Sunday, August 31, 2008

Homecoming Dessert in the Land of St. Honore'

Return with me now to the Land of St. Honore’. It’s August and Amy is writing in her journal:

“Dear Diary,

I’m so excited I could spit! My brother came home from the war today. My sisters each made something for him. Mary made pot roast for dinner because he loved it as a boy. Annie made chocolate chip cookies because he loved them in his care packages. I didn’t know what to make, so I made a fancy dessert. I’d never made éclairs before, but they are actually pretty easy. The dough for the pastry is made in a pot at first and you do have to stir and stir, but then the mixer is used for adding the eggs. I piped out long sections of the choux paste…isn’t that a funny name?...on parchment paper lined pans, then put them in the freezer. When they were almost frozen I cut them into eclaire sized lengths. The hardest part was washing the pastry bag…that dough has a lot of buttah in it...heehee!

The pastry cream was sort of like making pudding. The hardest part was making the icing for the top. The recipe I used, from Pierre Herme’s, book, called for two things to be made for the sauce. It also made the kitchen a bit messy. Mary gave me a hard time about that, but I did clean everything up!

John really seemed to enjoy the éclairs. After dinner he asked me…ME…to take a walk with him! I guess it’s because I don’t talk too much. But he sure did a lot of talking after about the first block.

He said that the pot roast was good, but it reminded him of being a boy and he will never be a boy again. He said that the cookies were great, but they reminded him of his buddies still over there fighting, ‘cuz they always shared care packages. He misses them. He said that he is really, really glad to be home and that my éclairs were delicious, but also such a treat because they were a grown-up kind of dessert and something that you need to come home to enjoy…too delicate for shipping.

That made me feel really good. I told him I was so glad he was home and gave him a big hug! We walked back home and played Scrabble together for hours.” Amy

This wonderful dessert is brought to you as part of the monthly Daring Bakers challenge. Huge thanks go to Meeta of Whats for Lunch, Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice who chose this yummy recipe of Pierre Herme' s. There are literally hindreds of Daring Bakers who have posted their experience with the recipe and the results. Find them via the Daring Bakers blogroll.

My experience with this challenge wasn't the same as Amy's. I've been down with a summer cold, so there were a limited number made and the filling wasn't the recipe pastry cream. Still, a very yummy and elegant dessert. You can find the recipe below.

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.

Cream Puff Dough
(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.
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 Valrhona 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
(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
(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.

One of the huge plus points about being in such a group is that there are so many experienced bakers out there, who are kind enough to give us a tip or two. The Daring Bakers Forum was full of extremely useful tips and tricks for this challenge. So I thought I would share them with you too. I thank everyone for sharing all your ideas, tips and tricks for this challenge.

Éclairs 101: Tips & Tricks: (Scroll up for recipe)
• Instead of piping individual éclairs, pipe one long line of dough on your baking tray line with parchment. Then freeze until almost firm, cut the éclairs, using a sharp knife, in the desired size. Place them in the oven and bake.
• It is important to let the choux pastry dough cool down a bit before you add the eggs. If eggs are added to a warm dough it causes the eggs to coagulate and the dough will not rise as required. If you are making the dough by hand, place a piece of plastic wrap and cover the surface so that the plastic wrap is touching the surface of the dough. Poke a few holes in it to allow the steam to escape.
If using an kitchen machine, place the paddle attachment and turn on to medium speed. Allow the dough to turn for a minute or so, cooling it down faster. Add the first egg, turn up the speed to high. This will bring down the temperature so that you can add the remaining eggs.
• Your éclairs deflate after you take them out of the oven
You are not baking them long enough. The instructions for the recipe indicates a total baking time for the éclairs to be 20 minutes, however, the first time I made these they deflated after I took them out of the oven. The second time I made the éclairs I baked them for 15 minutes longer and they were fine.
• Freezing éclairs - the éclair shells can be frozen unfilled and unglazed. Take them out and place them in a preheated oven at about 150 degrees C for a minute or two.
• How well do they hold up? Although the éclairs taste and look best when they are served fresh, you can place them in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator overnight. My tip here would be not to glaze them. Glaze them on the day you plan to serve them. This is due to the fact the glaze will loose its shine and the condensation trapped in the glaze will cause it to look speckled.
• If you do not have a pastry bag or the right sized tips - simply use a freezer bag and cut a corner the appropriate size and pipe the dough!
• Once the éclairs have baked, turn the oven of and allow the éclairs to cool in the cooling oven. This will help the éclairs hold up their shapes and give a crispier texture.
• Once you take the shells out of the oven, make small slits in the sides to release steam. Steam once cooled turns to water, which is the main reason why éclairs might turn soggy.


  1. Anonymous8:10 PM

    I always look forward to your story and this month wasn't a dissapointment. Great job despite the cold on your eclairs!

  2. Wow! How creative of you to not only create a story from this months challenge but to make it a period piece as well! Beautiful story and beautiful eclairs :)

  3. Boo, sorry to hear about the cold - incredible how bad the common cold can make you feel.
    Many or few, these look tasty and lovely.
    Feel better.

  4. Your DB posts are always so clever and charming! Sorry you're under the weather. Your eclairs look good enough to make you forget about it, though. ;)

  5. They look yummy - I hope you've tucked some into the freezer for yourself!

  6. Anonymous7:26 AM

    sorry you have had a summer cold, those are the worst. your eclairs look good though.

  7. ARen't eclairs the cure for the common summer. Well it should be. Feel better! Good job!

  8. I always like your stories from the land of St. Honore. It's no fun to have a cold when the summer weather is calling out. Hope you're feeling better. :)

  9. Good story and yummy eclairs. They look perfectly creamy and delicious.

  10. Your eclairs are wonderful and your story just as super as always!

  11. Anonymous6:32 AM

    What a great story! The eclairs look yummy!

  12. Your eclairs look wonderful. I hope you are feeling better!

  13. Another great DB story. :-)
    (Sorry I'm late.)
    Your eclairs look lovely. I hope you are feeling better.

  14. Sorry you've been down with a cold! Once again and great story for the wonderful challenge. They look wonderful.

  15. Your eclairs look great. Your got your topping so lovely and shiny.
    Hope you are feeling better soon

  16. I too have the Summer cold as well as the stomach flu bug on top of that. I feel your pain. Hope you get better quickly!

  17. I love hearing your story. This one is very sweet. Just like those eclairs.
    Hope you can fight off that cold soon. :)

  18. Anonymous9:22 PM

    Elle, they look fantastic. And I have to agree the cleaning of the pastry bag was a bitch! Love the story - fit perfect!

    Feel better!