(NOW WITH PICTURES!)

eclair_on-dish-2.jpg

I was so excited to see that this month’s challenge was for Eclairs! We are at my mom’s this weekend, and unfortunately although we brought the camera to take the photos, we did not bring the cable to download them. So I will have to put pictures up on Tuesday when we are back! :)

Anyway, I have always wanted to make them, and although there were things the recipe called for that I had never made in the past – namely choux pastry and pastry cream, the process didn’t look too difficult.

I waited until this weekend to do the challenge, because I have a really small kitchen and not a lot of pastry equipment, like pastry bags and tips and the like. But my mom does, and she has made cream puffs many times before. This was a crazy month for me, and so I felt this challenge had a better chance of getting finished, if I had her help. So I waited until yesterday to do the challenge, so I could do this fun project with her.

eclair_fruits.JPG

When Roberto and I arrived here yesterday afternoon, I hadn’t even gotten the challenge ingredients yet. But I knew that I wanted to do vanilla pastry cream with some kind of summer fruits and the chocolate glaze on top. The only requirement for this challenge is that we use the recipe for the choux pastry and have one chocolate component – whether it be chocolate pastry cream or chocolate glaze on top. So we went to the store after dinner and there was an abundance of beautiful fruits. We got kadota and black mission figs, fresh blackberries and blueberries, and something I had never had before, fresh currants. They were very reminiscent of the lignonberries I had eaten when I lived in Norway, but again, I had never eaten lingnonberries. Both the currants and blackberries were tart, so I decided to combine them with the sweeter fruits.

eclair_on-dish.jpg

We made 3 different fillings. Regular vanilla pastry cream, pastry cream mixed with currants and blueberries and the other with pastry cream mixed with black figs and blackberries. We also made 2 different shapes – Eclair and puffs. Of course, as per Meeta and Tony’s specifications, we made a chocolate glaze for the tops. Everything turned out beautifully, except that a lot of the Eclairs and puffs fell. My friend Judy, warned me that this might happen in sweltering humid Florida heat, but the cream and fruit perked them right up, and they turned out really wonderful. We finished the project at 11:30 last night, but before retiring, we each tried one of each flavor, and it was really hard to pick a favorite. All I can say is that I am glad there are some left and I don’t think I will turn them into ice cream. Although I am not too sure what I am going to do with the extra pastry cream! :)

If you want to try your hand at Eclairs, please check out the wonderful recipe that follows after the cut by Pierre Herme.

Thanks to Meeta and Tony for this awesome challenge!

eclair_on-rake.jpg

Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Eclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

(makes 20-24 Eclairs)

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.

eclair_on-cookie-sheet.jpg

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 Eclairs.

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 Eclairs 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 Eclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes:

1.The Eclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the Eclairs:

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

1. Slice the Eclairs 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 Eclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

eclair_spooning-fillings.jpg

3. Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the Eclairs. 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 Eclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Cream Puff Dough
(makes 20-24 Eclairs)

INGREDIENTS:

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

METHOD:

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 Eclairs 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

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups (500g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75g) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, melted
2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature (Do not include if you want vanilla pastry cream)

METHOD:

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.

Notes:

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
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

INGREDIENTS:

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

METHOD:

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
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

INGREDIENTS:

4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
½ cup (125 g) creme fraiche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

METHOD:

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