I was SO excited when this month’s Daring Bakers recipe was announced. Before we knew what it was, I’d pretty much decided that I had too much going on in August and I would just have to pass this one up. But once I heard those magic ‘éclair’ words, I knew I was in.
And how easy these are — I was amazed! I’ll definitely be making these again, because any time I find an easy dessert that makes it look like I spent hours in the kitchen, that recipe is a keeper. And these are phenomenal, because you can freeze the unbaked choux pastry, which means I can make fresh éclairs in about 15 minutes next time I have a craving.
For my first time making éclairs, I wanted to try the classic recipe, so I just made chocolate éclairs with no additions. I did, however, use my own chocolate glaze recipe to top them, rather than the Pierre Hermé glaze recipe that most others used. I included my modifications on the recipe posted here, so check out our host’s website if you want the original Pierre Hermé recipe!
Again, huge success. This was a great challenge!
Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg and two egg whites, 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 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.
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 egg and then egg whites 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.
6) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2 cm) 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.
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.
Chocolate Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, sifted
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar, cocoa powder 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).
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.
Chocolate Glaze (My Own)
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3-4 tbsp milk
1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and cocoa powder. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until you get to the correct consistency (should be just barely pour-able but dry quickly when exposed to air).
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.