Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bonne nuit mon petit Éclair.

Chocolate and Vanilla Eclairs

I am exhausted and hot. My right arm is sore and my hands are pruned. Before you jump to all sorts of wild conclusions, I'll come right out and tell you. It's all thanks to the Daring Baker's. These Daring Baker's sure know how to make you sweat, especially in the height of summer on a particularly steamy day in August. That day would be today. Yes, today - meaning I left this challenge to the last possible day, the same day I had to post it. The challenge? Chocolate Éclairs by none other than the god of pastry himself - Pierre Hermé - chosen by Tony Tahhan of Olive Juice and MeetaK of What's for Lunch Honey? This challenge involved copious amounts of vigorous stirring and whisking which led to a very sore right arm. It also left me with a heap of dirty dishes to wash, leaving me with the kind of pruned fingers you'd get after an hour long bath.

Once again I have to admit I wasn't altogether too thrilled with the choice of challenge this month. It isn't the first time I have made choux pastry or éclairs for that matter, so I felt pretty confident in what would result. And it's not that I don't like chocolate. It's simply that at this time of year, I crave fruit. Summery, juicy stone fruit. Anyways, I got over my slight disappoint, which lasted all of 5 seconds. I was thrilled to finally try a Pierre Hermé original recipe, and I decided to keep it pretty much by the book this time since I have already played around with these before. I split his recipe for pastry cream in two and added vanilla beans to one and melted chocolate to the other. I definitely prefer the lighter vanilla pastry cream to a thin chocolate glaze then chocolate on chocolate but I wanted to give it a try. Everything came together quite easily, other than the physical effort required to whisk! Since I only just finished tonight, I haven't tried them yet - so I will be back to report on the taste test. Photos are also uninspired due to no natural light left so I plan to shoot some more tomorrow.


Update: I finally got around to tasting these delicious morsels. As I suspected, the clear winner was the vanilla pastry cream filled eclair. It's a matter of personal taste, but to me something as airy and ethereal as choux pastry pairs best with equally light and angelic flavours. The chocolate pastry cream, while delicious, bore more resemblance to a ganache in my opinion, which weighed down an otherwise featherlight dessert.


Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough - all recipes below from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 eclairs)
  • 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 salt1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the 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.
Notes: 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.


Chocolate Pastry Cream
  • 2 cups (500g) whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks6 tbsp (75g) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
  • 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, melted
  • 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) 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 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.
Notes: 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 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
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. 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 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
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.
Notes: 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.

35 comments:

Jude said...

It got pretty hot in my apartment while making this too but it was so worth it. The results look great!

Tanya said...

Your eclairs look GREAT! I gotta agree with you on the choice of recipes. I wish there were more fruit challenges this summer.

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

Your eclairs sure look good! I'll bet you've sampled them by now and find that they are delicious.

silverrock said...

Your eclairs look fantastic. I may just have to steal a piece. Congrats on completing this month's challenge... this one seemed way to easy for you :P

gela said...

they look delicious!!

Dolce said...

The correct spelling would be "Bonne nuit mon petit Eclair" but any way you write it, it's still great to gobble down... :)

Arlette said...

Your are a great cook and baker, why did you stop posting??

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