Chocolate Eclair….Oh Pierre!!
Eclairs With Chocolate Pastry Cream and Chocolate Glaze. Sprinkle of crushed Chikki (Indian Praline)
I wanted to write this post for our Daring Bakers challenge last night and started doing other stuff instead and I have just now gotten home from working a small party with Old Chef. I am exhausted and what happens when I am tired and need to focus is that I tend to make phrases and rhymes out of everything, like for our challenge this month, Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs: "Pierre, your eclairs, c’est du tonnerre. Soyons clairs, j’en suis fiere…" (does not sound that great translated but it basically reads that the eclairs were great!). I made the eclairs as written by our hosts but then played around a bit witht the eclairs and kept some of the pate a choux to make religieuses and cream puffs for a later post (without rhymes then, promise).
Indeed, Meeta and Tony made a great choice by going with Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs. Does PH really needs an introduction? I think not…He is pretty darn remarkable, not only by his creations but by his excellent timing and the excellence of the teams he puts together. I even But you see I have what the French call "un coeur d’artichaud", a heart like an artichoke…with many leaves for many people. So yes I like to look at and read Herme, but also Michalak, Aoki Bau, Glacier, Felder, and of course our favorite Zen Chef…And yes, B. knows and he is ok with it, except that PH had some serious shoes to fill regarding eclairs. Me? Never met an eclair I did not like so I was pretty happy to try a new recipe.
Pate a Choux for the eclairs – Chocolate sauce used in the chocolate glaze
It often starts with the egg….and ends with chocolate… giving the American icon Baker’s chocolate a go and the result was surprisingly very good and smooth.
A little story there…real short this time (humhum): a couple of years ago when we went home to France to see my family for Christmas, we left the chaos of family fun for a little two-day escapade in downtown Paris. On our way back we stopped at La Maison Du Chocolat and selected some delicious pastries to share with my parents. B. could not wait for after dinner and bought one single dark chocolate eclairs to have on the train ride back. When we split that one eclair, the world around us magically evaporated. No noise, no rocking from the train against the tracks, no little lady telling her grandchild to please sit down 5 times every 2 minutes, no brouhaha from kids playing with their little Christmas toys. We looked at each other and exclaimed at the same time with our mouths full "oh my god…this is incredible…" We did not even feel the stares of the people on the train. When we noticed them, we looked as guilty as if we had been caught up in a passionate moment of affection!
I often promised B. I’d try to make them as good as that one from La Maison du Chocolat but I never did. I knew that no matter how close I’d come or even if I were to succeed, there would always be something missing: Christmas, Paris and a train ride…. However, Pierre Herme’s eclairs got pretty darn close…very close if you kept the recipe given by our hosts as written: eclair shells, bittersweet pastry cream and bitter sweet chocolate glaze. That is a lot of chocolate, eggs, sugar, cream, butter heavens all spread throughout the Daring Bakers world!
Rose pastry cream, poured fondant and raspberry….add a lychee and it is a PH’s Ispahan eclair…
I did the full batch of doug but divided the pastry cream: half the pastry cream was chocolate trying to re-capture that elusive eclair described above. I did top some of the chocolate eclairs with some crushed Chikki (Hi Bina!). Inspired by PH’s Ispahan creations, I added rose water to the other half and made a poured fondant for the glaze. A poured fondant starts with a sugar syrup brought to high temperature then cooled dwon then whipped to a firm consistency. Once you have that block of fondant, you add some simple syrup and warm it up to pouring consistency. Why not do powdered sugar and water and call it a day? First, knowing your hot syrups is always a good thing…kidding (well, almost) but essentially this poured fondant is not as sweet as a simple glaze, goes on smooth and dries well, allowing you to stack, pack and transport those eclairs and pastries with ease….yes even if they only make it to your mouth! I borrowed The decoration for the second batch is inspired by Michalak and his book "C’est du gateau!" I love the picture in it and the smarts that went into it.
Allright…you need a recipe and I need sleep…
Most mornings I only have coffee for breakfasts except last week! Eclairs instead!
Pierre Hermé’s 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
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 mediumand 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 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 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 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 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.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), 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.
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
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.
(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
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.
(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
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.
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.
For a great poured fondant recipe with step by step pictures, check out this post.