Chocolate Eclairs-A Daring Baker Challenge

Tony and MeetaK, hosts for the August Daring Bakers’ challenge picked a most elegant pastry that most everyone loves, but probably won’t make at home because not only does the choux pastry looks intimidating, but the pastry cream has to be prepared in advance as well as the chocolate glaze. All these steps can be done in stages and the eclairs can be assembled when ready to serve with little effort. I joined the Daring Bakers’ group to broaden my knowledge of all things baked, fancy and plain. The chocolate eclairs is a dessert that I saw prepared years ago when I took a French cooking class in Dieppe, a city in the Normandy region of France. My husband was in the US Air Force Medical Corps and was stationed at RAF Lakenheath near Cambridge, England. A few friends and I took the ferry over from England to France and stayed in a hotel where the classes were being given. It was my first cooking class, but was mostly demonstration and not hands-on. However, it fostered my love for the French cooking techniques and was wonderful travel experiencePierre Hermé’s Cream Puff DoughRecipe 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 temperature1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to theboil.2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to mediumand start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together veryquickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. Youneed to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the doughwill be very soft and smooth.3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using yourhandmixer 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 donot worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time youhave added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted itshould 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.Notes: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 bakingsheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer thepiped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.Chocolate Pastry Cream Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé• 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 temperature1) 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.Notes1) 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. Notes: 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 SauceRecipe 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. Notes: 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.Assembly• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds bypositioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets withwaxed 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 thehandle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in theoven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continuebaking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total bakingtime should be approximately 20 minutes.Notes: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 thebottoms 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 – 40degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops ofthe éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill thebottoms with the pastry cream.3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottomswith enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry creamand wriggle gently to settle them.Notes: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 createbubbles.2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.See ya next post!

16 Comments

  1. Meeta
    August 31, 2008 / 12:55 pm

    simply gorgeous! I actually preferred them minis than the longer shaped ones. Nicely done !

  2. Anonymous
    August 31, 2008 / 2:28 pm

    That class must have been something else! How neat. Your éclairs look mighty good, glad you got to make them.

  3. Annemarie
    August 31, 2008 / 3:00 pm

    Ah, yours turned out wonderfully puffy and perfect looking. Nice touch with the cup of coffee on the side – only a half-smoked cigarette on the side would have made it more authentic. 😉

  4. Heather B
    August 31, 2008 / 3:33 pm

    Great job! Your eclairs look very delicious!

  5. Courtney
    August 31, 2008 / 3:36 pm

    I liked how you drizzled the chocolate on top of the eclair. that would cure my fear of it being too chocolaty.

  6. HoneyB
    August 31, 2008 / 4:15 pm

    I am in awe of the awesome photos I am seeing – yours included. Great job!

  7. Tablebread
    August 31, 2008 / 8:11 pm

    That’s amazing that you were first able to see the technique demonstrated by a French chef and then try it yourself! Amazing resulst!

  8. Natashya
    August 31, 2008 / 11:00 pm

    Yummy looking eclairs, and so good with black coffee! You got a really nice colour on your pastry.

  9. Katie B.
    September 1, 2008 / 2:16 am

    My goodness – I want to come to your house! Your eclair/coffee combo has me drooling!!

  10. maybelle's mom
    September 1, 2008 / 2:32 am

    gorgeous. I did minis too.

  11. Jude
    September 1, 2008 / 8:38 am

    Awesome photos. Joined DB for the same reasons as you and I’ve really been learning a lot from the group.

  12. Molly Loves Paris
    September 1, 2008 / 7:40 pm

    You made lovely looking eclairs, and I bet they tasted as nice. Bien fait.

  13. Lunch Buckets
    September 1, 2008 / 9:15 pm

    Nicely done!

  14. Andrea
    September 2, 2008 / 12:12 am

    What a great opportunity to take a cooking class in France! Your eclairs look lovely. Nicely done!

  15. Deborah
    September 2, 2008 / 5:59 pm

    How fun to take a cooking class in France!! Your eclairs look just perfect.

  16. Shari
    September 5, 2008 / 2:33 am

    Eclairs and coffee. i can’t think of anything better than that!

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