September 1, 2008

Daring Bakers: Chocolate (and Ginger) Eclairs

Ok, I admit it...I've been a not-so-daring baker. Since joining the Daring Bakers group in March, I've missed two months...both cakes. I just wasn't into the cakes. *sigh*

However, I was excited to see that this month's recipe, chosen by Meeta and Tony, was for chocolate eclairs. I've never made eclairs, so this would give me a chance to try my hand at pate a choux dough and pastry cream.

But then...

I got that new teaching job a few weeks before school started, and I was frantically trying to get my classroom ready and figure out what the heck I was supposed to be teaching.

Still, I remembered the August DB challenge in the back of my mind and looked forward to a day off so I could make those chocolate eclairs.

And then yesterday, I realized that August 31 was the posting day. And I hadn't made the eclairs yet! I thought for sure that I would do them yesterday. I had planned on it.

But then...

I had to bake that apple tart tatin because the farmers' market apples were expiring on the counter. I didn't feel much like baking eclairs after that...and after cleaning, doing laundry, and making a webpage for my classes.

Today, in between more cleaning, more laundry, and more lesson planning, I've managed to make those @#$% eclairs! No, really, I did enjoy it. Such a feeling of accomplishment...

There is, of course, an advantage to waiting until the last minute...seeing what everyone else has done! And learning from their mistakes.

The rules this month were simple: We had to use the choux dough as follows and keep one of the chocolate elements (either the chocolate pastry cream or the chocolate glaze.)

I chose to keep the glaze (which was time-consuming & sort of redundant), while making a ginger pastry cream.

For the first batch of eclairs, I piped some strips to form the traditional "long johns" and some spiraly circles. The strips didn't puff up enough to become finished eclairs (they looked like fingers), but the circles came out nicely.


I did all larger circles for the second batch, and I thought they turned out the best.


Also, several people wrote about how their shells fell after taken out of the oven. The remedy, it seems, is to bake them longer than the 20-minutes as the recipe says. I baked mine 10 minutes longer, checking after 5 minutes to make sure the bottoms weren't burning.


Chocolate & Ginger Eclairs

(makes 20-24 eclairs)

I prepared the cream first, to give it time to chill while I baked the eclair shells. As the shells were cooling, I made the chocolate glaze.

Ginger Pastry Cream
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 cups whole milk
2 heaping tablespoons candied ginger, finely chopped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temperature
  • Bring the milk and ginger to a boil in a small saucepan.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well-blended.
  • While whisking, drizzle about 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the yolks to temper them.
  • Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk.
  • Put the pan over medium-low heat and, whisking vigorously & constantly & thoroughly, bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Keep boiling & whisking for 1-2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
  • Whisk in the vanilla.
  • Then, whisk in the butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the cream is smooth & silky.
  • Transfer the pastry cream to a small bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until ready to use.
  1. The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Choux (aka Cream Puff) Dough
recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme

½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil.
  • 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.
  • 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. (Mine was actually very thick, no ribbons here. I wonder why...)
  • The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs.
  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed paper, parchment paper, or silicone baking mats.
  • Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.
  • 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. (But really, you need to bake them 10-15 minutes more.)
  • Remove the shells from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
  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.
  3. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Chocolate Glaze
recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme
(makes 1 cup)

1/3 cup heavy cream
3½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tablespoons 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.
  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.
  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
(makes 1½ cups)

4½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup water
½ cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
1/3 cup 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.
  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:
  • 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.
The puffs are hollow in the middle, so I just used my fingers to gently nudge the top apart on the circles.
  • The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees 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.
  • 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.


Anonymous said...

Ooh, I've got to try that ginger pastry cream. Your last photo is especially gorgeous. Triumph!

Sarah said...

Oh! I hadn't seen ginger yet. What a good idea. They look great.

Maggie said...

Ginger!! I'm so jealous. The double chocolate just didn't do it for me.

White Sugar Brown Sugar by Rachel Garlinghouse said...

Wow, Kelly. I'm really impressed. They look amazing!

I'm enjoying my agave nectar cookbook. I made chocolate chip cookies tonight. :)


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Sould have baked mine longer Kelly...but that's what I get for waiting till the last minute:D