chocolate | Daring Baker's Challenge | desserts | eclairs | filling | glaze | recipe | vanilla

Daring Baker’s Challenge: Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs!

August 31, 2008

This month the Daring Baker’s Challenge was a blast. French chocolate éclairs! Now, honestly, I never ever would’ve made these on my own. Well, maybe, if I’d gotten a request and been bugged and harrassed I may have looked into éclair recipes and tried it. But I never would have thought of it myself. Mainly because… *hangs head* I do not like éclairs. I loved these, but I probably wouldn’t eat any but my own.

(By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the Daring Baker’s and their monthly challenges; go here and read about it!)

So anyhoo… the recipe is from this book by the famous Dorie Greenspan. Dorie is worshipped all over the web in foodie blogs but I haven’t made anything of hers or anything from her books yet. Like I’ve mentioned before- I am far from a professional baker or chef, so my repertoire isn’t very large and I am most certainly not a connoisseur of French pastry. So by doing this challenge (and all the upcoming Daring Baker’s challenges, I hope) I’ll push myself into a new world of food. Admittedly, I also love an excuse to use accented letters like the ‘é’ in éclair, and also to throw around French words, pretend I studied at Le Cordon Bleu and be oh-so-chic. *ahem*

Éclairs consist of 3 elements:

Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough
– Pastry Cream
– Chocolate glaze

For the challenge we were presented with chocolate pastry cream for the filling and chocolate glaze, however we were given free reign with changing ONE element as long as we left one chocolate component. I chose to make a traditional éclair and leave the glaze chocolate, just changing the cream to vanilla. The whole point was the motto: ‘Culinary liberty for all.’ So the freedom of altering the recipe was there. And again, the Daring Baker’s Challenge is awesome and you don’t need a blog to be a member!! So join! It’ll open you up to a whole new world baking-wise and you’ll be glad. You’ll probably gain like 50 pounds, haha, but its worth it. I recently (well, since last year at this time) lost 45 pounds so I’m trying to be good and not devour ALL of these eclairs at once!

It took me roughly 3 hours, start to finish. I did it all in one night, which wasn’t necessary but once I got started I was on a roll! It was actually much easier than I expected… and much tastier.

I piped out my filling using a smaller pastry bag and a smaller tip, but you can also spread it on with a metal icing spatula. I just thought it looked better piped on… 😉 I also would’ve piped the dough out using a large star tip just to make it fancier, but I followed the recipe’s instructions to use a round one. Next time! You also definitely need a candy thermometer for this one, which you should have anyway. After I got mine I realized how ridiculous it was that I didn’t have one. As far as the bittersweet chocolate goes, I did not use Valrhona Guanaja (as you will see if you continue reading) but used Ghirardelli instead. Mainly because they did not sell Valrhona Guanaja at my supermarket and I am way too lazy to order things off the internet or go searching for them. Heh. Especially since I like instant gratification, and when I want to make something, I don’t want to wait a week to get the one ingredient I lack. Typical American, right? “I want it, and I want it NOW!” I’m sure it would’ve been much more French if I’d used that Valrhona, but more delicious? I highly doubt it.

Mine, I should also mention, are mini-eclairs. The DB’s said nothing about altering the size so I took a chance. I got maybe 30 by doing it this way.. the recipe states you’d get 20-24 so I guess I didn’t make them THAT much smaller. But just a bit. I got my vanilla pastry cream recipe from a French website, or rather a website about French food. I figured they must know what they’re talking about, right?

I’m going to post the full recipe behind the ‘continue reading’ link under the picture below so as not to clog up the page, seeing how its quite long, but I suggest you take a peek because there are more pictures hidden in there! But I highly recommend this recipe to ALL of you, and I’m letting you know it is not imperative you listen to Edith Piaf, or any French singer or song thats performed in French, while making these.. but I’m sure its more fun than not. I’m putting BOTH pastry cream recipes, both Pierre’s chocolate one and the vanilla one I used.  Bon Appetit!

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). 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.
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.

3) 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.

Notes:
1) 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 barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). 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.

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. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

Notes:
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.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• 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 salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

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) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or 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.

Notes:
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.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 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

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) 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).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) 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.

5) 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:
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 scramble.

OR

Vanilla Pastry Cream ***(what I used! NOT part of the Daring Baker’s recipe!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it is just hot enough to steam. While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.
  2. Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture. Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk, continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170F on a digital thermometer and is very thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and chill before filling pastry.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(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

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:
1) 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.

2) 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 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

1) 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.

2) 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:
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.

____________________________________________________________________________________

So there you have it!

I think these were wonderful, I would SO make them again! I actually would like to try making them with the lighter filling, and possibly with the chocolate filling as well. I was surprised that I had no problems or difficulties making them whatsoever. I had some issues last time with my Opera Cake, but this time it was smooth sailing.

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  1. From the pics …THIS NOT A FRENCH ECLAIR !!! IT IS ONLY AN ENGLISH-MADE APPROXIMATION FAILURE …
    French eclairs are not filled with white tasteless foam, as most English use to do …
    They are filled with creme patissiere (chocolate, moca or vanilla, whatever you prefer).
    Besides, your glassage looks miserably diluted …
    Your chocolate has to be tempered in order to be dense and glossy on the top ….

  2. Wow Olivier! Sounds like you need a nap & a time out. Very angry.

    First of all, if you take all the humor, fun and experimenting out of baking, you end up with a stuffy (usually French), miserable fat, macaron-eating pastry chef who judges Cupcake Wars in his spare time. I personally, do not give one fuck, two fucks, or five what your opinion of anything is. I made the recipe according to the challenge, I didn’t write it, nor do I really care about eclairs in general. I don’t think about them daily. As a matter of fact, anyone who is so incredibly passionate about eclairs such as you are worries me. Maybe you need therapy, a life, a girlfriend. Or maybe boyfriend?

    Fourthly (or fifthly, whatever), I do this for fun, as a hobby. It’s not my job. So again, ask me how many fucks I give about you & your attitude. The answer will be zero. Goodbye.

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