It has been a long time since I updated my blog. So sorry about it. I'm without a domestic helper for some months now. That explains my tardiness in baking and updating blog. Baking has taken a backseat as I have to allocate priority for mundane household chores & preparing meals for the family. I will now most likely bake for special occasions like birthdays, gatherings and requests from family and friends. And if I really want to bake, it will be simple fuss-free types like muffins, cookies and cakes without any frosting.
I decided to bake a batch of chocolate eclairs for a gathering with my friends. And it's Pierre Herme's. This is the 3rd time I've baked these. Just that I did not take any nice photos in my earlier bakes to post in my blog. These photos here are taken by my daughter, who is also a very keen baker. Baking chocolate eclairs is quite time consuming as there are 4 components to take care of. I know why they are so expensive now - laborious and good chocolates are expensive.
I used Lindt 70% bittersweet chocolate for the pastry cream and a mix of 55% and 70% Belgium chocolates for the chocolate glaze. These will suit the adults better as the children might find the chocolate a little too bitter. Needless to say, they were a hit. I'm so happy. The only thing I'm still trying to master is to get the cream puff neat and straight like those sold in boulangerie and patisseries. Will need to do more research to get that neat & straight cream puff.
Pierre Herme's Chocolate Eclairs
(A) Chocolate Pastry Cream
3 egg yolks
50g sugar (original recipe calls for 56g)
2 1/4 tbsp (22.5g) cornstarch, sifted
150g bittersweet chocolate, melted (preferably 70% bittersweet chocolate)
30g unsalted butter, room temperature
- Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water. Set aside a smaller bowl that can hold the finished cream and be placed in this ice bath. Set aside a fine-meshed strainer too.
- In a small saucepan, bring the milk to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisking all the while, very slowly drizzle a quarter of the hot milk into the yolks. Still whisking, pour the rest of the liquid in a steady stream int the tempered yolks.
- Strain the mixture into the saucepan, place the pan over medium heat, and, whisking vigorously and without stop, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep the mixture at the boil - whisking energetically - for 1 to 2 minutes. Still over heat, stir in the chocolate, then remove the pan from the heat and scrape the pastry cream into the small bowl.
- Set the bowl into the ice-water bath and, stirring frequently so that the mixture remains smooth, cool the pastry cream to 140 degree fahrenheit (60 degree celsius), as measured on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the cream from the ice-water bath and stir in the butter in three or four additions. Return the cream to the ice-water bath and keep it there, stirring occasionally, until it is completely cool. The cream can be used now or packed for storage.
Note :- Pastry cream can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 days. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap (press the plastic against the cream).
(B) Cream Puff Dough
92g unsaalted butter, cut into 8 pcs
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
112g plain flour
4 large eggs
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 190 degree celsius. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and keep them close at hand.
- Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to the boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. When the mixture is boiling rapidly, add the flour all at once, reduce the heat to medium, and, without a second's hesitation, start stirring the mixture like mad with a wooden spoon. The dough will come together very quickly and a slight crust will form on the bottom of the pan, but you need to keep stirring - vigorously - for another 2 to 3 minutes to dry the dough. At the end of this time, the dough will be very smooth.
- Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or, if you've still got some elbow grease left, continue by hand. One by one, add the eggs to the dough, beating until each egg is thoroughly incorporated. Don't be discouraged - as soon as you add the first egg, your lovely dough will separate. Keep working, by the time you add the third egg, it will start coming together again. When all the eggs are incorporated, the dough will be thick and shiny and when you lift some of it up, it will fall back into the bowl in a ribbon. The dough will still be warm - it's supposed to be - and now is the time to use it.
- Spoon the warm cream puff dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a 2-cm plain tip. Pipe out the dough onto the baking sheets in chubby fingers, about 11 cm long; make sure to leave about 5 cm of puff space between each strip of dough. You should have enough dough to pipe about 20 eclairs.
- Slide the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes, then slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door so that it remains slightly ajar. When the eclairs have baked for 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back and continue to bake for another 8 minutes or so, until the eclairs are puffed, golden and firm. (The total baking time is about 20 minutes.) Transfer the eclairs to a rack to cool to room temperature. (The eclairs can be kept in a cool dry room for several hours before filling.)
(C) Chocolate sauce
26g bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely (I used half of 55% & 70% chocolate)
25g creme fraiche (I used heavy cream)
- Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the sauce thickens very slightly and coats the back of the spoon. (It doesn't really thicken much, but it does really coat the spoon.) Alternatively, you can use the draw-a-line test: Dip the spoon into the sauce and draw your finger down the back of the spoon - if the sauce doesn't run into the track created by your finger, it's done. Be patient - this can take 10 to 15 minutes and shouldn't be rushed. Use the sauce immediately, or allow it to cool, then chill until needed. Reheat the sauce in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water or in a microwave oven.
(D) Chocolate glaze
64g heavy cream
80g bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely (I used half of 55% & 70% chocolate)
16g unsalted butter, cut into 4 pcs
88g chocolate sauce from (C)
- In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and little by little, add the chocolate, stirring the mixture gently with a spatula: Start at the centre of the pan and stir slowly in a small circle. As you add more chocolate, continue to stir gently in a circular fashion, gradually increasing the size of the circle. Measure the temperature of the mixture with an instant-read thermometer: it should be 60 degree celsius. If it is too cool - as will often be the case - warm it in a microwave oven or scrape the mixture into a metal bowl and warm it over (not touching) simmering water; remove from the heat as soon as it reaches the proper temperature. If the mixture is too hot, let it cool to 60 degree celsius.
- Stirring gently, blend the butter, piece by piece, and the chocolate sauce. Once again, take the temperature of the glaze: you are aiming for 35 to 40 degree celsius, the temperature at which the glaze attains prime pourability. If the glaze is too cold, it can be warmed in a hot-water bath or a microwave oven at a low setting. The glaze is now ready to use.
- Using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice the eclairs horizontally in half. Set the bottom aside for the moment and put the tops on a rack placed over a sheet of parchment or waxed paper.
- If the chocolate glaze has been chilled, place it in a bowl over - not touching - simmering water ad reheat it, stirring it with a wooden spoon. (Go easy - you do not want to create bubbles.) Whether the glaze is just-made or reheated, you should use it when it is barely warm to the touch, about 35 to 40 degree celsius, as measured on an instant-read thermometer.) When the glaze is just right, spread it over the the tops of the eclairs with a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set while you fill the bottoms.
- You can pipe of spoon the pastry cream into the eclair bottoms. Either way, fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops over the filled bottoms, jiggling the tops to settle them, and serve the eclairs as soon as possible.