Sunday, August 31, 2008

August '08 Daring Bakers Challenge

My first Daring Bakers Challenge, I think it was a success!

For those of you who are unawares, the Daring Bakers are a collective world-wide group of bakers who 'Knead to Bake!' Each month a challenge is selected and all members of the group make the same recipe, which is kept secret, until the designated posting day. That day is today my friends. And as you can see this month's challenge was Éclairs!

Now éclairs have never really been a favorite of mine. I know, I'm crazy right?! Guess what, I don't like ice cream either, get over it. It's probably a good thing though since any other sweet under the sun you can pretty much put my stamp of approval on -I love sweets!

Homemade éclairs WERE quite a bit better than I had ever had, and I did quite enjoy them actually. Ben LOVED them so I will be making them again since most desserts in my repertoire favor my tastes, and I love to have something I can make for him that he will enjoy.

These were somewhat involved, but not as much as you work up in your mind that they will be. The part where you whisk the flour into the heated ingredients for the Pâte à Choux really necessitated putting your back into it, wow, that was intense and I think I did gain some muscle mass over those two minutes. Both the Chocolate Sauce and Glaze were nothing short of AMAZING {good chocolate will do that, I used a mix of Lindt and Cadbury, I would have used all Lindt if I had had more on hand}, and I would recommend jotting each of those recipes down for use in other dishes -the possibilities are endless. Beyond the taste, the Glaze was so shiny and gorgeous as well!

We were given the option to use the Chocolate Pastry Cream given, or switch it out if we didn't want two chocolate elements. I did opt to use my own creation, which I came up with after glancing at several other recipes online as well as using my previous pastry / custard experience. The recipe turned out very similar to the Vanilla Bean Custard I have listed on here, just thicker! Though the method of making it was slighly different as well.

The only other change I made, was that I didn't use unsalted butter. I just cut out the salt. They were fine! I hate unsalted butter... beyond that it is a hassle to remember to buy it and then use it up with something else. I'm sorry unsalted butter, I'm just not that into you. I also think I threw away my pastry bag! It has sprung a small leak and I must have thrown in out before replacing it, travesty! I did all of this, both the Pâte à Choux and the piping the Pastry Cream with a ziploc bag with a tiny hole in the corner and it worked just GREAT so don't think you need anything fancy that you don't have access to to make beautiful éclairs! I garnished with fresh flowers since I knew they would look far prettier than anything I could make from icing.

All of these recipes below are from the challenge, but I will add my Pastry Cream at the very bottom. Enjoy!

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.

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.

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

1 vanilla bean pod

2 cups milk

5 egg yolks

1/4 c. sugar

2 T. flour

2 T. cornstarch / corn flou

dash of salt

2 T. butter

Whisk the egg yolks. Add in sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt.

Meanwhile, steep the milk and vanilla bean until the point of boiling.

Take 1 cup of the milk and temper the egg mixture. Pour back into that pan and heat while stirring until you reach a rolling boil. Boil for one minute.

Remove vanilla bean and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge until ready to fill.


Pam said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers - you did an excellent job! My mouth is watering.

Patti said...

Your eclairs look spectacular!

kellypea said...

A big welcome to you and congrats on the beautiful eclairs -- no wonder they won you over.

Leslie said...

Beautiful Natalie! Congrats on your first challange! They were messy huh?

Gaengy said...

I did not know that you did not share my love of eclairs! These look so beautiful. I love the fresh flowers. Can't wait to give them a try!

Argus Lou said...

Wow, how beautiful your plating is! The real flowers are a wave of genius.

AnneMarie said...

These look heavenly! Good job Nat!

James and Heather English said...

Although the eclairs do look to die for, I actually enjoyed the commentary about the unsalted butter more. Nat, you always know how to make me laugh!

Joe Horn said...

They look great Natalie. Looks like it was a project. The chocolate looks awesome! Ship some over! :)

Laurie said...

These look so pretty.. especially with the flower addition! I have to also say, your vegetable lasagna is beautiful, I will bookmark that recipe, my mom is in need of some vegetarian dishes for a visiting aunt! Ciao! :)

Prudy said...

Hooeeey, hot garlic, those look good. I declare they really do. YOu crack me up. Can you please make a daily habit out of it? I loved your commment about my hiding an acne problem or cookie addiction. It's still making me chortle and guffaw. I promise that I don't have acne, but I really do have a cookie addiction. Please don't tell.

Lisa said...

OH my goodness! I LOVE eclairs and these look so good. Now you have me craving one!

Adam said...

Beautiful job, Nat! They look delicious, and I'm glad you liked them :) So you don't like ice cream either? That's ok, I've had enough ice cream headaches for 12 people

Aimée said...

I never met an eclair I didn't like, however, it has been way too long since I have sunk my teeth into one...Do you deliver? :)

alexandra's kitchen said...

what a feat! looks like a recipe that's well worth the effort. beautiful job!

Anne said...

Great job! I almost always use salted butter as well :)

Jenny said...

What beautiful looking eclairs! I would definitely say this was a huge success of a first challenge! I'm wishing I had a couple right at this very moment!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very pretty! Your beautiful Eclairs look extremely tempting and delicious!



Dee said...

The fresh flowers are a gorgeous touch! This was your first challenge? Wow! I'm too chicken to sign on with the Daring Bakers, so for now I bake vicarously through much more talented bloggers. Perhaps one day.

Grace said...

what do you have against unsalted butter? :)
excellent work--they're perfectly beautiful. the flowers are a lovely touch.

Foodycat said...

Beautiful! But seriously, you Daring Bakers are depraved. How can you bring that stuff into your home once a month? I would be double my (already impressive) size! I do prefer coffee eclairs though.

hot garlic said...

Thanks so much everyone, especially for the many warm welcomes from you Daring Bakers!

Leslie, yes, mine did get a bit messy! They deflated and so I had to fill them with extra cream, and the chocolate was just too good not to double dip!

Glad you liked the unsalted butter bit Heather!

On their way Joe!

Let me know how the Lasagne goes Laurie! It would be a great one for vegetarian company!

I have one too Prudy! I won't tell if you won't... I'll keep working on my one liners to amuse you with!

Aimee {how do you make that accent?} -yes, I do, but they're pretty expensive! Ha!

Anne -I'm SOOO glad to hear it's not just me!

Dee -Just do it, it's not so bad!

Grace - You must be a baker perfectionist with your unsalted butter. I'm just too lazy!

Foodycat -Coffee Eclairs, what a great idea!

Thanks everyone!

culinarytravelsofakitchengoddess said...

They are beautiful. So good especially for a first challenge, welcome to the DB's.

Fabulous blog you have here too :)

Sandy said...

Sounds delicious. Beautiful photography!

mikky said...

as i said, you guys are awesome... what a beautiful presentation of your eclair... :)

Kevin said...

Your eclairs look great! Nice presentation!

Aggie said...

You Daring Bakers are unbelievable! What amazing looking eclairs you have there Natalie!

Jeena said...

Wow look at that silky chocolate topping, beautiful eclairs!

Gloria (Canela) said...

Your eclairs look fantastic! Gloria

Courtney said...

Wow! Your game!!! I do love eclairs (partly why claire has her name...just jokes!!!) I have looked into making these suckers before but way too much involved for my liking. Good on you for giving it a go and having such success. They look good! Have you ever consider a vanilla slice? I can make that, can pretty good at it too!

Bellini Valli said...

Your photos makew me feel like I could just reach in and grab one of these special treats:D

Anonymous said...

Yummy!! I love how you garnished them. I want to eat one right now! :)

~Holly said...

Sorry!! Anonymous was me. I pushed enter before I meant to! :)

Bridgett said...

I think these were a definite success. I couldn't take my eyes off of the oozing shiny chocolate. These are gorgeous!

Steph said...

Such a beautiful job! I love your photo's, so elegant!

Maria said...

A success is right! You did an amazing job! Your eclairs look perfect and I am so impressed with your photos!! I will have to try these!!

Krystal said...

Wow-these look sooo yummy! Do you want to just mosey on over here to Idaho and whip me up some? Australia is no THAT far! :) I wish that I had the guts to actually make these-but they look way to intimidating to me. ;) Hope you win the challenge!

Jenna said...

Wow, these are gorgeous!


bec said...

Gorgeous! I am salivating as we speak (hm... that could be taken wrong). Really, though- mmm. Great post! Thanks!

Y said...

Welcome to the DB group! Your eclairs look beautiful. I love the way you decorated them.

Dhanggit said...

congrats dear and welcome to DB!! your eclairs are as beautiful as you! i love the "girly" hehehe

Deborah said...

Your first challenge, and the first challenge I've missed! Your eclairs look wonderful - great job on your first challenge!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Beautiful presentation! I think you did a wonderful and glorious job on your first challenge! :)

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Welcome to the DBs! You did an awesome job on your first challenge. They're so pretty with the cute little white roses!

Jaime said...

welcome to the DB! you did a wonderful job w/this challenge. i always use salted butter too, and approximate about 1/8 tsp per stick of butter and omit that amount from a given recipe :)

Anne said...

Your eclairs are absolutely beautiful! You have some great recipes here, thanks for saying hello- (Terry) said...

Nice blog! Awesome pictures.

thank you for the viewing!

A fellow blogger,


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