24 August 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge August 2008

I skipped last month, because Lundulph and I are still struggling with the previous cakes I've made, but when this month's challenge was announced, there was no way I could resist. Éclairs are among my favourite type of pastry.


In Bulgaria they are made with vanilla custard inside and toffee glazing. This time the challenge was for chocolate éclairs from Pierre Hermé. A certain amount of freedom was given in that at least one of the glaze or cream should be made with chocolate. But the whole recipe seemed good and I opted to do both with chocolate.

The instructions were quite involved and I ended up doing things over several days. The pastry cream is basically a custard and I made that first.

Chocolate Pastry Cream


4.75 dl full milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp corn flour
200 g dark chocolate, melted
2.5 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature


  1. Bring the milk to the boil in a large-ish saucepan.
  2. In the mean time, whisk together yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
  3. Once the milk has boiled, add 6 tablespoons of it to the yolk mixture, one at a time, to temper it. Then pour the rest of the milk slowly, while whisking vigorously. The tempering prevents the yolks from coagulating.
  4. Strain the mixture back to the saucepan, to remove any bits of yolk that might have scrambled.
  5. Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk vigorously until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking for another couple of minutes, it'll go thick very quickly.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the melted chocolate, stirring it in well.
  7. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking, but continue stirring, so the mixture remains smooth. Once the cream has cooled to about 60 degrees C, remove from the ice water and stir in the butter.
  8. Leave to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Store in the fridge until needed.
The chocolate glaze is made in two steps - first a chocolate sauce is made, which makes an ingredient for the glaze.

Chocolate sauce


130 g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
2.4 dl water
1.2 dl double cream
0.8 dl sugar


  1. Place all ingredients in a thick bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil on medium-high.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens, while constantly stirring.
  3. The sauce is ready when it forms layers on the back of the spoon, when it's dipped repeatedly.
  4. Leave to cool completely, then refrigerate until needed.

This results in a bit more than needed for the glaze and can be used as hot chocolate sauce on various desserts.

Chocolate glaze


0.8 dl double cream
100 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp unsalted butter at room temperature
7 tbsp chocolate sauce at room temperature

  1. Bring the double cream to the boil in a thick bottomed saucepan.
  2. Turn down the heat to lowest possible and start adding the chocolate a little at a time, stirring it in well.
  3. Finally stir in the butter and the chocolate sauce.
  4. The glaze should be heated up over a water bath before using.
Here is where I made my mistake, mis-reading tsp for tbsp and I added 4 tbsp of butter to the glaze. Of course the fat separated from the chocolate and although I tried to soak it up with kitchen towels, it was far too much and I couldn't use it. Luckily there was plenty of the chocolate sauce left and I used that as glazing instead. It didn't set, but was sufficiently hard in room temperature to work.

Here you can see from left to right, the glaze before I realised I'd forgotten to add the butter, glaze with far too much butter and using the chocolate sauce.

Choux dough


1.2 dl full milk
1.2 dl water
115 g unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
0.25 tsp sugar
0.25 tsp salt
2.4 dl plain flour
5 large eggs at room temperature

  1. Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil in a large thick bottomed saucepan.
  2. In the mean time, sift the flour onto a piece of baking paper.
  3. When the liquid is boiling, add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and whisk vigorously. The dough will come together very quickly and a thin film will form at the bottom of the saucepan, that is OK.
  4. Keep whisking for 2-3 more minutes to dry the dough. I used my electrical whisk and had to change to a wooden spoon at the end to get the dough to come together.
  5. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and start adding the eggs, one at a time, and make sure each is incorporated well before adding the next one. The dough may separate for the first two eggs, but will come back together at the third egg.
  6. While the dough is still warm, pipe it onto baking paper and pre-heat the oven at gas mark 5 (190 degrees C)
  7. Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. Rotate the baking sheet back to front after about half the time.
It was amazing to watch how these yellow sausages puffed up and began to resemble éclairs.


Constructing the éclairs
  1. Allow the éclairs to cool, then cut lengthwise in half with a serrated knife.
  2. Spread the glaze on the top halves and leave aside to set
  3. IMG_3883
    I sprinkled some of the pink sparkly things I had left over since the April challenge.

  4. Pipe the chocolate cream into the bottom halves, then carefully place the top halves over
  5. IMG_3882
    Gratuitous photos of chocolatey things.
It's recommended that these are served immediately, which is not always possible to do. They should be stored in a cool dry place. Fridge works, but a lot of condensation forms and soaks into the choux buns and they become a bit chewy.

The above recipe gave 24 éclairs and 3 profiteroles (which I used as tasters, before taking some of the éclairs to the barbecue we were invited to in the week-end).

I made the profiteroles before I made the glaze and used Nutella instead, which worked very nicely too.

Proper éclairs shouldn't really be cut in halves, but two small holes should be made at either end and the cream should be piped into the cavity. Then the upper side should be dipped into the glaze and excess stricken off with a finger. Perhaps my éclairs were too long for this, but there wasn't one big cavity inside. However, the little profiteroles worked perfectly and had one big empty space inside.

Most recipes on choux pasty only have water, whereas this one is enriched with full milk, I'm guessing this makes the dough a bit softer.

Overall towards the end I had a bad feeling that there's not enough sugar and way too much dark chocolate and I was worried that it wouldn't taste very nice. But I was wrong, all the dark chocolate tasted wonderfully velvety and creamy and the textures were so nice, it didn't need any more sweetness.

I'm definitely going to try making choux again, and will experiment with different creams and glazes.


HoneyB said...

Yumm, they look really delicious! I didn't go with all chocolate, but I sure would love to have one that was all chocolate!

Angela said...

Oh, they're so pretty! I'm surprised at how thick your chocolate sauce turned out--I'll cook it longer next time I make it and see what happens.

I love the sparkly pink sugar too :)

Caramella Mou said...

Hi there,
yes I thought that the amount of chocolate was way over the top, but actually it worked rater well, dark chocolate made it all very velvety and luxurious.
I've never been good with chocolate sauce, sadly, so this one can easily be cut with a knife. But I think if it's heated up, it'll go liquid and if poured over ice cream it'd go hard and form a shell. Haven't tried that yet, though.
Thanks for dropping by,


the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

oh, these look lovely.

eclairs have much emotional and gustatory resonance for me as well.