Monday, September 1, 2008

Back With a Puff: Chocolate Eclairs with a Daring Baker


Chocolate Eclairs, for me, are melt in the mouth Choux Pastry that brings with it an explosion of the cream puff, fresh cream filling, and the very fudgy chocolate glaze!! Its a recipe that I picked up sometime in high school and have many happy memories of seeing the joy it has brought to everyone I have shared it with. Needless to say, I was delighted when I found that Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé was the recipe chosen by Meeta and Tony for the August Daring Bakers Challenge!!

The recipe as posted on the DB Challenge shows Éclairs as consisting of 3 elements:- Pate a Choux, or Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough, Pastry Cream, and Chocolate Glaze. The detailed recipe is as follows:

Chocolate Éclairs @ Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
makes 20-24 Éclairs

Making the Cream Puffs:
  1. Take one portion Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.
Assembling the Eclairs:
  1. For this you need the Chocolate Glaze (see below for recipe), the Chocolate Pastry Cream (see above for recipe), and the cooled Eclairs.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough Ingredients & Recipe:
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. Yaounde 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 hand mixer 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.
  5. 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 Ingredients & Recipe:
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.
  6. 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 Ingredients & Recipe:(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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 Ingredients & Recipe: (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)
  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.
  3. 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.
  4. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.
What I Did:

I followed the recipe for the Cream Puffs as per Herme, though I made only half the quantity. The dough was really easy to make and came together very well. I used my especially purchased piping bag to pipe out the eclairs. The size of my eclairs was around 11/2". I baked them for around 24 minutes total following the method above, but found it was just simpler to bake in the middle rack of the oven. The Choux Pastry turned out beautiful, firm, and sounded hollow when I gave it a gentle tap.

When the puffs cooled down I filled them with fresh whipped cream, and covered the tops with the chocolate glaze. Simple, beautiful, and delicious!!
All text and photographs in this blog, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright of © Annarasa 2007. All Rights Reserved. Kindly do not reproduce without permission.

11 comments:

  1. Whipped cream.now wy didn't I think of that :)

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  2. Looks good. they sure were good

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  3. Yours not only look great, but who doesn't love a whipped cream filled pastry? Also, the sheen in your glaze is exceptional :)

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  4. Great looking eclairs! Sounds like your experience lead you to great eclairs the first time out of the block! :-)

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  5. The eclairs look delicous. The presentation is lovely!

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  6. Yum, those eclairs certainly look beautiful and delicious. Way to go on this month's challenge :)

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  7. Eclairs are looking pretty good. This post wasn't up when I cam earlier.:)

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  8. fantastic job!! I often use whipped cream to lighten my pastry creams, we don't like the heavy stuff. Whipped cream is awesome!!

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