First, thanks to the hosts, Tony Tahhan and MeetaK, who chose the recipe.
I was extremely excited when I found out this month's challenge was eclairs. Just one day prior to finding out, I made pâte à choux (eclair/cream puff dough) on my first day at my new bakery job. They didn't expect me to do it right. "No one gets it right on the first try." But I sure did get it right! :) So I was really anxious to do it again for my Daring Bakers challenge. I made vanilla pastry cream for the filling, because my dad is the eclair-lover in the family, and that's how he likes them. My first attempt at this challenge didn't turn out so well. My eclairs deflated while cooling and were gummy in the middle. I assumed I had experienced beginner's luck at work. But I tried again the same day and magic happened! I made half shaped like eclairs and the other half like cream puffs. The puffed up perfectly and stayed nice and puffy after cooling. They were very delicious, and I was quite proud of myself. I added some raspberry flavoring and red food coloring to half of the filling just to provide some variety.
Here is the recipe with my notes and photos. Enjoy!
Cooking the dough
Adding the eggs
The finished choux dough
Éclairs going into the oven
Door ajar halfway through baking
Vanilla pastry cream cooling
Aww, the first eclairs died...
They were very gummy in the middle (I don't think I baked them long enough).
The second batch came out perfectly. (See recipe below for my changes to the baking method.)
Filling the eclairs and glazing the tops
Don't use cheap plastic bags to pipe icing... They break easily!
What a mess...
The finished eclairs!
Raspberry cream puffs!
Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs (makes 20-24 éclairs [I got 17])
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
• 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
• Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.
• 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.
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. (I removed the pan from the heat at this point.) 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 (I like to do it by hand. It's not difficult at all). Add the eggs one at a time (I beat them lightly in a separate bowl and added them about 1/4 cup 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. (My dough was very thick and not very shiny, but it worked out fine.)
4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs.
5) 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.
6) 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 4-1/2 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. (I followed these instructions the first time, and my éclairs failed. The second time I baked them for 12 minutes, then rotated the pans, and baked for 12 more minutes (keeping the oven door shut), or until golden brown. I then turned the oven off and let the éclairs cool with the door ajar for 30 minutes. I finished cooling them on a wire rack for 1 hour.) The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes. The éclairs should be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.
Chocolate Pastry Cream (I used vanilla pastry cream, recipe below)
• 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.
•The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
•In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
•Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
Recipe from Baking... by Dorie Greenspan
• 2 cups whole milk
• 6 large egg yolks
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup cornstarch
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 3 1/2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1) Boil the milk and vanilla in a small saucepan. As this is heating, in a medium saucepan whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and cornstarch, until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 3/4 cup of the hot milk in order to warm the yolks. Continue whisking as you slowly add the rest of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and whisk constantly, bringing it to a boil. Keep mixture at a boil, continuing to whisk, for about 1/2 minutes, and remove from heat.
2) Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the butter until the pieces are fully incorporated. The pastry cream will be smooth and silky, not clumpy. Scrape cream into a bowl and let it cool off. Place a piece of plastic wrap right onto the surface of the cream so it doesn't form a skin. Refrigerate until it is cold and ready to use. Keeps for up to 3 days.
Chocolate Glaze (makes 1 cup)
• 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.
• 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.
• 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 (makes 1½ cups or 525 g) (I halved this recipe when I made it)
• 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.
• 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.
• This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.
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.
• 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
• The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.