Monday, September 1, 2008

Daring Bakers 3: Chocolate Eclairs

Not again! I am posting this one day late (in my part of the world), as I did last month too. I have been waiting to post this month's Daring Bakers challenge for weeks, and when the day finally arrives it simply slips my mind? Anyway, I'm here now!

This month's hosts were Tony Tahhan and MeetaK, and what a fantastic challenge it was. I've said it once but i'll say it again- I love the variety of things I am baking now. Before I would usually stick to the same old things, so it has been great! I was over the moon when I saw this month's challenge was Chocolate Eclairs by none other than the God of pastry himself- Pierre Herme (insert cheering). Could my month get any better? I love Pierre Herme, I love chocolate, I love eclairs and I have never got around to making choux pastry before.

Usually I can't wait and I'll pretty much do the challenge as soon as it's posted, but this month I was a little busy and had to wait a couple of weeks. After reading people's comments and frustrations I must admit I was genuinely scared. Well, there must be a reason I haven't attempted choux pastry before! From what I had heard beforehand, choux pastry is relatively simple to make. Fear aside I went ahead and made sure I had read every problem people had had, and also many tips ensuring perfect eclairs. I must have missed something... My first batch puffed up beautifully in the oven, but as soon as I took them out they collapsed into a soggy mess! A combination I think of my eclairs being too big and not enough cooking time. Ahh well... my second attempt proved much more fruitful. I made the eclairs smaller and made sure they were well baked before removing them. Once they were out of the oven I made a small incision to let the steam out (to prevent them from going soggy). Next time I need to work on making the eclairs more uniform in shape. It was really hard to pipe the choux pastry uniformly. Tartlette suggested piping one long line of choux pastry, freezing it, then cutting it into your eclair shapes. Good idea- i'll be doing this next time (though the idea of piping one huge line the same thickness is worrying since I couldn't even pipe little 10cm lines very well). Choux pastry down, chocolate glaze and chocolate pastry cream to go...

I've made pastry cream before so I wasn't too concerned. This recipe from Pierre Herme is absolutely delicious! Not that I ever doubted him. I made the pastry cream in advance to make my time baking these easier. Thankfully I did because I had so much trouble with the chocolate glaze...

My first attempt at the glaze was going well. Until I added the chocolate sauce to the chocolate glaze. It split! Horribly so... there was no way it could be saved. What a shame, because Valrhona isn't exactly cheap. On my second attempt, I made sure I paid close attention to every detail so as to avoid my previous mishap. Well the pastry God's were not on my side and my chocolate glaze split once again. Just like my first attempt- when I added the chocolate sauce to the chocolate glaze... I was not going to waste anymore Valrhona so I ended up just topping the eclairs with a ganache. I think the glaze would have been wonderful had it worked out though. From what I gather, I may have been going wrong with the melting of the chocolate and butter together? Maybe I had it on too high a heat and it was splitting from then? Honestly I am not too sure...

Overall they tasted delicious! Well worth the wait...

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.


Rebecca of "Ezra Pound Cake" said...

Wow, your eclairs look so perfect. I wound up wishing I'd just made a ganache. Such a strange glaze/sauce.

Steven said...

They look stunning as usual!


breadchick said...

Those are absolutley perfect!!

Bria said...

Thanks!! I can't wait to make them again!

Tartelette said...

They look so plump and delicious!
One way to fix a splitting glaxe (albeit cheating on the challenge but saving you time and money) is to add some sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until it comes together.

Bria said...

tartlette thank you so much for the tip! Maybe I will brave the glaze again now it won't go to waste.