Sunday, 31 August 2008

I became a Daring Baker - Éclairs

Daring Bakers?
Daring Bakers.

It's a challenge made up by ancient foodbloggers to give us, the cooking/baking connoisseurs some challenge in everyday cooking and baking. Basically you sign up with those guys and then they will give you one recipe to bake in a month. Everyone, all those 1000 members or so, will bake exact same recipe and then publish it on exact same day. Me and all those other 1000 foodbloggers think its fun :)

Let's get to the challenge then. August challenge was
Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé hosted by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK. Hosts allowed to make some modifications and the rule was to keep at least one chocolate element in it. I went with more traditional version, I 'll explain later, why. I kept the pastry cream just with eggs and milk, left out the chocolate and my chocolate element was chocolate glaze.
When I have been baking, I've always kept it relatively simple, no fancy cakes, so reading this recipe at the beginning made me feel like, wow, I think I need to take a day off to do this and the day before, to make sure I have everything and a day after to make sure I can clean everything and can get a rest.

Let's get to the business.
Part 1. Making the dough. It's very easy. Just the non traditionality of making of the dough is what scares at first. Boil the milk! Sounds like making a porridge. But once its done, its done very fast and in the end its a beautiful creamy dough, just a shame it wasn't sweet :P
I didn't have a proper pastry dough, so I used the old fashioned plastic bag technique.

Scoop the dough into one corner of the bag and then cut the corner off.

I learned the trick from my mother actually, this is how we decorated gingerbread cookies with sugar glaze at every Christmas. It works perfectly fine, if you don't need to do fancy reliefs. One day I will get a real pastry bag though, maybe I should put it in my list for Santa :P

Squeeze chubby fingers on the baking sheets

Part 2. Making pastry cream. I thought, eggs and hot milk, it's a miracle if it comes out fine on a first trial, it will all end up with lumps ... Well, I must admit that I had extra set of hands helping me on this recipe. So one set was mixing vigorously while the other added the hot milk one teaspoon at a time. Like this, it all worked out great. This is a most beautiful Pastry cream I have ever made, nice, shiny, creamy ... lovely.

Out of the oven, cream ready, just missing the glaze now ...

Part 3. Making the glaze. That's was the easiest part. Heat the cream, chop the chocolate etc. Part 4. Putting it all together. Is there enough cream? Pastry seems so fragile, can I cut the pastry without wrecking half of them? Well, if I do then there is definitely enough cream ... This is a real handicraft part. Cutting wasn't too bad, if using proper bread knife and sawing them gently then it all works out great. Putting a glaze on the tops requires patience, first 5 is fun, then getting to 10, then you think , "are we there yet?" The filling was just about enough, could've been few Tbsp more, but I suppose it was the missing chocolate that I left out of the cream.

This is my little Éclair factory

Here comes conclusion with everything explained. Why I left chocolate out of the Pastry cream? Because Joao is the main consumer of these Éclairs and he is a traditional guy when it comes to food. Anything new is SCARY. Chocolate in the pastry cream is something that he never had in past 20 years so unless I don't want to eat 24 Éclairs alone, I better take his suggestions into account. he liked them, so next time, it might be with Chocolate pastry cream :P Yes, well, on my first month as Daring Baker I have committed myself with some diet, which means no sweets other than fruit and that's the main reason why Joao has to like them. I had to sin of course, to try out just one Éclair, to be able to write the following. It all came out wonderful. Pastry was very delicate. Cream was, like I said, lovely, creamy. Next time if I want to leave the chocolate out, I will put a bit more sugar in the pastry cream , because otherwise it's needed to eat 5 Éclairs to get satisfied. My waist would hate me for this. In the end when they are crafted all together, they taste, wow. The best I have had, also because they were super fresh. In the Pastry shop, you never know how long has it been sitting there on the display.

Cream Puff Dough (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

Pastry Cream

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

Chocolate Glaze
(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

Chocolate Sauce
(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

Cream Puff Dough:
* 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. * In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
* 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.
* Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
hand mixer 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.
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.
* 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.
The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Pastry Cream:

* 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.
* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F/60 C remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four instalments. 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.

Chocolate Glaze:

* 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.

* Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce:

* 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.

* 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.


Mary said...

They look so phenomenal--congrats on your first challenge. We definitley do think it's fun!

Lunch Buckets said...

Daring Baker? Daring Baker. Daring Baker! Welcome to the group:)

Eat4Fun said...

Congratulations on completing your first DB Challenge! The eclairs look delicious!

silverrock said...

Ooo, the ziploc bag seems to have been nice to you. I've read a couple of blogs in which there have been ziploc explosions :P Your eclairs look delicious, and congrats on your first DB challenge :)

PAM said...

Welcome to the daring bakers. Looks like you had a great first challenge. Good job.