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.

This months challenge is hosted by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK. The recipe is Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermés from a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan: Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé.

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.

Pastry Cream:

  • 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.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

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35 Responses to “Daring Bakers August Challenge – Éclairs”

  1. 1

    Cheryl — August 31, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

    I thought it was today, they were totally amazing! thanks again for sharing!

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  2. 2

    recipes2share — August 31, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

    Your eclairs have sooo well! A definate favourite in our home.

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  3. 3

    Stacey Snacks — August 31, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

    Pam,
    These look better than any of the NJ Italian bakeries sell!
    You are a DARING baker!
    Enjoying your blog.
    Stacey

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  4. 4

    Sam — August 31, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

    These look very impressive, I’ve just found your blog after you left me a comment and love it, great photos.
    Sam

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  5. 5

    Leslie — August 31, 2008 @ 4:39 pm

    Love the drippy glaze..You did a wonderful job. Wasnt it fun..but oh sooo messy! Thank you for commenting on mine as well

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  6. 6

    Usha — August 31, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

    Looks wonderfully delicious…I am drooling over the pictures…

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  7. 7

    Jan — August 31, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

    They look amazing! I could eat one right now!

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  8. 8

    MaryBeth — August 31, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

    WOW…just looking at the picture I feel I gained pounds. Those look Wonderful and very delightful.

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  9. 9

    Mary Ann — August 31, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

    Your eclairs look perfect! Glad that this challenge came out so great for you!

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  10. 10

    Jan — August 31, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

    Chocolate eclairs are my favorite cakes, and yours look absolutely stupendous. Well done, Pam.

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  11. 11

    Maggie — August 31, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

    Your eclairs look beautifully puffy! Wonderful job!

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  12. 12

    HoneyB — August 31, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

    That last picture is perfect. Wish it were actually sitting here in front of me. It wouldn’t look so perfect anymore. ;) Awesome job!

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  13. 13

    Pam — September 1, 2008 @ 12:02 am

    Well, darn, you just disproved my theory that people named Pam can’t bake! Now, I have to come up with another excuse!

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  14. 14

    Adam — September 1, 2008 @ 1:39 am

    Pam, you look like a very experienced baker :) Your eclairs look great, and I’m sure there were tons of happy friends around. I’m looking forward to the next one too.

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  15. 15

    Anonymous — September 1, 2008 @ 2:23 am

    Congratulations, Pam. They look absolutely wonderful. Although, I’m very glad you made them at your house and not at mine. The temptation would have been too great. Love, Mom

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  16. 16

    Psychgrad — September 1, 2008 @ 4:32 am

    Excellent job. We missed this month, but I still want to try making some eclairs.

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  17. 17

    Rosa's Yummy Yums — September 1, 2008 @ 6:22 am

    What gorgeous Eclairs! They look beautiful and delicious!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  18. 18

    grace — September 1, 2008 @ 7:23 am

    Lovely!! really nice! I love your blog too!

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  19. 19

    Grace — September 1, 2008 @ 7:32 am

    bravo! all i can say is that you’ve got some awfully lucky neighbors and friends! :)

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  20. 20

    hot garlic — September 1, 2008 @ 11:06 am

    I’ll say Grace! They turned out just beautiful! They are making my mouth water. Yours look like they didn’t fall like mine did. Many people who did the challenge seemed to have had the same problem -what’s your secret?!

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  21. 21

    Katie B. — September 1, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

    Stunning pastries! You must have really happy neighbors!

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  22. 22

    Loren and Coleen Nelson — September 1, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

    WOW! These pastries are absolutely gorgeous. Way to go Pam!

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  23. 23

    Kay — September 1, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    Oh my gosh, if I’ll make you my corn chowder, will you make me these? Please? Please? Don’t make me beg :)

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  24. 24

    Aggie — September 1, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

    What a delicious looking eclair!! I just looked at that recipe and my head started to spin! I’m not a daring baker at all…I’m hardly a baker as it is! Great job!!

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  25. 25

    Kevin — September 1, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

    Your eclairs look really good!

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  26. 26

    Dawn — September 1, 2008 @ 10:09 pm

    For a first time they came out perfectly. Don’t you love giving away the treats to neighbors and friends? I love their expression and happy faces; makes it all worth it to me.

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  27. 27

    Joy — September 2, 2008 @ 3:47 am

    Pam, Seriously… You need to move here so that I can enjoy the benefits of your superb baking! I am very impressed!

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  28. 28

    Jenny — September 2, 2008 @ 4:33 am

    You should be more than proud, these are breathtakingly gorgeous! One of the best I’ve seen. Well done!

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  29. 29

    mikky — September 2, 2008 @ 9:26 am

    simply beautiful… you guys are awesome… :)

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  30. 30

    Paula — September 2, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

    WOW! Outstanding eclairs! My husband would think he’d gone to heaven if he saw these! I really like how you used vanilla and vanilla bean in your recipe! Great idea! YUM, YUM, YUM! The photos are terrific, too!

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  31. 31

    Anne — September 2, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

    Your eclairs are gorgeous! They got so lovely and puffy – I’m totally jealous. Great job! :)

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  32. 32

    Elle — September 3, 2008 @ 1:06 am

    Oh, they came out perfectly! I’m so glad you had a good time making them!

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  33. 33

    Claire — September 3, 2008 @ 4:23 am

    Looks great! I’m glad that you had such a good experience and that everyone liked them.

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  34. 34

    Candice — September 4, 2008 @ 1:42 am

    That last picture makes me want to eat the screen. Nicely done!

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  35. 35

    JennDZ - The Leftover Queen — September 4, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

    Looking good! :)

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