Friday, August 29, 2008

Daring Baker's Challenge for August: Eclairs au chocolat!!

I almost fell off my chair when I found out that this month's DB challenge was CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS. I love all things French, and I especially love all things Pierre Herme! Since I bought his book I have amazed myself at how wonderful his recipes turn out. Needless to say, this challenge wasn't for every-day eclairs, it was for PIERRE HERME eclairs! It's like having a French pastry shop in your kitchen!

One thing you have to understand about eclairs. A French eclair is a delicate pastry filled with wonderful pastry cream. Chocolate ones are filled with chocolate pastry cream, coffee ones are filled with coffee pastry cream. These should not be confused with the Dunkin Donuts huge bavarian cream filled "eclair". No no no, that will not do! I saw so many DB folks filling their eclairs with bavarian cream and just thought NO!!! must use the fabulous pastry cream by Pierre Herme!! If you make it, you'll know why...

Anyway, long story short, I made the recipe and had no troubles whatsoever (lots of folks had problems with the "puff" part). I made both chocolate and coffee eclairs. For the coffee ones, I just made a vanilla pastry cream but added 3/4 cup espresso to it, and used a coffee glaze (espresso mixed with confectioners sugar). With my extra egg whites, I made chocolate macarons, just for a 1-2 French whammy.

I served these at my birthday party and people were asking me who did the catering. They were the first thing devoured from the buffet table! That's when you know you have a hit!!!

So a huge thank you to Tony Tahhan and to MeetaK for this fantastic challenge, I think everyone is a lot more comfortable with French pastry now!!

Here's the recipe, fear not its length!!

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 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 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.


pixxienix said...

Lesley! hehe you almost went ballistic with the bavarian-filled "french" eclairs, now didn't you ;) it's true though, the pastry cream just HAS to be tried. Love your work!

FoodieFroggy said...

Wow, je ne suis pas surprise que les éclairs aient été mangés rapidement par tes invités ! Et tu as aussi fait des macarons ! Un anniversaire très français ! By the way, très joyeux anniversaire !

Nidhi said...

Hey Lesley! What fabulous job!! You already know your eclairs are a hit! I came so close to making the coffee cream but ended up making the chocolate one only as my guests adore chocolate.........and then I had read that your chocolate eclairs went faster:)) Thank you for all your help.

Aran said...

not only eclairs but macarons also! wow! fabulous!

Molly Loves Paris said...

Wow! You did a fantastic job. I also made mine for a birthday party, along with the l'Opera, but I found it difficult with all the people around, and I ended up with mini-eclairs. But my son in law thought they were wonderful.

Mary said...

Very professional looking desserts. I, too, would've asked which patisserie they were from. :)

BitterSweet said...

I like how you provided two different choices for your guests- Both flavors sound delicious!

Cakespy said...

Wow, I love your coffee ones!! These look amazing. And macarons too!! We're not worthy!!!

Tartelette said...

You did a wonderful job with the challenge! I knew you would love this one and it shows! Well done!

Christy said...

I'm glad the recipe worked out well for you!! You are probably the only person who was that lucky!! Most of us had to extend baking time etc. to get the eclairs working for us!! I bet they tasted gorgeous!!

Vera said...

Lesley, Your éclairs are beautiful!

Eat4Fun said...

Great looking eclairs! The coffee eclairs look/sounds absolutely delicious.

Also, thanks for the words of encouragement to my question in the forum. :)

Lisa Michelle said...

Lesley, your eclairs are perfection. I love that coffee glaze, (I don't drink coffee, but give me coffee in a dessert, and I'm a happy camper), and splitting it up between chocolate and coffee, gives your lucky recipients a choice.

On another note, what recipe do you use for your macarons? They're some of the most beautiful macs I've ever seen, not to mention they look delicious!