Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chocolate Eclairs-Daring Bakers August Challenge

I've finally joined the Daring Bakers!!! I'm so excited, too. What, or should I say WHO, are the Daring Bakers? We are a group of on-line foodies who once a month make the same recipe and then blog about our experiences. Same recipe; different experiences. You can go here for more information: They are a great group of people. They have their own website where you can post questions and stuff like that. The recipes they choose are challenging too. This month's challenge was to make Chocolate Eclairs. The recipe was from Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé. The recipe is at the bottom of this post---just in case you don't won't to read about my experience. Just make sure to print the whole recipe out before you make it. It makes it easier to follow.

I would have never even dared to try to make something so hard had I not joined this group. But I am glad I did because even though it was challenging, I learned that I could do it!

Here is my super cute apron that my mom got a the thift store for me! I love raccons!

The eclairs consist of 3 elements:

- Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough

- Pastry Cream

- Chocolate glaze

The eclairs had a dark chocolate glaze and a dark chocolate pastry cream. We were all allowed to make one modification; either to the glaze or the pastry cream...if we wanted too. I decided to make half of the eclairs with a milk chocolate glaze and a dark chocolate pastry cream, but the other half I made with a dark chocolate glaze and a peanutbutter pastry cream.

I made eclairs in two steps. The whole process took me two days and at 6 hours, but that time includes making a second batch because the first batch was too small. I decided to make them for the teachers for the first day of school. My husband is a teacher, so I figure he could share them with his teacher friends.

I started with the pastry cream first. I was really nervous about this, because I had to pour boiling milk into cold raw egg yolk mixture.

My biggest fear was that I would scamble the eggs. To keep this from happening I had to add a couple of tablespoon of the hot milk to the eggs slowly to bring the temperature of the eggs up.

This taught me to be patience. I did a good job and I didn't scramble any of the eggs and I made a lovely pastry cream. I half the finish product and put melted dark chocolate in one bowl and a teaspoon of vanilla and a 1/3 cup of peanutbutter in the other.

I chose a chocolate bar that I got at Aldi's, which was amazing good! The bar was made in Austria and they have great chocolate there! I melted the bar in a bowl over boiling water.

Next I made the chocolate glaze. I had to make this recipe twice; once with dark and once with milk chocolate. To make the chocolate glaze you have to make a chocolate sauce first. So, I made that first. It was more like sugared-up chocolate milk.

Then, I added the sauce to the chocolate mixture and that made a lovely glaze.

I save the leftover glaze and I'm going to use it as a base for hot chocolate! Yum-Yum!

My daughter loved licking the spoon!

The next day, I started to make the eclair shells. This really really scared me, because I'm such a dofus and there were a ton of tips on the website. A lot of people were posting troubles they were having. Actually mixing the dough was the easy part.

It was shaping them into "chubby fingers" that was the hard part! I didn't have a pastry bag or money to buy one, so someone suggested using a zip-lock bag with a hole cut in it. Well here is what my bag looked like by the end of making the fingers:

Here are my eclair shells. I put them on parchment paper to keep from sticking.

Here they are in my oven. You switch the racks halfway through the baking. I also found that putting a dish of water in there helps them puff up more.

The first batch (on the bottom) was too thin and too long. The second batch (on the top) I made a little shorter and much chubbier. I also made another bag and duck taped it, so that it looked like a pastry bag. Yes, I have reach a new low...but duck does fix everything!

It was very time consuming baking this even though they only took 20 mintues. I had to set the time for 7 mintues to put the wooden spoon in the door. Then for 5 minutes to switch the racks. Then, whatever time was left was for the rest of the baking. This was difficult because my 1 year old daughter wanted to go outside. So, I had to keep running in to check to see if the timer went off.

I cut a slit in each one to keep them from deflating. But I think I should have let them sit in the oven with it turn off for a few mintues first. I'm going to do that next time. Some of mine still deflated anyways. I have to wait several hours before I could fill them.

Finally, I took the pastry creams out of the fridge and reheated the glazes. I heated both the cream and glaze by putting it in a pot of simmering water for a few mintues. It took a few tries for me to get the slicing done right. But I finally was able to fill them. I thankfully only filled ten of them. The glaze ended up being too running and never harden. I tried putting the glaze in the freezer to get it hard again, but I could get it to harden on the eclairs.

The peanut butter pastry cream also seemed too funny. The dark chocolate turned out very well.

I put the ones I made in the fridge and a froze the both the glazes and the pastry cream. I plan on using the glazes for hot chocolate and the pastry cream for a filling for crepes. The next day I ate most of them and gave some to my neighbor. There were AMAZING good. I will definitely make them again. Only next time, I'm going to use a gananche for the topping.

So without further ado, here is the recipe:

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate ÉclairsRecipe 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 bypositioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets withwaxed 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 thehandle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in theoven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continuebaking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total bakingtime should be approximately 20 minutes.


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 thebottoms 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 – 40degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops ofthe éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill thebottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottomswith enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry creamand 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 createbubbles.

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 theboil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to mediumand start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together veryquickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. Youneed to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the doughwill be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using yourhandmixer 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 donot worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time youhave added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted itshould 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 bakingsheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer thepiped 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 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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


Cristine said...

Great job on your first challenge!

Anna said...

That is either a very very tiny child or an ENORMOUS wooden spoon... but these look great and I wish I'd thought of peanut butter, mmm. Congratulations and welcome to the Daring Bakers!

The Irreverent Cook said...

Welcome to the daring bakers! Peanut butter sounds gorgeous! And your daughter is sooo adorable =D

Adventures in Gluttony said...

Cristine: Thank you, I worked really hard on this and even though they're not perfect, I'm still proud of myself. ;-)

Indigo: BOTH! Baby Bell is really small for her age but I'm little too! That spoon is really big, isn't!?! And thank you, I'm glad to be a member! :-)

The Irrevernt Cook: I'm so excited to be a member. Everyone is so nice and helpful. I couldn't have ask for a better group to join! Thank you, Baby Bell is a cutie and she knows it too! I know I'm going to have trouble when she's a teen!

Brownie said...

Congrats on your first challenge! Your little DB in training is adorable!

Alpineberry Mary said...

Your eclairs turned out great. I love peanut butter pastry cream - it's a heavenly food.

silverrock said...

Ooo your eclairs sure look tasty. I'm sure your daughter loved them, such a cute pic of her lickin the spoon. Congrats on your first DB challenge :)

Adventures in Gluttony said...

Brownie: Thanks, she is a cutie!

Alpineberry: I'm honored that you posted on my blog! Yes, peanutbutter pastry is a heavenly food. It was my husband's favorite.

Sliverrock: Baby Bell LOVED eating the eclairs. Her favorite were the dark chocolate ones, which is weird because she normally hates chocolate!

Eat4Fun said...

Congratulations on completing your first DB Challenge!

I like the pictorial showing the steps making the challenge and your humor about the challenge.

Also, the peanut butter and chocolate combo sound very good!

It may not have looked pretty (same with my eclairs) but I bet they were tasty! :-)

Ruth said...

Welcome to DB you did great on your first challenge. All that matters is they tasted delicious and I think they also look good.

Lisa said...

I was going to do a peanut butter pastry cream with roasted bananas and call it an 'Elclair'as in Elvis and his peanut butter-naner I changed course, but seeing your yummy eclairs with peanut butter, makes me want to give it a shot :)

BTW, I love your cheese of the month idea! Will be checking back to well, check it out!

Adventures in Gluttony said...

Lisa: It is funny that you mentioned Elvis, because I just made an Elvis Sandwich for me and my daughter! I use to eat these all the time as kid, which is probably why my butt is so big!

What a great idea, though. Maybe next time I'll try your idea. Bannanas and Peanut are heavely together! The King sure knew how to eat, didn't he?!

I hope you decide to join my cheese challage, either this month or some other month. I would love to see what you would come up with!