Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Eclaires

August’s Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen by Meeta of What’s for lunch, Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice.  Meeta chose Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs. An éclair is a delicious French pastry, which is made with choux pastry filled with a cream and topped with a glaze. In the United States the closest thing to an eclair in your local bakery may be a cream-filled long john (however long john’s are made with dough pastry).

I have read about choux pastry before and was excited to try my hand at making my own. It was unbelievably easy to make. When I first saw that this month’s challenge was going to be éclairs I was afraid they would be difficult to make. Difficult, no. Time consuming, yes. Many of my daring bakers thought the choux was a little eggy tasting, and I have to agree. After seeing how easy it was to prepare, I look forward to experimenting with the pastry dough, and hopefully will find a less eggy tasting result.

The rules for this month’s challenge were:

1. We had to use the choux recipe provided
2. Had to use at least one chocolate element (either chocolate glaze and/or chocolate pastry cream)

I decided to make an éclair with a chocolate glaze and a whipped cream filling. Other than the egginess of the choux, they were delicious. Unfortunately my choux did not rise as I had expected; so instead of cutting them in half to fill, I put a layer of whipped cream on a whole baked choux, and topped it with another whole baked choux. It worked wonderfully. I also froze my eclairs right after filling and glazing. I did not want to be tempted to finish them in one weekend. They froze wonderfully, and I can take out as many as I need to thaw when I need them. Set them on the counter for 10-15 before you are ready to eat; they will be delicious.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)
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
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.

Notes:
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.

Baking:

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. (I did not have a pastry bag, so I used a large zip top bag and cut off a small portion of the bottom corner, it worked well in a pinch!) 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. (After making these I read from other bakers that opening the oven could have caused the choux to deflate. Some people recommended baking for 10 minutes at 425 degrees F, then dropping the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and baking for 15-20. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR)

Notes:

The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling

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:
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
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:
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.

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.

Notes:
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.

* I USED THIS WHIPPED CREAM RECIPE*

Whipped Cream
For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla together in a chilled bowl until fluffy.

Assembling the éclairs:

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.

Enjoy, these are delicious!

Check out the blogroll and see how my fellow Daring Bakers fared with their eclairs.

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5 Responses

  1. Sorry they didn’t rise, but sandwiching them together was a very clever solve! :)

  2. they sound delicious! wish there was a photo though… I agree with anne, very smart to sandwich them!

  3. Great save on the pastry! They look wonderful.

  4. Nice save, using one pastry for the bottom and one on top. Your eclairs look lovely.
    Jane of VeganBits.com

  5. Even though mine collapsed they were delicious. Yours look so nice and puffy. I need to make this again. And welcome to the Foodie Blogroll. I believe Jenn and Roberto are working on a way to show it in wordpress blogs. :)

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