This month's Daring Baker's Challenge was Eclairs. I'd never made eclairs before mainly because I was scared of the making the Pâte á Choux. I think I always assumed it was hard to make & a very delicate process. It actually ended up being much easier than I though & I was quite happy with the results.
The recipe we used was from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé. I used half of the recipe because I didn't really need 20 - 24 eclairs. The full recipe called for 5 eggs. I added the first two & then added the third a little at a time until I felt the dough was the right consistency, I ended up being about 3 T of the last egg.
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
1/4 c whole milk
1/4 c water
4 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/8 t sugar
1/8 t salt
1/2 c all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, at room temperature
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. Beat the third egg & add it a tablespoon at a time until the dough is thick and shiny and when lifted falls back into the bowl in a ribbon.
4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs
This half recipe made me twelve 3-inch long eclairs & four puffs.
Once the dough was ready I piped it on to a baking sheet covered with a silicone mat. I used the coupler on my piping bag without a tip to do the piping. It wasn't as big as what was called for so I had smaller eclairs. Then I put the sheet into the freezer & let the piped shapes freeze.
Once they were frozen I put them in a freezer bag to use later. When it came time to bake the eclairs I just grabbed as many as I wanted from the bag to cook up. This is great because you can make up a whole batch of the dough, pipe it & keep it in the freezer to use whenever you want over a month.
I cooked up three different batches. There was a lot of different thoughts on the Daring Baker's forum about cooking the dough, different temperatures, times, oven door closed, oven door ajar, etc... I ended up going with Alton Brown's temperatures & times. I used the Joy of Cooking's suggestion about cooling in a an open oven. All my batches cooked up beautifully.
Baking the Eclairs
Preheat oven to 425 F with two racks in it dividing the oven into thirds. Place the frozen pâte á choux shapes on a baking sheet covered with a silicone pad. Place a pan with about a cup of water in it on the bottom rack on the oven. Put the baking sheet with the dough on the top rack. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 F and rotate the baking sheet. Bake another 10 minutes. The dough should be puffed up & brown. Turn off the oven & remove the pan with the water. Use the tip of a knife to poke a small hole in each puff. Leave the tray of cooked puffs in the oven with the door ajar until cool. I used a wooden spoon to hold the door ajar. Store the cooled puffs in an airtight container until ready to use.
We were allowed to change either the chocolate glaze or the chocolate filling for our eclairs. I decided to keep the chocolate glaze but do a vanilla pastry cream for my first batch.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
1 c + 2 T milk
2 egg yolks
1/3 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
2 T flour
1 T vanilla
Boil 1 cup of the milk in a saucepan. While it is heating whisk together the egg yolks, sugar & remaining milk. Whisk in the flour & cornstarch until combined. Slowly pour in the hot milk while whisking. Return the mixture to the saucepan & stir until it is boiling & thick. Turn the heat down to low & stir another 2 minutes until smooth. Put in a bowl & cover with plastic wrap. The wrap needs to touch the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool to room temperature & then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. It can be refrigerated overnight. Once cold it pipes beautifully.
For my second batch I made a coffee flavored pastry cream & substituted 1 T brewed espresso for the vanilla. It was so good! We liked it better than the plain vanilla.
Makes enough to fill 8 small eclairs
4 oz chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 c + 2 T cream
Bring butter & cream to a boil over medium heat. Turn heat to low & add the chocolate, stir until completely melted. Allow the sauce to cool a little before frosting & it will thicken up. I store it in a tupperware container in the fridge & microwave it for 20 seconds on high when I need to use it.
Assembling the eclairs
For my first batch of eclairs I used a small knife to cut the tops off the puffs. Then I piped in the pastry cream, put the top back on & added the glaze. This was nice but A little hard to eat.
For my second batch, I used poked a wooden skewer into the puffs & moved it around to make sure the inside of each puff was completely hollow. Then using my piping bag & a small star tip I piped the cream into the center of each puff. I found that I had to pipe into both ends of each puff to get the eclairs filled completely. These came out great though & were easier to eat.
I stored my assembled eclairs in an airtight container in the refrigerator before serving. This allowed the chocolate glaze to harden.
I also cooked up the puff sized pastries I made. They took the exact same amount of cooking time. I cut them in half & served them with ice cream in the middle & chocolate sauce on top, yummy!
Thanks to Tony Tahhan & MeetaK for this month's challenge. It was a lot of fun & I'll make these again!