleasure of making and eating pastarelle! (it is so nice to share them with family that I’m sure you would not keep these for yourself)

  10. Veronica
    Veronica says:

    Brava, Barbara! Well done! This is something I’ve always wanted to try and somehow have not got around to it yet. For not being a pastry chef, you certainly did a professional looking job!

  11. Baltic Maid
    Baltic Maid says:

    These chocolate eclairs definitely look professional. I only made eclairs once (but bought them a lot in German bakeries) but you inspired me to make them again. Thank you!!! And I truly know what you mean about cooking and baking. It is so exciting to discover new and old flavours. I sometimes turn into an little kid being unable to control my excitement about new or old flavours. Living in a different country than you grew up in definitely heightens the joy of rediscovering flavours… 🙂


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