Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Daring Bakers-- Eclairs

Éclairs. Just seeing the word makes my mouth begin to salivate. Both my mouth and stomach were extremely happy to see that the August Daring Bakers Challenge was a receipe for éclairs. My butt? Not so happy. I'll blame MeetaK and Tony for any excess weight accrued this month! They chose one of my favorite things to eat for their challenge choice.

I found the actual recipe to be easier than I thought it'd be. I had two major faux pas and one minor one. Both of the major ones were my own fault. I didn't go with the posted chocolate pastry cream as my filling because I thought that would be too much chocolate (yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing) so I went with a standard vanilla pastry cream. My first mistake came when I didn't pay close enough attention to the recipe and instead of 2 teaspoons of vanilla, I used 2 tablespoons. (oops). It was really vanilla-y... which really wasn't that bad (and somehow almost took on a banana taste ???) but using that much vanilla ended up making my pastry cream more of a pastry spread and it got pretty thinned out as it cooled. So my éclairs didn't get nice and mounded and cute.

My second mistake was one that is rather gross and embarrassing. I had already made the pâte à choux (dough) and even tasted it before baking (please tell me I'm not the only one that still licks the beaters) and I had my éclairs in the oven baking (after freezing for a while... that's how far into the recipe I already was). I had the milk already scalded and had the eggs and sugar blending for the pastry cream. I sifted my 1/3 cup flour and noticed little reddish things in the bottom of the sifter. I looked closely and thought it looked like a little bug. I immediately ran to the computer and Googled "flour bugs" and realized that my flour had those weevils or weebles or whatever they are called!! Eewwww. And I had even licked the beater from the pâte à choux!!

I immediately pulled out the baking éclairs and threw them in the trash and I dumped all of the pastry cream down the sink. I headed out to the store to get fresh flour and started the entire process all over again.

My husband laughed... saying to go ahead and still use the flour since they get baked anyway............ he's so gross! I swear the man would eat anything.

My other minor mistake was that my eclairs deflated after I took them out of the oven. However, after thinking about it, I don't think I baked them long enough. My last batch I left in exactly one minute longer and they didn't deflate (but got really, really golden). So I'm wondering if they should have baked just a tad longer. Either way, it didn't stop me from eating any. :)

Other than those little problems, I thought the recipe was smooth sailing and I enjoyed making the éclairs (although I hated doing all of the dishes. It sure made a lot of dishes!)

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 a 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. Preheat your oven to 375° 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.

5) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.

I didn't have a pastry bag so I just used a ziploc bag and put my coupler on it as if it were a pastry bag!

I filled it by placing it inside an oversized coffee mug (or bowl) and folding the bag down around the outside.

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.

(I piped mine in long rows and then froze the dough until it was firm. I was then able to just cut four inch segments once the dough was firmed up. It gave the ends of the éclairs a much cleaner look once they were baked. I also piped a few blobs to have round little cream puffs as well as éclairs.)

The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

6) 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. Continu baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and then 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.

3) The baked éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.


Vanilla Custard Pastry Cream Filling

2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sifted white flour
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla

1. Scald 2 cups milk, set aside.

2. Beat 4 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar with mixer until pale and thick.

3. Add 1/3 cup sifted white flour and mix.

4. Very slowly, beat milk into eggs being careful not to curdle.

5. Pour back into pan and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil then turn heat to low. Cook on low for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

6. Stir in 2 Tbsp. butter and 2 tsp. vanilla. Turn off heat. Let cool, place plastic wrap on top and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.


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.


Assembling the éclairs:

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° F 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.

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

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


Marye said...

Nice job! The look great!

If you keep a bay leaf in with your flour the weevils won't get into it.

HoneyB said...

Great Job! Yeah, the bugs would have had my tummy turning also! I like your step by step photos of the eclair dough!

*fanny* said...

thnak god. I love the raw dough as well!

xx fanny

Tiffany said...

Oh no! We had a bad pantry bug invasion right before the DB French Bread Challenge. I had to sit that one out because I just couldn't bring more flour in until I knew I had eradicated all the bugs. They sure do give ya the heebie jeebies though, huh? I now freeze my flour for a few days when I bring it home, then store it in the fridge.

TeaLady said...

These look good. Yummy!

Courtney said...

what a bummer about the weevils, those little devils. the story was pretty funny though!

Antonio Tahhan said...

beautiful job, Michele! Oh no, I'm sorry to hear about your tiny faux pas... I giggled a bit (i'm sorry). I'm so happy you gave it another try and posted your beauties. A couple others commented on the baking time - I think a little longer would've benefited the puffiness of the choux, but like you said, I don't think it stopped anyone from eating them :)

Claire said...

Oh no! I probably would have used the eclairs anyway. :-) The second batch looks great anyway.

Jude said...

Cool idea with freezing the eclairs first. Love the step by step presentation.

SweetDesigns said...

hehe..evil weevils!! Your eclairs look fantastic though, I love that first picture. Great Job!!

Tanya said...

Great job on the eclairs - they look fabulous! (my blog)

Diane said...

Wow even after everything you still managed to make good looking eclairs.

ingegerd said...

great job!look great!yummy!

Shandy said...

I love your step by step photos and I so agree with you about the weevils. I would totally have been grossed out too. Beautiful eclairs =D

Megan said...

Mishaps like bugs in the flour always make for a funny post. But I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time.

Lisa Michelle said...

Your eclairs look so good, I'd eat the bugs (hey, it's protein, right?) :P Nice job!

marion-il en faut peu pour ... said...

it looks like I'm not the only one who had problem with deflating puffs ;)
They look great ! congratulations :)

Harmony said...

Beautiful eclairs. You get an extra star for doing it twice. I really love the ideas you have on your blog, thank you for the great craft ideas.

silverrock said...

Your eclairs look beautiful. And I simply love the way you show all the step-by-step instructions using pictures... very easy to follow! Way to go on this month's DB challenge :)

Anonymous said...

Shame about the weevils, the eclairs look great though :)