Sunday, 31 August 2008

Chocolate Eclairs

The August 2008 theme of the Daring Bakers' Challenge is Chocolate Eclairs brought to us by our gracious hosts Tony and Meeta.

I was anxious not to miss this month's since I didn't get the chance to bake last month's which was the Praline Cake. This time the challenge was not that hard although since the recipe was adapted from Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Desserts you could be sure that the ingredients and procedures are long to ensure maximum yumminess. :)

Did I say it wasn't that hard? Well the last time I did choux pastry was about 20 years ago when I was still single! But I was right, the pastry was not a problem at all. It came all together just as I added the last egg. My only problem was grappling with piping it onto the baking sheets. After attempting it with folded parchment paper, I found an easier solution by putting the dough in a plastic bag then cutting one of the ends and it gave me my desired finger-like strips of dough. They came beautifully from the oven though I have to skip the instruction in the original recipe to keep the oven door ajar. I was sure it would not work in my fan-assisted/convection oven. The only thing I added is the slitting of the sides of the pastry right out of the oven then putting it back for another 5 minutes.

As reported by my fellow DBers, the pastry cream filling was heavenly. I did not use chocolates and substituted a few teaspoons of vanilla. I was not keen on having an all-chocolate eclair. Having contrasting vanilla then chocolate in a crispy pastry was what I was after. Lovely! Yum yum!

Chocolate Eclairs

Chocolate Éclairs

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe) - fresh and still warm.
  1. Preheat your oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°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.
  2. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
  3. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 4 1/2 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.
  4. Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 12 minutes. After the 7 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.
  5. Once out of the oven, quickly make slits on one side of each of the eclairs. Put them back to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven then cool completely on a rack.
Notes:  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 at room temperature. Spread (or dip it in) 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.
  4. 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

1/2 cup (125 g) whole milk
1/2 cup (125 g) water
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter - diced
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs - at room temperature, slightly beaten
  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. Remove from heat then 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 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.

Filled Eclairs

Pastry Cream

2 cups (500 g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp (75 g) sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 1/2 Tbsp (40 g) unsalted butter - room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
200 g  dark chocolate - melted (optional)
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
  2. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heatproof bowl.
  3. 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.
  4. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled.
  5. 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).
  6. [Optional] Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
  7. Pour the pastry cream back into the heatproof bowl and stir in the vanilla.
  8. Set the bowl on an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
  9. Once the cream has reached a temperature of 60°C/140°F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments.
  10. 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 curdle.

Chocolate Glaze
(makes 1 cup or 300 g)

1/3 cup (80 g) heavy cream
100 g  dark chocolate - 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.
Notes:  It is best to glaze the eclairs right 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 room temperature when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1-1/2 cups or 525 g)

130 g  dark chocolate (or combination of milk and dark) - chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
1/2 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.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
  3. 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.
Chocolate Eclairs

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