Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Éclairs

Along with Tuesdays with Dorie, I have become a member of another online baking group called The Daring Bakers. The Daring Bakers was started in November 2006 by Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. They began by making pretzels from scratch, using the same recipe, then blogging about it. Next month they made biscotti, and they were joined by a few more bloggers. Month by month the list of participants grew, and each month there is a new challenge. This month is Chocloate Éclairs. This recipe was chosen by Tony Tahhan of Olive Juice and Meeta K of What's for Lunch Honey?. I love chocolate éclairs, but never made them. They always seemed so complicated, but that is what the Daring Bakers Challenge is for! Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers blogroll to see the other baker's recipes.

Chocolate Éclairs
(makes 20-24 éclairs)

This recipe is derived from a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan: Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé

Éclairs consist of 3 elements:
- Cream Puff Dough, aka Pâte à Choux or Choux Pastry
- Pastry Cream
- Chocolate glaze

Cream Puff Dough

-½ cup whole milk
-½ cup water
-1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
-¼ teaspoon sugar
-¼ teaspoon salt
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-5 large eggs, at room temperature

-Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. 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.

-In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a 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 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.

-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. (I just used a pastry bag with no tip on it, and it achieved the same effect)

-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.

-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.

Pastry Cream

- 2 cups whole milk
-4 large egg yolks
-6 tbsp sugar
-3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
-2½ tbsp 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).

-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. (I divided the pastry cream into two bowls. To one bowl I added 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste to make a vanilla pastry cream, and to the other bowl I added a teaspoon of instant coffee that had been dissolved in 1 tablespoon heavy cream to make a coffee pastry cream.)

-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)

-1/3 cup heavy cream
-3½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
-4 tsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
-7 tbsp 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)

-4½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
-1 cup water
-½ cup crème fraîche, or heavy cream
-1/3 cup 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.

Assembling the éclairs:

-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. 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.

Final Thoughts:
-I thought that these éclairs were good, but not great. Both the pastry dough and the pastry cream both seemed a bit too eggy. The pastry dough didn't seem dry or crispy enough for my liking, perhaps I should have baked the éclairs longer. I also had a few problems with some of my éclairs falling once I took them out of the oven, only a few, so no big deal. However, even though the recipe is quite long, it was not to complicated. I look forward to next month's challenge!


Lunch Buckets said...

Welcome to the group :)

Candace said...

Nice job on your first challenge!

Eat4Fun said...

Congratulations on completing your first DB Challenge! Your eclairs do look tasty!

Di said...

Congrats on completing your first challenge! Nice job on the eclairs.

Dragon said...

A wonderful first challenge. Great job!

Jacque said...

They look nice, sorry they didn't work out the greatest.

Anyway, Welcome!

MaryMary said...

Cheers on your first challenge...and welcome to DB!