Sunday, 31 August 2008

Daring Bakers August Challenge: Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs

Yesterday was the last day I could possibly make August's Daring Bakers challenge. I had all the ingredients in the fridge, but had resigned myself to the fact I probably wouldn't make them. The kitchen hasn't been my favourite place since I found out I'm pregnant, the exhaustion and nauseous kills the fun, so I wasn't expecting to jump out of bed and feel like hours of whisking, beating, stirring and baking but I did! And, I am glad I did, these are so delicious! And it wasn't too complicated.

Tony Tahhan & Meeta set this months yummy chocolate-y challenge. Following our Daring Bakers forums this month, it seemed like a few people struggled so I was a little nervous but it all came together quite nicely. Now, I know my little creations don't look great, but I blame that on not having a big enough nozzle for my piping bag so I struggled to make the choux pastry into decent shapes (you should see the 'finger' style, eclairs ones - ha!). Yes, they don't look great but they tasted perfect if I may say so myself.

I was planning to make the pastry cream vanilla rather than chocolate but I had a visitor chatting to me whilst I was making these so I didn't pay close attention and suddenly realised I had made chocolate pastry cream! I'm glad I did to be honest, cos this component was my favourite - yum. Although this was my favourite, this pastry cream also annoyed me the most as I could not get it thick enough to pipe nicely into the choux pastries. Eventually I added some thick whipped cream which helped a little, but not enough. Its ok, people don't realise till they take a bite and yummy chocolate cream oozes all over them. Fun to watch if you ask me.

Please find the recipe below and if you want to check out my fellow Daring Bakers please do so here.

(Oh, I forgot to mention, I followed the recipe to the letter, but I halved the chocolate sauce ingredients at the end and it was plenty for the 7 tablespoons needed for the glaze).

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate 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.

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.

Cream Puff Dough
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.

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, 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 instalments. 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.

Chocolate Glaze
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.

Chocolate Sauce
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.

Sathya-rating ****


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

They look delicious! Very well done!



Courtney said...

your eclairs look good. i just got out of the hating the kitchen stage during pregnancy, it will come back.

Cristine said...

Great job!!! It isn't always easy to get in the kitchen during pregnancy. Way to knock out the challenge anyway. True Daring Baker style! :)

Passionate About Baking said...

What yummy looking eclairs...I finally completed my challenge on the 25th. Far too close for comfort,but very enjoyable! Your pastry cream sounds finger licking good!! Cheers Deeba

maybelle's mom said...

look delicious. job well done. I did the exact same thing with the chocolate sauce part; how much do you need in this house?

steph- whisk/spoon said...

oh my gosh--pregnant!! wow!! :)

steph- whisk/spoon said...

shoot--in all that excitement, i didn't finish my comment! i think your puffs look fab!!

Dhanggit said...

You've done a great job!! these eclairs are lovely!! yummy

Natalie... said...

Mmm looks delicious! Great job!
I made a mint pastry cream but I bet the chocolate was to die for mm. I might have to make these again!

Natalie... said...

Congrats on your pregnancy :)
and great job on your eclairs, they look delicious!!

Angela said...

Your éclairs look fantastic! And congratulations on your pregnancy! I remember not being fond of the kitchen while I was pregnant, so kudos to you for completing the challenge :)

Gabi said...

Lovely job- hope the hard part of pregnancy soon passes :)

Robyn said...

I halved the chocolate sauce recipe as well. Great job!

Dharm said...

Great Job on the challenge and CONGRATS on the pregnancy!!

Deborah said...

I hear ya - the kitchen hasn't been my favorite place during pregnancy! But the couch has been!! Great job completing this, though - your eclairs look great!

Anonymous said...

They look delicious, well done!