Sunday, August 9, 2009

Number 3: Chocolate éclairs

So you know when you've had a bad day, and it's hot and muggy and you're stressed and tired and sleepy and angry without knowing why?

Maybe it's a girl thing.

Anyway, I've never had a chocolate éclair before. Until today, as I made them for the first time. And then I realized they're just like cream puffs, except longer. And when filled with a chocolate custard, instead of vanilla, they're amazing. Especially when topped with a chocolate sauce.

So today, I had a bad day. I was cranky all morning and missing Boyfriend and not knowing what to expect when he came back from a 1.5 month trip to China and everything. I'm always like this after a long distance thing. That and trying to find birthday presents and figuring out my work schedule and gosh, I feel ugly today. It probably is a girl thing.

And then I made these éclairs. And yes, the first batch fell flat because I didn't bake them long enough. But at around 9:30 when I finally filled these puffs to serve at a family friend's birthday party, it kind of came together.

It worked. Cold chocolate cream and room-temperature chocolate sauce and choux pastry. It worked.

I found Pierre Hermé’s chocolate eclair recipe via Tartelette and in hopes of creating a true french dessert, I decided to make it for this birthday extravaganza. That and I had a major craving for chocolate.

Tartlette (Helen) talked about this one
éclair she had in France, this elusive éclair that made everything in the world stop for a moment, and I figured this was good enough to calm me down for a bit. And it did. Even as chocolate custard came gushing out onto my already chocolate-covered fingers.

So enough talking. Things are good, and tomorrow will be just fine.

Here's the recipe. My first batch fell flat as I said, but I found that you want the baked pastry to be completely dry - no bubbling oil or whatever on top.

I ended up using 7 eggs instead of 5 because the consistency wasn't what it was described to be. Ugh, maybe it was but it sure didn't fall in a ribbon.

Another change I made (sorry!) - I didn't have bittersweet so I used semisweet chips and added a tablespoon of baking cocoa.

Pastry shells before filling

Pierre Hermé’s chocolate éclairs

Cream Puff Dough
. All recipes below from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 eclairs)
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

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with two racks evenly distributed.
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 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 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.The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs.

Notes: 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 bakingsheets 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.

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 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.
7. Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 5 - 10 more minutes, or until the shells are golden brown and crisp. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
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. 8. n 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.
3. 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. Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
7. 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.
8. Once the crea has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments.
9. 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: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 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.
2. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.
3. Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
Notes: 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.
Notes: 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.

Since half of my choux pastry fell flat, I have extra chocolate glaze and cream. I think I'll make light cookies and whipped cream tomorrow and serve those to my family as dessert tomorrow.

You know, we're really not a dessert family. We only eat dessert when we go out to eat at restaurants - like Taps, where we went to brunch this morning. (Taps brunch = all you can eat crab legs and oysters. Blog about this to come).

Apologies for the long post - I was delaying bed time.

Sweet dreams.

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