Daring Baker #9 Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

>> Sunday, August 31, 2008



First a special Thank You! to Tony & Meeta for hosting this month's event. You can check out all the other DB's efforts here.


I would have stayed in bed if I'd known what fresh hell was awaiting today. But seriously! Chocolate Éclairs! With chocolate pastry cream and chocolate glaze! What could be bad? Well, let me tell you. First there was a farcical string of technical issues, like egg shell in the choux and hubs deciding to dump out all the ice. Then there was the mysterious disappearance of every.single.one. of my piping bags, the unexplainable absence of a wooden spoon, and inexplicably neither box of parchment paper still has it's metal cutting strip attached. Gremlins? Poltergeists? Children of the Corn? I don't know about you, but I smell a brat. Or two. And ultimately? We just didn't like 'em. The éclairs I mean, not the children.

The challenge -as posted- consisted of 4 elements:

1. the cream puff dough
2. chocolate pasty cream
3. chocolate sauce (used to make the chocolate glaze)
4. chocolate glaze

I added a fifth element; whipped cream. Why? Cause it tastes good, that's why.



First the positive.

  • I like the recipe for the dough. You get to use the Kitchenaid to mix in all those eggs which is way easier than beating them in with a wooden spoon one at a time while praying your arm doesn't fall off.

  • Whipped cream tastes good.



    And now, the negatives.

  • The éclair recipe suggests 20 minutes total baking time. As if! My pastries were about one inch smaller than suggested and I baked them for a total of 27 minutes. Honestly I think they could have gone a few more minutes still, judging by the eggy taste. Also - opening the door midway? More than half were collapsed within 3 minutes. My experience suggests that was not such a good thing to do.

  • The chocolate pastry cream? Jello instant pudding. Only thicker. And not as tasty. Too much cornstarch? Cheap chocolate? I don't know - either way - not impressed, Mr. Hermé, not impressed.

  • Chocolate glaze? Eh. I could take it or leave it. Which is disappointing because I had pretty much planned on eating it with a spoon. Again, this might have a lot to do with the chocolate I bought. Ghirardelli 60% for inquiring minds.

  • And the chocolate sauce. Why Pierre? Why? Why add 1 CUP of water then spend the next 30 minutes stirring while it thickens? Necessary? I think not. And to add insult to injury, I was unable to determine any appreciable improvement in the chocolate glaze after adding the chocolate sauce. Plus I now have 3/4 cup of leftover sauce that just really doesn't taste all that good. Chocolate sauce = complete fail. I heard a rumor this makes excellent chocolate milk though, so I reserve the right to retract that last statement.


    And because I've made it all sound oh so enticing - here's the recipe in full for your baking dis-pleasure. Or you could just come on over and eat the 22 that are left. Maybe we're just doughnut people.

    Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
    Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
    (makes 20-24 Éclairs)

    • Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

    1) 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.

    2) 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.

    3) 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. 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.

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

    Assembling the éclairs:

    • Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
    • Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

    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 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.

    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.

    Notes:
    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
    bubbles.

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

    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 the
    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. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

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

    2) 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.

    Chocolate Pastry Cream
    Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

    • 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. In 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.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

    3) 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.

    4) 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.

    5) 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.

    [bNotes:[/b]
    1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

    2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

    3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

    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.

    Notes:
    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.

    Notes:
    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.


    *****I can't leave a comment (must be logged on?) but this little snake eclair is dang near the cutest thing I've ever seen.

  • 48 comments:

    Julie August 31, 2008 at 3:48 PM  

    Um, I'm on my way to help you with those left overs. That's what friends are for.

    lilmizlynn August 31, 2008 at 4:24 PM  

    thank you for stopping by my blog. your eclair looks great especially with the whipped cream. :)

    I'm Julie August 31, 2008 at 4:29 PM  

    I'm with you - way too much effort for the result. Just didn't work for me either.

    And to be honest, I used plain ganache (chocolate and cream) for the topping. Much easier, tastes fantastic. Which I know, by the way, because I did indeed eat it with a spoon. A whole heck of a lot of it. (Cut me some slack - I didn't eat the eclairs.) ;)

    I adore your blog!

    Rebecca August 31, 2008 at 4:30 PM  

    After all that trouble! Yeah, I thought these were pretty "meh," and I didn't get the whole chocolate sauce/glaze thing. It should have been MUCH better after all that hassle.

    Cristine August 31, 2008 at 4:33 PM  

    Bummer that you didn't like them but way to go on completing the challenge. They look great!

    Iron Chef Shellie August 31, 2008 at 4:40 PM  

    omg, your picture i swear is adding calories to my hips without even eating them! I don't even like whipped cream and yet i'm craving it now with eclairs!!
    haha
    x

    Ranee August 31, 2008 at 5:08 PM  

    I'm sorry you didn't like them. I thought they could have been better, I was surprised considering the source, but I did like them. Too many eggs! Anyway, good job on them.

    awayfromomelas August 31, 2008 at 5:22 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    pincushioncrumbs August 31, 2008 at 5:23 PM  

    In response to your query - I have a bad sense of humor and a sadistic streak? Kidding, kidding. Our glaze was pretty revolting, eh?

    Your glaze, on the other hand, is gorgeous!

    Thanks for the comment =)

    Anonymous August 31, 2008 at 5:44 PM  

    I love how you used the stripe towel to compliment your Eclair colors, very nice!

    BonoboCakes

    Ellyn August 31, 2008 at 5:50 PM  

    haha! Love your post...very honest! I was happy that I didn't have a total failed attept as this was my first month participating, but I am hoping for some tastier recipes in the future! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    Millie Price August 31, 2008 at 5:57 PM  

    I am with you on the glaze/sauce. I didn't care for it and it was the hardest most time consuming part of the whole recipe. A much simpler glaze would have been much better.

    Marianevans August 31, 2008 at 6:03 PM  

    I don't have a mixer, so I just went away at the choux with a wooden spoon. The result? A huge blister! Your pix is drool worthy.

    Anderson Zoo Keepers August 31, 2008 at 7:26 PM  

    You are a great, funny, funny writer. I'm so glad you came by so I'd come and see you!
    1. Totally agree on the glaze. Mine got better the next day BTW. I've seen some others that were much thicker, maybe they just used ganache?
    2. When I first tasted the cream I thought the EXACT same thing about the jello pudding. Then I added much darker chocolate and made it much chocolatier - and then it was yum. But you gotta love chocolate.
    3. You really are funny.

    JaySpice August 31, 2008 at 7:51 PM  

    I'm sorry you didn't like the eclair. Hey, you bake and learn. I thought the chocolate sauce was a little weird also.

    Hey, maybe your kids are psychic......

    Audax Artifex August 31, 2008 at 8:01 PM  

    Your comments are spot on about the negatives. I did one as per recipe very average and then did one the way I thought it should be (baking the choux 30 mins at 220C, simple chocolate/cream glaze with whipped cream and sour cherry filling) much better and a whole lot more fattening and decadent. Love your writing. Yours Audax

    the italian dish August 31, 2008 at 8:10 PM  

    God, you're funny. I totally agree about the chocolate sauce !

    Barbara Bakes August 31, 2008 at 9:56 PM  

    I have to agree with all your comments. Especially the chocolate sauce. I didn't like it in chocolate milk either. Although on ice cream with bananas, it was great!

    Gina September 1, 2008 at 12:07 AM  

    I have to admit, I chuckled at your blunt honesty a couple of times. :) You can send leftovers my way - my waistline will kick my butt for saying that, but I don't care! ;)

    And I agree, the snake eclair is adorable!

    Diane September 1, 2008 at 12:49 AM  

    I'm surprised you didn't like the pastry cream. It was the one thing I loved about these eclairs. What didn't you like about it?

    For my second batch I followed the recipe for the glaze without the sauce, hence ganache. It was better for me.

    Mary September 1, 2008 at 6:00 AM  

    Cold, the chocolate sauce makes an ok chocolate milk. I will be trying it warmed next. And thank you for making me feel better for not making these! (And even if they didn't taste great they sure look pretty and that's what matters right?)

    Mary September 1, 2008 at 6:01 AM  

    Cold, the chocolate sauce makes an ok chocolate milk. I will be trying it warmed next. And thank you for making me feel better for not making these! (And even if they didn't taste great they sure look pretty and that's what matters right?)

    smaro September 1, 2008 at 6:33 AM  

    Aww. Sorry it didnt work out and things were working against you. They turned out well for me but just didnt have the zing and melt in the mouth quality I was hoping for. I was in Lille over the weekend, I think I will leave French pastries to the French!

    bonnie September 1, 2008 at 7:53 AM  

    you are funny~ i love reading your blog

    Tenina September 1, 2008 at 8:01 AM  

    MMMnnn, I could lick that glaze off the screen, it looks sensational!

    Apples and Butter September 1, 2008 at 8:37 AM  

    Yum. Looks like just the splurge I need to end my weekend of eating everything in sight!

    Half Baked September 1, 2008 at 8:37 AM  

    Funny post! sorry to hear all your troubles! The eclairs look great!

    Jodie September 1, 2008 at 9:29 AM  

    They look good, though! I wasn't too impressed with the recipe, either. Mine fell when I opened the oven, too.

    Shirley September 1, 2008 at 9:36 AM  

    I have to agree with you on the chocolate sauce/glaze. They were all right, but not worth all the effort! For my Take 2, I just went with a ganache for the topping. I liked everything else, though, and my waistline shows it! :)

    lindaloohoo - wheresmydamnanwer September 1, 2008 at 10:43 AM  

    see?? THIS is why i don't, ok, can't, cook.
    to go to all that trouble and then end up with a meal that makes my hubunit take a bite, make a face and then I make a face and it all goes downhill from there. not cool. but it does accurately sum up my cooking experiences over the years.
    bitter you ask? why yes.
    btw, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on the underwear top. bedazzled. oh yeah.
    hey, maybe that's what these eclairs needed. you'd think someone with the name herme would already have thought of that.
    do i need to do everything for these people??

    Eat4Fun September 1, 2008 at 11:17 AM  

    Hi... this recipe seemed to make a lot of extra pastry cream, glaze and chocolate sauce... 1.5 cups and only use abou 0.5 cups... what's up with that?

    Although the pastry cream and the glaze turned out well... the pate a choux was the tough part of the recipe.

    However, your eclair does look very good!

    Jude September 1, 2008 at 12:37 PM  

    Loved reading your notes for this challenge. I'll be sure to remember your tips for the next time.

    The Spiteful Chef September 1, 2008 at 12:56 PM  

    Mother of ASS. You mean we're supposed to post the recipe as well? I'm not sure I'm capable of doing this without adding commentary that might offend the sensibilities of Monsieur Herme. But, then again, if his sensibilities re: the water in the chocolate are anything to go by, I have no problems whatsoever offending him. The French are a silly people in that way.

    Bunny September 1, 2008 at 3:28 PM  

    Your eclairs do look good,It's a shame it wasn't a better experience for you.....and me! Now that you mention it my eclairs do look like bunny ears!!! LOL!! Thanks for commenting on my blog!

    Camille September 1, 2008 at 3:40 PM  

    I agree about the baking times. Luckily I've made them before so I baked at different times. The photo looks nice :)

    Amber September 1, 2008 at 3:44 PM  

    I'm glad that I'm not the only one that didn't like them. Thanks for the comment about the pudding-try it, it really is delicious! A lot more delicious than the egg tasting Martha Stewart cream I made and threw in the trash and a hell of a lot easier!

    Shayne September 1, 2008 at 5:25 PM  

    I am so sorry that you had all those issues and then nobody liked them. I have to say they are a big hit at our house at any time but I am sure you figured that out from my post.

    Adam September 1, 2008 at 6:01 PM  

    Thanks for stopping by my site. While making the eclairs was kind of cool, I agree that the results were kind of ... eh. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

    Nice site you have here, I'll come back and visit :)

    Maggie September 1, 2008 at 7:42 PM  

    I just wasn't in the mood for chocolate when I made them but after reading your post I'm darn glad I made an easier glaze. They look pretty though!

    Mimi September 2, 2008 at 9:55 AM  

    wow, these look heavenly and doable! Will try.

    The Spiteful Chef September 2, 2008 at 1:57 PM  

    Is it just me, or is September's challenge ultra-gay. And I mean that with all the love in my heart to the same-sex oriented. Seriously, though. I'm annoyed.

    The Recipe Fairy September 2, 2008 at 5:48 PM  

    Thanks so much for stopping by to visit me on my first DB challenge! I totally agree about that chocolate sauce, although I definitely see a glass of chocolate milk in my future. Gotta try something to make use of all that good expensive chocolate I used!

    Jenny September 3, 2008 at 5:28 AM  

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who did not get that chocolate sauce part. And I'm with you on the oven door part - it didn't help! I eventually cut mine open, layed them flat, and put them back in the oven to dry out.

    Andrea September 3, 2008 at 6:09 AM  

    Thank you for visiting my blog and my first Daring Bakers post! Your eclairs look great, sorry they gave you so much trouble. I agree that the baking time was totally off, oh-well.

    Deborah September 3, 2008 at 10:23 AM  

    It's never fun when you put so much effort into something and you don't like the result. They do look good though!

    Erin September 3, 2008 at 10:13 PM  

    I hate it when you have kitchen gremlins. Your eclairs look fantastic for all the problems that you had. Good job :)

    Ruth September 4, 2008 at 9:49 AM  

    Great post your eclairs look great. Way to overcome the issues

    Anonymous March 8, 2009 at 8:03 PM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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