Daring Bakers August Challenge – Éclairs
My second Daring Bakers Challenge is over and I am, once again, very proud of myself. I was nervous about making eclairs because, well, I am not an experienced baker and the recipe (as you will see) is pretty intimidating. My wonderful husband took the kids out to the zoo for the day so I had four full hours of uninterrupted baking time. It was definitely a challenge, but that’s the point, right? I chose to do a vanilla creme filled éclairs with a chocolate glaze topping. I had so much fun making these delicious little treats and can’t wait to make them again. I gave most of them away to my neighbors and friends and they were all delighted. My husband and children were quite impressed and wished I would have saved more. It was a wonderful challenge and I am really excited for the next one.
Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs – Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé (makes 20-24 Éclairs)
Cream Puff Dough: Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé (makes 20-24 Éclairs)
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup water
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
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. The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.
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.
Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs. 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 it 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.
Note: I only have one rack in my oven, so I baked them in two batches.
Note: Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and then 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.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds scraped
- 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, vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds 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 stopping) 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. 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. 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.
Note: I chose to add vanilla extract and vanilla bean to my cream instead of chocolate. If you want a chocolate cream, the original recipe says to add 7 oz bittersweet chocolate. Add it right before the ice bath and make sure it’s completely melted.
Note: 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.
Chocolate Glaze:Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé (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.
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 )
- 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.
Assembling the éclairs:
- Creme Puffs
- Chocolate glaze
- Pastry cream
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 (between 95 – 104 degrees F as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula or spoon. 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. Enjoy.
Notes: The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.
Notes: 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.
Don’t forget to check out the other Daring Baker’s Éclairs by visiting the blogroll.