This was my first Daring Bakers challenge and coincidentally it is also a dessert served on the Titanic. How convenient! I love it when my posts come together. :) For our Titanic dinner, we originally chose to serve French Vanilla Ice cream rather than the chocolate éclairs. Now that I have made these, I will feature them for our dessert next time around. I had a wonderful time making these and I must admit, I had an even better time eating one. Ok, two. Fine, I had three. But in my defense, they are 1/2 the size of a normal éclair so I only really ate one and a half. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
The Daring Bakers recipe called for a chocolate pastry cream but I used the French Vanilla pastry cream recipe from the Titanic book instead. These éclairs are wonderful and well worth the work and a messy kitchen. Thank you Tony and Meeta, this month's hosts, for picking such a great challenge!
Pâte à Choux
French Vanilla Pastry Cream
White Chocolate to garnish
Assembling the éclairs:
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.
4. Grate some white chocolate over each éclair to garnish. The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.
Pâte à Choux
Recipe Adapted from Pierre Hermé
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1. 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 or parchment paper.
2. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
3. 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 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.
4. 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.
5. The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.
6. 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 4 1/2 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.
7. 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. Notes: The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.
French Vanilla Pastry Cream
Adapted from the Titanic Kitchen
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the sugar for 2 minutes or until pale yellow. Adding flour in 3 additions, stir until well mixed.
2. In a saucepan, heat the milk, remaining sugar and vanilla bean over medium heat, stiring often until the sugar is dissolved and small bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pot. Stiring constantly, pour about 1/3 of the milk mixture into egg mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour egg mixture into remaining milk and cook, stiring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stiring, until mixture begins to mound and hold its shape; remove from heat.
3. Stir in butter and remove the vanilla bean. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the custard and cool to room temperature.
4. Beat whipping cream until stiff; add a large dollop of cream to the cooled pastry cream and fold in; add remaning whipped cream and fold in until almost combined. Place in the refrigerator until completely chilled.
Recipe by Pierre Hermé
Makes 1 cup
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 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
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.
Recipe by Pierre Hermé
Makes: 1 1/2 cups
4 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup 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 to 15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.