Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers August Challenge

This was my first Daring Bakers challenge. Being as I LOVE to bake I was stoked about my first challenge and to top it off, we were making chocolate Éclairs. I figured I had this one in the bag being as I used to make cream puffs all the time. I forgot to account for the fact that It’s been over a decade since I’ve made some (yikes, I feel old now). In my attempt to conquer these tasty pastries I learned a few things:

1. I am way too easily amused
2. I really really need to get a pastry bag
3. Parchment paper is smarter than I am
4. Chocolate makes all things better.

I started with the chocolate pastry cream and it all went smashingly. Although when my oldest son came home he looked at me like I was a looney as I happily stirred my bowl of chocolate in a sink full of ice water. He simply shrugged and moved on being as odd occurrences aren’t really anything new in our household.

Next came the cream puff dough. This is ideal if you want to get rid of that nasty arm flab, because when you’re done, your arm will be NUMB! First you boil milk, water, salt, and butter, then dump in the flour and stir like there’s no tomorrow. Just when you think you’re done, stir for another 3 mins. Whew! Now you can break out the good ole mixer and beat in your eggs one at a time. This was my favorite part! I found it so fascinating the way the dough would change consistency and color with each addition. I got so carried away with it that I added an extra egg. The only thing that stopped me from adding a dozen more was that the dough revolted, turned into “The Blob” and tried to swallow the mixer.

The Choux Pastry attacking my mixer

After the dough is ready you simply pipe it onto some parchment paper and toss it into the oven. Now this would be easy if you have a pastry bag. She of little kitchen accessories doesn’t have one. Being the intelligent woman that I am I decide to make one out of parchment paper. You simply make a triangle with the paper and roll it up. Easy peasy right? NOT! I could not get the darn thing to roll up big enough to actually put the dough in it. Of course I blamed the paper, after all it couldn’t be MY lack of brain cells. My kitchen looked like the paper gnomes just had a riot. There were paper shreds and splatters of dough everywhere. This is the part of the recipe where you find me desperately searching for that bottle of Vodka. Eventually I did manage to get a couple of spoonfuls of dough in my high tech bag and squeaked out a few “chubby fingers”. I then gave in to the enticement of the simple “plop it on the paper” cream puff. Ahhhh much better.

The results of the pastry bag fiasco somehow it actually puffed!

The rest of the recipe was blissful chocolate sauce. The hardest part of that was not eating it all up. Due to my weirdness about getting my fingers messy when I’m eating and my deep desire to conquer the parchment paper pastry bag, I decide to pipe the glaze on top instead of covering it whole. And yes, I did finally show that paper who’s boss. Boooyah!

Ta Dah! Eclairs!

Thank you Tony Tahhan and MeetaK for a great challenge from Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé written by Dorie Greenspan. Be sure to check out the other Daring Bakers results.

the recipe:
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
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.
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.
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: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)
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.
The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40degrees 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.
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.
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)
½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
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.
Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your hand mixer 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.
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 Pierre Hermé

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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 éclairs 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
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.
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.


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers! I think you really nailed your first challenge! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on completing your first challenge and keeping your sense of humor as well!! They look great! Amazing how you and I sound ALOT alike when we were baking these :)

silverrock said...

Such cute looking eclairs! They look good enough to eat. Great job on your first DB challenge, can't wait to see what you'll whip up for next month!

Tanya said...

Congrats on completing your first challenge! These look wonderful!

Dragon said...

I love how that first eclair looks like it's sticking it's tongue out at us. :) Great job on your first challenge.

Jane said...

Congratulations on your first successful challenge. I laughed (with you) at your pastry bad fiasco. I had a similar experience. I don't have a pastry bag and my piping experiences were horrible. Thankfully the vegan version of the pate allowed me to manipulate the dough by hand.
Anyway, your eclairs look yummy.
Jane of

Fran Z said...

Welcome to DB! Your eclairs turned out lovely!

Ruth said...

Your eclairs puffed up beautifully. Great first challenge

Lisa Michelle said...

I was skimming through the DB blogroll, and the title of your blog caught my eye, brilliant and funny! Naturally, I had to come check it out.

I have to say, I love your writing, and your eclairs look exquisite! Looking forward to more from you :)