Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chocolate Éclairs

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen by Meeta of What's for lunch, Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice: Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Éclairs. For once, I wasn't intimidated by the Daring Bakers' challenge! You see, I made éclairs for the first time back in June for Tuesdays with Dorie. So this month, instead of fear, the challenge was met with excitement :) I was eager to see how this recipe would compare to Dorie's (though technically, I believe this recipe is a collaboration between Pierre Hermé and Dorie).

The éclairs consist of three elements: the cream puff dough (or pâte à choux), a pastry cream filling, and a chocolate glaze. The recipe for this cream puff dough is almost identical to Dorie's, except it contains one additional egg and less sugar. I actually thought the dough tasted a bit too eggy, so the additional egg did not seem to improve it.

The challenge with making éclairs is making sure that they do not deflate! The most common causes for them to deflate are (a) a rapid drop in temperature or (b) undercooked dough. For this reason, I did not follow the baking instructions in this recipe. The instructions indicate that you should bake for 7 minutes, then slip a wooden spoon in the oven door for 5 minutes, then open the oven door to rotate the baking sheets, and then continue baking another 8 minutes. Concerned that opening the oven door to rotate the baking sheets would cause them to deflate, I followed the baking instructions from Dorie's recipe. I baked them at 425F for 10 minutes, then lowered the oven temperature to 375F and baked them an additional 15 to 20 minutes. I also only baked one set at a time, so there was no need to rotate anything. And even though they look like they are going to burn half way through the baking, do not take them out of the oven! Let them continue to bake, or else they will deflate after you take them out of the oven.

I had no problems with the chocolate pastry cream recipe. It was almost identical to Dorie's recipe, except you're supposed to place the pastry cream in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process before incorporating the butter. Make sure that you when you are making the pastry cream, that you continue to whisk constantly as the cream comes to a boil. Like magic, it will suddenly thicken up into a nice thick cream after it starts boiling. If you're not careful to whisk evenly, including the bottom edges of the saucepan, you may end up with some clumps instead of a smooth and silky cream.

The chocolate glaze was very simple, though more involved than Dorie's recipe. At first I did not read the recipe carefully and was wondering why there was a recipe for a chocolate glaze and a chocolate sauce. Then I realized that the chocolate sauce is a component of the chocolate glaze.

The éclairs were pure chocolately goodness! I decided to make a few cream puffs in addition to the éclairs. They were a bit messier, but still every bit as good :)

Éclairs are one of those desserts that look deceptively difficult but are actually quite simple to make. They are great for entertaining - each component can be made in advance, then assembled right before serving. If you've never made them before, I encourage you to try. I really enjoyed these, but the next time I make éclairs, I will probably be returning to Dorie's recipe.

Thanks to Meeta and Tony, for choosing éclairs for this month's challenge. I really enjoyed trying another recipe for éclairs. Make sure you visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how hundreds of others enjoyed these chocolately treats!

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

Yield: 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. (If you use a baking stone, there is no need to line it.)

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. (I did not have this size so I piped two strips side by side. If you don't have a pastry bag, simply fill a ziploc bag and cut the corner off.) 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. (I baked mine for 10 minutes at 425F, then 15 to 20 minutes at 375F.)

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 (kitchen scissors work great, too!). 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). (If you try to use the glaze while it is too warm, it will be too thin and will just run down the sides.) 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 bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled. (I assembled these the night before, wrapped them in the refrigerator, and served them the next day and they still tasted good.)

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Yield: 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

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. (I beat my dough for about 2 minutes before adding the eggs in order to cool it a bit first - you don't want it too hot when adding the eggs.) 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.

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

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.

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
Yield: 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
(For the Chocolate Glaze Recipe, above)
Yield: 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.


  1. Your photos are gorgeous! Awesome job!

  2. That was pretty interesting that you combined the 'Dorie' recipe technique with this one to come out with a solid pate cheux. I agree that having them not deflate is the hardest part of the whole process. Amazing job and your photos are great!

  3. The eclairs look great!! This is my first month that I'm no longer a Daring Baker. I had to give it up because of budget and time, but hopefully in the future will be able to join again. Recipes like this make me miss it!

  4. As delicious and daring as these eclairs sound...

    ... I quite like the sound of your cream puffs!!

    In fact, i think they are bordering on drool-worthy.

    To hell with it - I'm drooling!!!

    But you have atleast convinced me that the chocolate sauce is worth making, so perhaps i'll try them out after all.

    Well done by the way ;)

  5. My goodness, your éclairs are the epitome of impeccable craftsmanship - love 'em!

  6. I agree with everyone - your eclairs are perfect!

  7. Those are more gorgeous than anything you'd see in a bakery. Excellent work!

  8. Dorie did us right for this one! I made her pastry cream instead of his. Shhhhh! The chocolate dripping off those cream puffs looks sooooo good.

  9. Great pictures! I noticed an eggy taste but thought maybe it was due to being undercooked...I think the instructions you used were probably better because mine did NOT cook properly. Great job!

  10. These look beautiful! I love how you used Dorie's instructions. Like you, I think that Dorie's version is better. It seems as if other TWD members thought the same thing.

  11. Beautifully done! :)

  12. And that is one good looking eclaire!

  13. Terrific photos, they look so clear and just plain beautiful!!! I'll bet they tasted just as great!

  14. That looks like heaven on a plate! Yum!

  15. Gorgeous!!! Thanks for the Dorie tip. Great idea :)

  16. Thanks for the 'how to prevent deflation' tips. I'll remember those for next time!

  17. You did such a great job with yours. I love the white chocolate drizzle on top.

  18. Mm yours look great.
    I love how youve decorated them with the squiggles too!

  19. Ciao ! Your eclaires are wonderful ! I'll "have" to bake an other batch to try your suggestions !

  20. I love how you glazed the eclairs...very professional!

  21. I think you are correct in your comparison of the two recipes--sorry, Pierre. I must buy Greenspan's book. Wonderful blog!

  22. Just gorgeous - well done!!

    Rosie x

  23. I also baked at 425 to prevent deflation. The messy ones look even better to me!

  24. i'm curious now - to try dorie's version. she can do no wrong. it's great to have all this opinion! thank you for trying this recipe. hugs!

  25. how lovely to be able to compare dorie's and herme's! Your glaze has a lovely shine and the drizzle just increases it's decadence!

  26. Those cream puffs look like pure chocolatey hevean!

  27. Your eclairs look great! I like the white drizzle.

  28. Your eclairs look fabulous and it makes me think I need to get myself a better camera! Love the pictures!

  29. mmm--the messier, the better. the more i can smear onto my face and save for later, the better. :)
    nice job, as usual. :)

  30. I love, love how your choclate glaze hugs the eclairs. YUM!

  31. Oooooooooooh!!! My husband and my FAVORITE! THese look just DECADENT!

  32. That chocolate glaze is making me drool involuntarily all over the place. Yum

  33. Really beautiful Jamie! They look perfect and completely professional!

  34. Great looking eclairs! I love the way you decorated them :)

  35. Mine sank like the Titanic but L'il Burnt Toast still said they were delicious. I love the drizzle on makes them extra special:D

  36. Stunning the puffs!!

  37. I know I just made these...but yours are making my mouth water!

  38. Probably the best eclairs I have ever seen. Nice!