31 August 2008

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs

Daring Bakers time once again, my pets. This time we're tackling éclairs.

Remember my dear sister Aimbot? Well. This recipe had her name written all over it. Aimbot was lucky enough to take a trip to France in high school, apparently to practice her mad French-speaking skillz. I may have only been ten years old, but from what I could see what she really got out of the trip was a suitcase stuffed with the latest fashions and a worldly air.

And an éclair recipe.

She flew home, and after many hugs and much chatting about her two weeks away, Aimbot did something I had never seen her do before. She donned a fashionable new chemise, tied on an apron, and set about the kitchen to bake. Aimbot, baking! And not only baking, but she was making éclairs. Those puffy, sweet, elegant little treats enjoyed in France. All I really remember is that she spent a LONG TIME in the kitchen, and what resulted were puffs of warm heaven, split in half and filled with a sweet creamy filling, and bitter chocolate swipe across the top.

When I saw we were making éclairs this challenge, I immediately thought of that time when I was younger and Aimbot made éclairs. I wanted more than a simple chocolate pastry filling, though, so added some orange zest and Grand Marnier to the pastry filling as well as Grand Marnier to the chocolate glaze.

Ooo la la! Good stuff, ladies and gents. Hubs and I enjoyed a few of these as our Sunday breakfast, with thick slices of cantaloupe and big steaming mugs of coffee. While making up fake French words, as to appear more sophisticated (I don't think that worked, though).

Don't forget to check out those other éclairs from my fellow Daring Bakers! And many thanks to this month's hosts Tony Tahhan and MeetaK, you really brought back memories :)

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
(from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé)

Assembling the éclairs:
20-24 éclairs
Chocolate glaze
Chocolate pastry cream

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.

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.

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.

Notes: 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.

The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough

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

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

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.

Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your hand mixer 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.

The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

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 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.

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.

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.

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. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total bakingtime should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes: The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Chocolate Pastry Cream Recipe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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: 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 Recipe

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

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.

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 Recipe

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

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.

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.


Cate said...

I love eclairs. Yours are absolutely gorgeous. I especially love the orange peel!

Snooky doodle said...

hmmm how can anyone resist this creamy heaven. yummy

Anonymous said...

Those are BEAUTIFUL!

Anonymous said...

Grand Marnier? OUI! These look amazing. What a lovely breakfast.

Meryl said...

The orange zest on top is a wonderful touch--very pretty!

Shelby said...

A great memory to go with your eclairs! They look awesome!

Anonymous said...

oh that is a sweet story to remember with your eclairs. i love the orange addition. your eclairs looks divine.

Sarah said...

Love the orange zest! Such a nice splash of color.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos! After seeing yours I really want to try the chocolate pastry cream. Yum!

Katie B. said...

Oh Nemmie - your eclairs blow all others out of the water!!! I'm smitten!

Heather said...

that three-eclair picture is stunning! these look delicious!

Sarah said...

I am literally drooling all over my keyboard right now...beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Very cool touch with the orange zest. Yum. Delicious looking closeups and photos!

Shayne said...

Great Story and the idea of Grand Marnier in the filling sounds wonderful. I wonder if I can get hubby to add it the next time he makes eclairs.

Anonymous said...

One word: GORGEOUS!

Anonymous said...

Jai petay!

Jenny said...

Pretty, and even better with memories.

enza said...

orange and chocolate what great match!

Lulu the Baker said...

I am so in awe of your eclairs. The pastry cream looks beautiful, the glaze looks perfect, and the pastries look perfectly puffed. I was dying to throw orange somewhere into mine, but I did orange in my gateau in July and didn't want to get in an orange/chocolate rut. But now I WISH I had! Kudos!

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