Daring Baker’s Challenge – Eclairs in August

 

Jasmine really loved the chocolate glaze.

The Challenge: Chocolate Eclairs from Pierre Hermé’s book, Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé.

The Hosts: Tony Tahanand/Meetak

Many, many thanks to our wonderful hosts this month. What a wonderful recipe they chose and how supportive and marvelous they were. (Insert applause here).

Hurry up Autumn, I’m getting a little tired of baking in a 100 degree kitchen and worrying I’m going to drip sweat into dough or something. This month’s challenge was Pierre Hermé’s (swoons  because I worship the pastry laden, rose petal Isapahan ground he walks on) luscious chocolate éclairs.

Did I stay true to my idol’s recipe? Um well, I changed one little thing. The cream filling was not chocolate but something summery and lighter. Lavender-orange pastry cream. The rest was true to Mr. Hermé’s recipes (is it not wonderful that he is not only a pastry God but has the same last name as that vintage buttery leather 72k handbag on ebay)? I’m just saying. Pastry, Birken…ecstasy, heaven. Okay, okay get on with the recipe. No one cares about my obsession with Hermé, both the bags and the chef. And yes, I know the bag is Hermes but its close enough for me.

Marissa dropped the kids off early and we washed up and got ready to bake. The first thing we started with was the pastry cream. It turned out perfectly, smooth, thick and lucious until i put it into its ice water bath. I turned to grab ingredients for the chocolate sauce and Aiden took the opportunity to add about a quarter cup of ice water INTO THE CREAM! Yeah, so. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. He’s three, he thought he was creating something wondrous and being helpful. I wanted to fix it, but I couldn’t. It was his little creation. So we had runny cream filling, so what?

 

This is when he did it

I took several deep breaths and moved onto the chocolate sauce, which was divine. Mmmmm chocolate. Jasmine and I made the glaze together. She looked at me and said, “Grammy, you’re going to put chocolate in chocolate?” and looked puzzled. When I said yes, she beamed and squealed something about chocolate and more chocolate. I agreed. Chocolate on chocolate is a marvelous thing. When it was all done, I reached for a bowl to pour it in and Jasmine quickly grabbed her favorite Barbie bowl instead. Beaming proudly, she said “Grammy that yummy chocolate can use my bowl.” So it was that Pierre Hermé’s sleek, sophisticated chocolate glaze ended up in a 99 cent pink plastic Barbie bowl. I won’t get into my militant feelings about Barbie because Jasmine can read now.

Next up the Pâte à Choux. Yeah oooooooooh. I was dubious about the whole cooked dough thing and I could tell Jasmine was too. She wanted to know why it wasn’t going straight to the Kitchen-Aid but I just shrugged and started heating the milk. When it was boiling, I handed her the cup of flour and nodded. “All of it Grammy?”, she asked. I nodded. She looked at me, her little eyes wide and then shrugged and dumped it in. Wow. I started stirred and we had a big lump of golden dough. I kept stirring to dry the dough and it did create a little crust on the bottom of the pan. Once it had been dryed enough, I transferred it to the Kitchen-aid and started mixing.

Now the crap part they don’t tell you about. Pâte à Choux is sticky, way sticky. Getting it into the pastry bag was a mess. Working with it was tough. I thought I had done something wrong, so I took a minute to chat online with a chef friend. “Is Pâte à Choux supposed to be stick?” Answer: “it has been every time I’ve worked with it” Great. Back to work. Aiden kept eating the sticky dough and I couldn’t get the gunk off my hands but managed to pipe some éclair-like blobs onto the baking sheet. I popped them into the oven and did the oven door wooden spoon trick later in the baking. They came out beautifully and puffed up proudly. Things were looking up.

 

Jasmine and Aiden were so excited they couldn’t stand it. I could barely fill the mini-eclairs and cream puffs fast enough. The lavender-orange filling was so good with all that chocolate. Marissa came home and ate several in quick succession and we both decided for the sake of our butts to take the rest of the platter over to That Yarn Store for David and the gang to munch on.

We had so much fun making these and I can’t wait till the weather is cool and we can do it again. Next time though, I’ll make cream puffs only. They held much more pastry cream and were easier to pipe.

 

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.

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 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.

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 create
bubbles.

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
boil.

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.

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 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.

[bNotes:[/b]
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.

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 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.

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.

 

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