Sunday, August 31, 2008

Almost late for Daring Bakers Challenge : Chocolate Éclairs

I just came back from NYC this Thursday night and almost couldn't make it for this month's DB challenge. Although there was enough time to tackle the challenge on the first three weeks of August, the procastinator in me decided to wait until I came back.


Little did I expect a 5 days 4 nights getaway with my best friend would leave me so exhausted! I think it must be all the walking we did. I will tell you more about the trip once I have the photos uploaded.

Onto the Daring Bakers challenge now! Like many DBers, I was excited to learn that our hosts- Meeta and Tony had chosen Pierre Herme's Chocolate Éclairs as our August Challenge. I have made a few recipes from the book, so far none of them disappoint.

The chocolate Éclairs consists of 3 components- Choux pastry, chocolate pastry cream and chocolate sauce, all of them can be prepared ahead of time. I made them all this afternoon though, as they were actually quite easy to make.

I made the choux pastry as written, except I started the oven at 400F and lower it to 375F after 5 minutes. The first time when I made the choux pastry, they deflated quite significantly once they were pulled out from the oven. I later learned that it was due to underbake. This time, I baked them about 30 minutes until they turned into golden brown.

chocolate eclairs with salted cherry blossoms

Not wanting to deal with leftover pastry cream, I halved the recipe. As a result, I only managed to fill about 11 shells. The rest of the shells are going to be filled with sorbets/frozen yogurts I made last week. Which will be our dessert tonight.

As for the last component- chocolate sauce, insteads of following the original recipe (with quite a number of steps) I simply melted 2.7oz bittersweet chocolate with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.

I stick with the original recipe for most parts, which is how I like to approach DB's challenges. However, I added some chopped pistachio on some of the eclairs for texture constrast, and the salted cherry blossom on some for an unexpected flavor twist.


As I was making the eclairs, I can't help smiling, remembering the horrible profiteroles my friend ST ordered at one of the celebrated bakeries in NYC. The entree, soup and salad were great. But the profiterole with vanilla bean ice cream? Totally ruined our experience! ST aptly described the texture and taste as card board! The flavorless vanilla bean ice cream didn't help making it any less bearable.

I wish I could share some of these chocolate Éclairs with her now, or some filled with my homemade ice cream to make up for the negative experience! Maybe when she visits me in the next few months, we will make a batch of fresh Éclairs or profiteroles. :) Do you hear me, ST?


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
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.

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.

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.

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)
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.

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.

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.

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.

The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.
Cream Puff Dough
(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
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

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.

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.

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

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

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
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.
Chocolate Glaze
(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
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.

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


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.

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
(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
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.
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.

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.
This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.


Anonymous said...

OH those look wonderful!

Shelby said...

Looks delicious! I love the pistachios and the photo of the piped in pastry cream!

Engineer Baker said...

Salted cherry blossoms? Where in the world do you find those? I'm intrigued by that flavor, and the pistachio one sounds delicious too. Beautiful eclairs.

Anonymous said...

Love your eclairs! They made me want to try the chocolate filling next time:) I made vanilla cream this time.

Passionate About Baking said...

Hi Mandy,
Your eclairs are so beautiful! I didn't realised that the choux pastry can be used for different toppings! You've become my role model for baking. Always looking forward for your posts! :)

Manggy said...

Yeah, those deflating ones are maddening-- these days I bake them till I smell a faint char in the air :D

The eclairs you've made are beautiful-- the ones with the cherry blossoms (the ones with the flowers on top, right?) look very intriguing. I'm curious on how they taste.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Glad you did them after all! They are just beautiful!!! The cherry blossom addition is so interesting!

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

wow... cherry blossoms... fabulous!

Helene said...

Dired cherry blossoms? How cool!! I was wondering where to get those in the US! You did a wonderful job with the eclairs (as if I had a doubt!). Can't wait to read more about your fun trip!

Snooky doodle said...

these look nice . hmm chocolate on chocolate. the cherry blossom gives them a really sophisticated look.

Lunch Buckets said...

Very pretty! And I'm intrigued by the salted cherry blossoms :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, the chopped pistachios and cherry blossoms look amazing. Beautiful color choices.

Vera said...

Mandy, your éclairs look fabulous!
Cherry blossoms? Sounds fantastic!

AK said...

Yummy..Can i have 1 for my sweet tooth ?...LOL

Anonymous said...

Great that you can join us for this challenge. Your eclairs look gorgeous!

Maria said...

The pistachios are a nice addition! Such great color! they look fab!

Deborah said...

They are gorgeous!

Kajal@aapplemint said...

love the dries flowers on top. they look so elegant, and ofcourse the eclairs looks irresistible ! yum !

Half Baked said...

OOhh glad you made it because those look wonderful!

Y said...

Salted cherry blossom! How interesting! Did you buy or make those?

Anonymous said...

Tes éclairs sont magnifiques, super réussis!! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Good for you! I didn't go to NYC and I still didn't get my eclairs made in time. You're a hero!

Lulu the Baker said...

Your eclairs look beautiful! I really like the chopped pistachios on top. If I got your results, I'd procratinate more often!

Mandy said...

thank you all for the kind words!

I got the salted cherry blossoms from my friend Grace, who in turn got it from her friend in Japan.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful eclairs and what unique decorations! I've never seen eclairs with flowers before :)

Anonymous said...

The recipes is very nice and yummy.

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