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August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge August 2008: Éclairs!

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Oblong

It's the end of the month so you know what that means...The Daring Baker's Reveal! This month's challenge was chosen by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey? and Tony of Tony Tahhan and our challenge was Éclairs!

I must say this challenge both excited me (I mean come on...Éclairs??) and terrified me all at the same time. I've attempted a Pâte à Choux type pastry dough exactly once before and they fell completely flat and who really wants a flat Éclair? Not I! ;oP So I procrastinated...I put it off and put it off and put it off and finally when I made them Thursday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Round

Now don't get me wrong...This challenge has a bit of work involved and you aren't going to just whip them up in thirty minutes, but it wasn't that hard in the long run and the results were heavenly! I ended halving the recipe when I realized there was no way I would get up early enough to send these to work with Jamison (and used 3 eggs because let's face it...It's a little hard to halve five eggs! ;oP) and made six oblong Éclairs and four round puffs and I must say they turned out fabulously!

I also decided to make my pastry cream a vanilla bean version instead of making it chocolate since we had the choice to keep one of the chocolate elements and use something else for the other option. I simply followed the recipe for the pastry cream and added in one scraped vanilla bean and one tablespoon of vanilla flavoring instead of the chocolate and it turned out perfectly! I still have some of the cream in the fridge...Oh the things I can do with that! ;oP

So this recipe is most definitely a winner! Be sure and check out the Daring Baker's Blogroll and see how everyone else's Éclairs turned out!

I can't wait to see what next month's challenge brings! I hope you all are having a fabulous Labor Day Weekend and for all my international readers I hope you're having a fabulous weekend too! :o)

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.


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.


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.

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Baked

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

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Dough Pre Egg

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.

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Dough Post Egg

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.


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

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Ready to Bake

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.

Daring Bakers August 2008 Challenge Eclairs: Vanilla Pastry Cream

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.


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.


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.

Posted by Dianne at August 31, 2008 12:01 AM

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Your eclair on the dish is so pretty. Good idea on using the same recipe, but leaving out the chocolate. I thought the cream filling was delish. Nice job.

Posted by: Cynthia at August 31, 2008 1:47 AM

Your eclair on the dish is so pretty. Good idea on using the same recipe, but leaving out the chocolate. I thought the cream filling was delish. Nice job.

Posted by: Cynthia at August 31, 2008 1:48 AM

Looks wonderful! I love the vanilla bean filling!

Posted by: Cristine at August 31, 2008 6:48 AM

I'm glad you overcame your fear of the puff! And they look absolutely fabulous - so congrats for a job well done!

Posted by: Megan at August 31, 2008 10:44 AM

Vanilla bean pastry cream sounds soooo good! Can I have some please?! Great job! They look delicious!

Posted by: Heather B at August 31, 2008 11:52 AM

Nice job on the eclairs! I've been procrastinating as well, not out of fear, but out of lack of time. I made my dough this morning (twice, actually), and still have to fill them, take pictures and finish writing my post.

Posted by: Di at August 31, 2008 2:45 PM

The chocolate sauce looks so good. I threw my own sauce together, but am thinking I need to try this one. I also love the flecks of vanilla in your pastry cream! Yumm!

Posted by: HoneyB at August 31, 2008 3:42 PM

Your eclairs look so good! I'm with your on the vanilla bean pastry cream. And I love the specks.
Beautiful and tasty!

Posted by: Karen at August 31, 2008 3:50 PM

These look beautiful! I'm glad this one worked out for you. The vanilla bean pastry cream sounds like it would be delicious!

Posted by: Erin at August 31, 2008 5:29 PM

Those are some handsome looking eclairs! You did a great job with them. I used a vanilla bean pastry cream too. I made a double batch so I would have leftovers to scarf down! ;)

Posted by: Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy at August 31, 2008 9:03 PM

great job. They look very nice.

Posted by: maybelles mom (feeding maybelle) at August 31, 2008 10:38 PM

Thanks everyone! This was really a fabulous recipe! I enjoyed making them and I have to say it was A LOT easier than I thought it was going to be!

Posted by: Dianne at September 1, 2008 8:01 AM

Beautiful eclairs!

Posted by: Ann at September 1, 2008 9:06 AM

Oh my mom loves eclairs!

Posted by: Hannah at September 1, 2008 9:21 AM

Your eclairs look so pretty, and your vanilla bean pastry cream is calling my name. I stuck with chocolate this time around, but next time I want to make a vanilla bean cream and other flavors too.

Posted by: Andrea at September 1, 2008 4:18 PM

Your eclairs look really great! vanilla bean cream sounds yummy:)

Posted by: Paula at September 1, 2008 4:41 PM

We thought alike when it came to the pastry cream, using up those lovely vanilla beans.

Posted by: Jenny at September 2, 2008 5:17 AM

The vanilla bean pastry cream was really fabulous! I must say I was never a huge fan of pastry cream before this, but this one changed my mind! :o)

Posted by: Dianne at September 2, 2008 3:19 PM

What picture-perfect eclairs!

Posted by: Susan/Wild Yeast at September 3, 2008 10:19 AM

Thanks Susan! :o)

Posted by: Dianne at September 3, 2008 3:47 PM

Your eclairs look amazing! Great job. Your vanilla pastry cream sounds great. I did chocolate for both, but I think I would've liked the vanilla pastry cream better.

Posted by: Debyi at September 15, 2008 3:01 PM

I thought the chocolate and chocolate might have been a bit much. I think I might like the chocolate pastry cream by itself, but I haven't tried it that way yet! :)

Posted by: Dianne at September 15, 2008 8:17 PM

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