Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dare to Bake a Food Memory?

I wanted to love you... I really did. From the very first announcement of the August Daring Bakers challenge, I wanted to rekindle this romance... but it just wasn't meant to be. It wasn't you, my dear eclair, it was me. I shouldn't have expected my first attempt to measure up to my childhood food memory... it was folly. I'm happy to try another date... just give me time to figure out what happened.

You see, I used to love eclairs. My grandpa would come home with a box of them every so often, and I was always so excited. They weren't even fancy - I want to say they were Entenmanns - but they didn't have the traditional pastry cream filling - oh no, it was much lighter and daintier. (I've since learned that this mystery filling is creme Chantilly - a fancied-up whipped cream.) I shy away from eclairs now, because I know I won't like the filling and I don't want to be disappointed.

We were allowed to swap out either the filling or the glaze (but something had to stay chocolate - I'm not complaining!), so I wanted to try my hand at a Chantilly cream. Where I got the idea to flavor it with lavender is anyone's guess. I wasn't sure if chocolate and lavender could be friends, but I wanted to try. As someone I polled said, how could something NOT be friends with chocolate?

Yes, yes, I waited until the absolute last day to get my challenge on. My kitchen ennui held me back, for starters. I also realized late in the month that my pastry bag, tip, and coupler had been thrown out and I needed to find a new one. When? Oh, yesterday. Ha! My new one is much fancier, so I shouldn't complain.

After yoga this morning, I pulled the choux pastry together and popped them in the oven. I didn't catch the part in the thread that suggested a longer baking time (to avoid deflation), so... well... my puffs aren't so puffy anymore. They WERE, I promise, but they all sank. I have to say, there aren't many things as sad as a flat cream puff. :) They needed time to cool and dry out, so I saved completion until after dinner.

At which point I steeped some lavender syrup (recipe courtesy of Chockylit), prepared the chocolate sauce and glaze. I then whipped the cream and added the syrup. Now, I think I must have mis-measured, because there seemed to be a high syrup-to-cream ratio that left the resulting cream really really soft. Like, really soft. Tasty as all get-out (and not the least bit soapy, as I'd feared), but just a little too giving in a pastry. (Read: it squishes right out when you bite in to the eclair - messy messy!!)

Are lavender and chocolate friends? Heck yes. Would I like to combine them in various other ways? Double yes! (I can't say that lavender will be the new pistachio in OPF-land, though.) Would I made this recipe again? Probably not. The sunken puffs were demoralizing and I found the chocolate glaze overly sweet. Overall, this was a good experience, and I'm more than happy to make more eclairs and cream puffs, just maybe with a different recipe (no disrespect to Pierre Hermes.) Many thanks to Meeta and Tony for yet another terrific challenge!!

For eleventy-billion more versions of Mr. Hermes' eclairs, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

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.


Heather B said...

oh they look yummy! Great job!

Courtney said...

sorry they didn't taste like your childhood eclairs, nice combo of lavender/chocolate

Nemmie said...

Mmmm, lavendar. You lucky lady, that sounds amazing :)

Glad you at least got a new pastry bag/tip out of the bargain! Your eclairs look wonderful by the way, deflating or no deflating...

Bellini Valli said...

Lavender and chocolate would be a great combination:D

Rebecca said...

I've got to try making creme chantilly. Eclair fillings never taste right to me, and I bet that's what I've been looking for. Thanks!

The TriniGourmet said...

Hmmm... I dunno... i think they look GREAT !!! :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your Eclairs look great! Nicely shaped and elegant!



Cristine said...

Beautiful eclairs! And I am cracking up at your "eleventy billion" comment! :) Great job!

Pam said...

I am sorry they didn't measure up to your childhood memory but they look fantastic. I wish I would have made little ones too...I like the idea of a bite sized éclair.

linda said...

Sorry they didn't taste like the ones from you childhood. They look delicious though. Love the flavour combination.

Lunch Buckets said...

I'm going to have to check out this creme chantilly too! I thought I wasn't an eclair person - but maybe I'm just not a pastry cream person!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Your eclairs look great. I happen to like squishy filling. :)

Jude said...

Yum. Lavender sounds like an elegant take on this month's challenge.

Grace said...

sorry they didn't meet your standards, but good for you for attempting it.
meanwhile, i'd like to acknowledge and thank you for your use of the word ennui--it just doesn't get tossed around enough, which is unfortunate because it's pretty much my permanent state of being. :)

Y said...

I love lavender with chocolate, and your eclairs look great. Too bad they didn't measure up to your memory of how eclairs ought to be.

Angela said...

Oh wow, lavender! What a gorgeous flavour combination. Sorry to hear that they didn't taste like your memories, but they sure look good.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Very nice job, Katie! I love that you used lavender! What a stroke of genius!

Candice said...

They look fantastic! I love the lavender idea.

Deborah said...

This recipe seemed to get mixed results among the DBs, but I wouldn't know because I didn't do it!! I have been wanting to try using lavender, though, and it sounds like a great pastry cream!

Daniel Gray said...

Mmm Mmm Mmm lavender and chocolate is intriguing.