9/1/08

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs

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So how was everyone's Labor Day weekend? Mine was really good and really busy. So busy that I forgot to post my éclairs yesterday! Yes, these éclairs mark yet another Daring Baker's challenge finished and in the books.

Proud member of Daring Bakers I was so excited when I found out that August's Daring Baker's challenge was going to be éclairs. I had been wanting to try making a cream puff dough, or pâte à choux, ever since I saw Amy Finley make them on her short-lived Food Network show, The Gourmet Next Door. They looked easy, yet fun and the finished product is something everyone loves, even a person that isn't THAT into desserts.

The August DB challenge was hosted by Meeta K. of What's For Lunch Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice.

I decided to make these for a friend of mine's son's graduation party and from what I heard from a few party goers, they were quite tasty. I agreed; the finished product was a very light éclair filled with a chocolate custard that tasted very close to pudding. They were topped with a chocolate glaze and I decided to finish them off with some chopped pistachios since I have a bunch of them left from past recipe adventures. I decided to make them mini-sized since they were going to be party fare. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate... just the way I like it!

Want to try these for yourself? Make up a batch! The weather outside will be cooling off in a few weeks, so what better time to make up a batch of yummy éclairs? Here's how to make them:

I started by making the chocolate sauce that is eventually used in creating the chocolate glaze. Note: you will have chocolate sauce left over and I can only imagine the countless things I can do with it... (Hey, I meant top some ice cream with it or something, geez! Get your mind out of the gutter!)

All you have to do to make the chocolate sauce is combine bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, water, heavy cream, and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and cook on low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes or until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. See this chocolate sauce aside until you're ready to make the chocolate glaze, which really shouldn't be made until you're ready to use it.

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Next, I made the chocolate pastry cream. I started by bringing the milk to a boil in a sauce pan. In the meantime, I combined egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together.

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Once the milk reached a boil, I tempered the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.

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I continued whisking and slowly poured the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture. Next, I strained the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Next, I placed the pan over medium heat and whisked vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returned to a boil.

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I kept whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat) until the mixture had a custard consistency.

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I then stirred in the melted chocolate and removed the pan from the heat.

I scraped the chocolate pastry cream into a 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 reached a temperature of 140 F, I removed it from the ice‐water bath and stirred in the butter. I then returned the cream back to the ice-water bath stirring occasionally, until it had completely cooled. I stored the cream in the fridge until I needed it.

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Next, it was time to make the cream puff dough and pipe out the éclairs. To make the dough, start by bringing the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be scooped into a pastry bag to pipe out the éclairs. I didn't use a tip at all, that way I was able to pipe chubby fingers onto the parchment paper. These "chubby fingers" will turn into the bodies of the éclairs after baking. As I mentioned before, I made mine miniature sized.

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a pastry bag filled with the cream puff dough, pipe the dough onto the baking sheets. 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.

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Now, you can assemble these one of two ways. You can slice the pastries in half and fill them with the chocolate pastry cream that way, kind of like little sandwiches, and then drizzle the glaze on top. Or, you can do like I did and fill your pastry bag with the chocolate pastry cream, use a small star tip, and puncture the end of each pastry, squeezing the pastry bag gently to fill each éclair. Sometimes they would fill up the first try. Other times I had to fill them on both ends. As you can see in the finished-product picture, the pastry cream oozes out a bit, but it doesn't make a difference. It's still delicious.

So, if you're feeling a little "daring" and want to make something a little out of the ordinary, give these a try!



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

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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 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.

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.



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.

7 comments:

  1. Wow, they look absolutely awesome ! Great job !

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  2. great step by step photos. I bet the pistacios were great on top!

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  3. Isn't the dough secretly easy? I use it to make cream puffs and fill them with super good ice cream... and then I have them for breakfast.

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  4. Very cute! I bet everyone loved em!

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  5. Thanks everyone! Yes, the pistachios were just the touch they needed. And yes, marcia, the dough IS secretly easy. It's such an easy process, so I do plan to make one of those cream puff trees, or croquembouche, for the holidays to use this skill again. After making these, I'm WAY less nervous about making the croquembouche!

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  6. WOW :) what a feast for my eyes!

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  7. What a beautiful and delicious creation :)

    -Kelly

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