Sunday, 31 August 2008

Almost disastrous Pâte à Choux but Chocolate Eclairs all the same!

It's Daring Bakers time again and blogs all over the world are showcasing the same challenge! Incidentally the 31st of August is also Malaysia's Independence Day - our 51st Hari Merdeka!

Pâte à Choux or Choux Pastry is not something to sneeze at. I'm hoping you get the pun on à Choux, or do I have to spell it out - Ah Choo! Get it?? The Lovely Wife keeps telling me I'm not very punny (pun intended here!) but I don't listen. You know, years ago, before we were married and even in the first few years (or maybe months, or was it weeks?) of marriage, she used to laugh at all my jokes and my quick wit. Now she just rolls her eyes skyward as if in silent prayer. Funny though that everyone else still thinks I'm funny. Hilarious even. She says that she is used to my humour and so it kind of gets stale. She also questions that maybe I'm not funny anymore. As if! As I said, everyone else still thinks I'm a riot! But as usual, I digress. Not really though...

You see, this month's challenge is hosted by my dear friend Meeta over at Whats for Lunch Honey and Tony Tahhan. Somehow, I knew that Meeta would pick something with Chocolate in it and I wasn't far wrong. She picked Chocolate Eclairs. Now I've made eclairs before and I've also made cream puffs so I wasn't really fazed by the challenge. In fact, that cocky, arrogant rooster in me kind of lifted its haughty little nose (beak?) toward the direction of Germany (where Meeta is) and sneered and snickered. But there was nothing funny in the end because my Choux Pastry almost didn't turn out.

I had to make my pastry TWICE! The first time, the dough kind of separated while I was cooking it. Dont ask me how but it separated and was a little oily. I ignored that and beat it with the eggs and then piped it out. It started to rise in the oven and I followed the instructions to a tee including leaving the door open with a wooden spoon. The dough seemed to rise nicely but as soon as I took it out, it started to collapse and became kind of soggy. It was obviously undercooked. In retrospect, I think I the dough separated becuase I didnt measure the flour properly and that was due to nothing but my sheer arrogance.

So... I did some research on the web and found that what made the dough rise was basically the water content in the pastry turning into steam. Aaaah! Perhaps the reason my previous eclairs turned out was because the recipe was slightly different. I also learnt that you needed an extra hot oven for Choux Pastry.

On the second try, my dough came together very nicely and I piped it out as well as spooned some on to the tray to make puffs.

This time, I left the pastry in the oven a little longer and left out the part about leaving the door open ajar. This time the Choux Pastry rose wonderfully and was nice and brown on top. There was still a slight problem though, some of the bottoms had kind of opened up - meaning there were some holes in the bottoms. As for the puffs, most of them puffed up really, really nicely but some sunk a little after taking them out of the oven. I seriously think that if I make this again, I will need to bake them longer. I would imagine the type of flour may cause a difference. Maybe the size of the eggs too.

Anyway, the Chocolate Pastry Cream was a DREAM! I've made pastry cream before but this came together very, very nicely and oh so delicious with the chocolate in it!

It was so difficult not to scoop it up straight away and eat the whole lot!

Once I split the eclairs and assembled the Eclairs and Puffs with the chocolate pastry cream and chocolate glaze, they started to look like the real deal. Now came the taste test.

I wont go too much into how the eclairs tasted other than to say that they were a HIT! The kids and the Lovely Wife had an eclair each BEFORE dinner and they absolutely LOVED them. They wanted more but I insisted that they needed to have dinner first. Dinner that night was eaten quicker than you could say Chocolate Eclairs simply because the kids couldnt wait to dig into more of them. The next morning, before going to church, the kids had an eclair each for breakfast and then finished off the remainder on their return!

As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and this is the proof of how much the kids enjoyed the eclairs!

Digging in before Dinner and while I was still trying to get the perfect shots of my eclairs...that's part of the reason why I couldn't get nicer shots - the family was tired of me snapping away!

Have you ever seen such a stuffed, chocolate smeared face??

My son was one happy boy!

So, even though I wasn't completely satisfied with how the Choux Pastry turned out, I have to admit that part of the reason I wasn't satisfied is because I have raised my own standards after being a Daring Baker for a year. In fact, recalling the eclairs I made previously, I think these were by far better! So I guess being a Daring Baker means I'm not allowed to be mediocre any longer!!!

What really matters though is that they were still good enough for my family to thoroughly enjoy the eclairs. I too must admit that the Choc Eclairs were simply delicious! Thanks Meeta for a great challenge and if anyone had and similar experience as I did or any tips on how I can improve on the Choux Pastry, that would be greatly appreciated.

This is the recipe as provided:

Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé

Éclairs consist of 3 elements:

- Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough
- Pastry Cream
- Chocolate glaze

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

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

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

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. 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
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.


Anonymous said...

Happy Independence Day! your eclairs looks great. glad the dough came together for you the second time around.

Anonymous said...

I always love coming here for my first view of all our creations. The filling was the best part. Sorry you had problems with puff dough.

But, looks like the kids enjoyed them!

Nikki @ NikSnacks said...

Even though the choux didn't turn out as you had hoped, the eclairs certainly looked good. And the chocolate is the only thing that really matters, right? :)

steph- whisk/spoon said...

please don't stop being your punny self! i think these look great, and the kids seemed to love them! i agree that the choux was problematic, and i think a lot of people had issues with it. i wouldn't use this choux recipe again, myself. the chocolate sauce glaze, on the other hand--divine! happy independence day! (this must have something to do with all the Golden Celebration commercials Malaysia tourism has been showing in Australia)

Di said...

Great pictures of the kids eating these. =) It looks like the final product turned out great, in spite of your earlier difficulties. The chocolate pastry cream looks fabulous.

maybelles mom said...

oh, are your children cute. it is hard to concentrate on the eclairs. I didn't taste the chocolate pastry cream (though DH though it was great.)

jasmine said...

Glad you retried the dough. Your pastries look so delicious.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes it takes a DB challenge to knock us back a little and redo it proper, no? They turned out just lovely and it's great to hear that the family got to enjoy a before dinner dessert.

Alpineberry Mary said...

It's really amazing how all us DBs have such difference experiences with the same recipe. Sorry your pate a choux didn't work out the first time, but looks like second times the charm! And chocolate makes it all better. :)

PAT A BAKE said...

Your kids pics said it all :). Disastrous - i think they looke gr8.

glamah16 said...

Let those kids eat their yummy eclairs in peace without you snapping away!:-)You can see the bliss on their faces.

Deeba PAB said...

Mederka...Happy 51st Dharm. Ah Choo to you, you great choux chef!! I love the pastry & the creme piped within...WONDERFUL!!! LOL...arrogance is something I have experienced once too...crashes you down to terra firma pretty soon huh? Can imagine how yummy these were...the kids are having a blast

Katie said...

Your eclairs turned out great. Well done for doing the research about the water, seems like it paid off.
I loved the pastry cream too

Thistlemoon said...

Well, you got the kids stamp of approval and that is all that really matters, isn't it? :)

I think they look beautiful! :)

Rachel said...

Despite your probs they do look good!!!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Your eclairs turned out great Dharm! Don't be so hard on yourself as the family seemed to love them!ofucj

Sara said...

those look so decadent.

nikkita said...

Selamat Hari Merdeka~ You know, exactly the same thing has happened with my being the class clown since forever, and the fact that my dear hubby just rolls his eyes now at most of my puns and jokes. I insist I'm still very witty, what! Nice job on the eclairs by the way ^_^

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Chocolate really is just kid make-up don't you know!
Probably it's a good thing when it isn't always easy, we just seem to get better and better. Great looking eclairs!

Shelby said...

LOL, I bet secretly inside she still thinks your funny! :) Your eclairs look great!

Anonymous said...

Oh they look fantastic, Dharm! And your kids look like they are having a great time

Meeta K. Wolff said...

*sneering towards the direction malaysia* so my dear this gave you a run for your choux eh? hahaha! but seriously you did well and your kids as always top off a perfect tasty post. glad you all enjoyed the challenge! hugs to those chocolate covered kids and one for you for making the choux twice!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Your son and daughter's faces say it all.
By coincidence, I also made mine on our Independence Day which was on the 15th August.

NKP said...

How cute are those kids!
Even if your lovely wife tires of your puns, I bet she never tires of your baking.
Great job on the challenge,

sunita said...

The proof is indeed in the eating...just look at tghose two adorable , chocolate covered faces :-)

Elle said...

Doubt that your earlier efforts were mediocre, either, but these are excellent! Always love the photos of your beautiful children, too.
As far as puns go, I still laugh at Sweeties puns...all the while I'm groaning. Hope he never stops joking and making puns...and I love Ah Choo for the pastry paste! LOL!!

Molly Loves Paris said...

I LOVE seeing the pictures of your children eating what you make. Those look like really really yummy eclairs.

Anonymous said...

I had problems with the choux as well. Yours looks beautiful and I am sure they were delicious.

My husband is the pun master. I tell him he is so punny all the time... he rolls his eyes at me and says that being punny isn't a true pun. I am glad to see that someone else thinks it is punny, er, funny!

Happy Baking

Cristine said...

Great eclairs!

Jenny said...

Gee Dharm, I think your are very punny. :-)
The eclairs look great, it is good to see such happy "customers".

creampuff said...

Judging by the looks of joy on your kids' faces ... the éclairs were amazing!

Wendy said...

Your eclairs look great! I love how pastry cream holds the piped edges. Your kids look pretty happy! I use a basic choux pastry recipe of flour, butter, and eggs that I love. Nice writeup! Wendy

Peabody said...

It took sometime but I got around to you Dharm. Glad to see that you still hung in there even when the pastry was giving you issues!


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