Sunday 31 August 2008

Daring Bakers August Challenge: Chocolate Éclairs

The hosts of this months challenge were Tony of Olive Juice and Meeta of What’s For Lunch Honey? and they selected chocolate éclairs by Pierre Herme which got an instant thumbs up from my family. Éclairs are made using choux pastry, although personally I think it’s more of a batter as you have to pipe it rather than roll it out. It’s also the pastry used to make profiteroles, of which I have made often, but I had never made éclairs before so was looking forward to the attempting to pipe in straight lines. We were also required to make a crème patisserie filling and then top them of with a rich chocolate glaze.

The recipe provided was for chocolate crème patisserie and chocolate glaze but we were allowed to be creative and change one of these options if we wished. I decided to keep the chocolate glaze and vary the flavour of the crème filling. I made a large batch of vanilla crème patisserie and then divided it into three separate bowls from which I kept one vanilla, flavoured one with chocolate and for the third flavour I ground some pistachios into a paste and stirred it through the crème. I loved how just changing the filling gave the éclairs such a different appearance and flavour. I could happily have eaten the silky crème patisserie by the spoonful.The recipe makes quite a lot of éclairs and they are best eaten as fresh a possible. I made mine one weekend when we were having a family BBQ and so they didn’t go to waste. Having a choice of filling flavours proved very popular as it meant people could choose which one most appealed, vanilla for traditionalists, chocolate for chocoholics or pistachio for people who wanted something a little different. They were all a success although my favourite was the pistachio, I loved the little flecks of green and the nutty overtone and it went perfectly with the chocolate glaze.

Thanks Tony and Meeta for choosing such a great recipe. Be sure to check out the other Daring Bakers éclairs.

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 bypositioning 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.
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.
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.

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.
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 bakingsheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer thepiped 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.
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.
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 104F) 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.
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.


Cristine said...

Great job! Your eclairs look marvelous!

Anonymous said...

they all sound great..... but the pistachio one...mmmm....that sounds incredible

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your Eclairs look delicious and beautiful! Great job!



Shelby said...

Oh my, they all look awesome!!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, pistachio! Looks so lovely, and I'm sure it was delicious.

Mcwhisky said...

The eclairs are prettily done up. Love the decors! ;)

Sara said...

the pistachios are a fantastic idea.

Libby said...

wow, these just look so refined!

Vera said...

Katie, I love the idea of pistachio filling!

TeaLady said...

These look good. Especially the ones with lots of chocolate. Yummy!

Anonymous said...

Your eclairs look amazing, Katie! I especially love the pistachio pastry cream filling!

Unknown said...

I just love how you alternated the fillings. Great job! The pistachio is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

great job - your eclairs looks very yummy!

Anonymous said...

Looks beautiful. Love your pictures!

Anonymous said...

Good job! Your éclairs look really yummy.

Annemarie said...

Ah, I do confess that I ate the leftover pastry cream by the spoonful. And I don't feel all that guilty. :)

The Caked Crusader said...

Yum - your eclairs look amazing!

Rosie said...

Your eclairs look delicious and so pretty!!

Rosie x

Anonymous said...

oh got to love pistachio, great idea. they look great!

Dragon said...

Divine indeed. :) These are lovely.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

lovely looking eclairs! simply perfect!

jasmine said...

I think the pistachio one would be pure bliss. Just adore the thought of it...


Dragon said...

I love your flavour combinations with these eclairs. Brilliant!

Helene said...

Great choice of flavors! Well done on the challenge!

Amber said...

I love all your fillings. I only eat pistachios out of hand, now I am encouraged to use them in desserts.

Dharm said...

Oh Yumm! Those look and sound just fabulous!

Anonymous said...

Great job on this month's challenge :)! Your eclairs are very cute!

We'd like to invite you to participate in our September apple and peach recipe contest. All competitors will be eligible to win one of three prizes :)! Please email me,, if you're interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details:
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KI Chief Blogger

Deborah said...

They look wonderful - and I think I would have chosen the pistachio ones!

Gigi said...

They look fantastic!!! I am especially enthralled with the pistachio éclair. What a great flavor for an éclair!

Jo (sparkly green knickers) said...

Mmmm my mouth is watering just looking at these! Bookmarked!

Elle said...

Love your photos and the different pastry cream flavors. Bravo!

Lulu the Baker said...

I love the pistachios! Good idea making three different fillings.

silverrock said...

Yum, I love pistachios, what a great idea! Way to go on this month's challenge, you rocked it!

celia kusinera said...

I have to agree - the pastry creme was simply delicious. I could eat it all day! Your eclairs with different fillings look fab. :)

Rainbow In The Grey Sky said...

They look seriously yummy! Nice cakes , you are very talented !