Friday, September 5, 2008

Eclairs au Chocolat

I guess I'm not really good at remembering dates--I forgot to post this Daring Bakers Challenge on the 31st, and it was only my first challenge! I guess this marks the end of my "DB Days", because I just know this kind of thing will happen again...

Anyway, the challenge was to make chocolate éclairs using a recipe from Pierre Hermé. Now I am quite a Pierre Hermé fan: he just opened a chocolate & macarons shop on rue Cambon, right next to where I work. 

Now his eclair recipe is another story... 

Making eclairs consists of 1) making the pâte à choux, 2) forming the eclairs and cooking them, 3) filling them with crème patissière, and 4) icing them.

Part 3 went fine, but I definitely can't say as much for the rest... It all started out with the pâte à choux recipe. My eclair mission took place in my aunt's house in the Vosges, where my maman was staying until mid-August. She eyed my recipe and, as mothers watching their daughters cook usually do, had many many comments. Once the dough was prepared and the eclairs were piped onto a baking sheet, I was pretty convinced the recipe had proved Maman wrong: they were going to be perfect.

Well, having to open the oven for 5 minutes--or more precisely, stick a wooden spoon in the door--made them deflate even worse than when you pop a balloon. Not only that, when I removed them from the oven, they were almost sticky and you could roll them up into a ball. Not a good base for an eclair, right?

With my sad-looking eclair shells sitting on the kitchen table, I started the crème patissière, and it turned out a lot better. Once again, I wasn't able to avoid criticism for having bought Meunier chocolate instead of Nestlé Dessert at the supermarket, but we had been debating that since the previous day.

When my aunt got back from work, I literally pounced on her and asked for her pâte à choux recipe which was apparently really good. When my aunt Mimi discovered the Pierre Hermé pâte à choux recipe, she was surprised and immediately embarked on a "True Pâte à Choux" mission, no oven-door-opening involved. For the recipe, see my post on Chouquettes.

As planned, her eclair shells turned out well, and the cutting them open to add the crème patissière could start. That's when--you guessed it--my knife-cutting was welcomed by a "Oh, that's how your recipe says to do it? Because that's not really how you make eclairs, you're supposed to fill them." Too late.

By that time, I was honestly a little tired of my eclairs, and didn't even want to spend the time making the chocolate glaçage the recipe called for. I melted some chocolate and mixed it with some heavy cream until it made some sort of ganache. The end result is, well, interesting:

I'm happy I made eclairs because it had been on my to-make list for a while. I'm really disappointed by the recipe though--I don't know if the other daring bakers ran into the same problems. All I know is I'll be going back to my more simple and hassle-free choux recipe next time I'm in the mood for some pastries!

If you want to take a look at the Pierre Hermé version:

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs (makes 20-24 éclairs )

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

Pâte à Choux

• 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


• 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.

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the
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.

5) 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.
6) 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 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.
7) 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. The éclairs should be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Chocolate Crème Patissière

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk

• 4 large egg yolks

• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar

• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona 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.


•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)

• 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.


• 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 (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.


• 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.

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Suzanne said...

I'm scared to make eclairs! I know I'd mess them up!
Yours look amazing! I'm drooling!