Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would make my own eclairs. Choux pastry has always seemed a bit frightening. But I am frightened no more...
This month I was excited to see that the Daring Baker's Challenge was for Eclairs. Lawman adores eclairs and this would be a challenge he would definitely appreciate. Not that he hasn't appreciated the others...he scarfed down a couple slices of the gateau and he really enjoyed the strawberry buttercream frosting I made for the Opera Cake, but this one would be extra special.
Our hosts this month left the challenge very open, the only stipulations were that we use pâte à choux recipe given below and keep one chocolate element in the challenge (either the chocolate glaze or the chocolate pastry cream). You can feel free to mix and match flavors to the base recipe. Nice!
Such an open challenge did give me a lot to think about. So many delicious options! I decided to use the recipe as is...chocolate glaze and chocolate filling and to make it a little different by adding an additional filling...a ginger caramel sauce.
The recipe that we used was the Pierre Hermé Chocolate Éclair recipe from Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé a cookbook by Dorie Greenspan. I'll refer you to our wonderful and gracious hosts Tony and MeetaK for the recipe.
The choux recipe has you slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar after the pastries have cooked for 7 minutes. Yeah...um, this kind of ruined all the dials on my stove. I don't know what the deal was, but the knobs were white and clean when I started the recipe and now the bottoms of the dials (the part closest to the oven held open with the spoon handle) are brown. Sniffle. I had to tell Lawman when he got home. His response was an oven should be able to make eclairs. I'm still a little sad when I see the knobs. I wonder if it would happen again if I got new knobs. We just bought our new place and I was so proud to have my very own kitchen. Sigh. Did this happen to anyone else? Anyone have suggestions how to avoid this from happening or insight into why it happened?
But I digress...back to the recipe...with the choux, the recipe called for piping the pastry dough so it was the with of "chubby fingers." Next time I make them, I'd make my fingers a bit chubbier. Perhaps the size of two fingers.
In terms of making the pastry cream...this was one of my favorite parts. It's involved and as with any of the DB challenges you need to be prepared, but there is something really satisfying about tempering the egg yolk mixture and seeing the pastry cream come together. I started making the recipe while my friend the Prof was over, but it was a bit involved so she didn't get to stay to see it through with me. That meant for the pastry cream I was on my own and I didn't quite prep everything as I should, so I found myself preparing an ice bath with one hand while whisking the egg mixture and bringing it up to temperature with another. I looked away from the egg mixture for just a moment and suddenly it was thick and clumpy. Oh dear! Was it ruined? No!! All was not lost! It was just pastry cream coming together as it should. I whisked away, added the chocolate and placed it in the ice bath. It really looked like pastry cream! And tasted like it, too! Yum.
For the gingered caramel sauce I first sauteed 1 1/2 tablespoons of crushed ginger with 1/2 a tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until the ginger is nicely browned and has absorbed all the butter and vanilla. Set the ginger aside. Then mix 1 1/2 cups sugar with 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan and cooked over low heat until the sugar dissolved stirring occasionally. Once the sugar dissolved I increased the heat to medium and brought the mixture to a boil. Look for it to turn a medium caramel color and when it does, turn off the heat and slowly add 1 1/4 cups heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL. The mixture is hot and if it splatter it will burn you very badly--I suggest standing back and wearing a protective oven mitt while you stir. It's good to keep your pastry cream ice bath around just in case you splatter on yourself. Once the cream and vanilla are incorporated, mix in your ginger. Simmer the mixture over a low heat, stirring continually until the sauce is smooth. Let the sauce cool to room temp before attempting to fill pastries.
The caramel sauce was a huge hit and I will definitely make it again. I ate some of the extra sauce on ice cream and oh my, it was freakin' delicious. I think it would make an awesome caramel apple
The eclairs were very tasty and well received by Lawman and his family. Even my seven year old niece enjoyed them (pretty impressive for a chocolate dessert made with very dark chocolate). I would definitely make this recipe again. Next time I think I'll try it with the caramel sauce and a vanilla pastry cream.
Thanks Tony and Meeta for a successful challenge! For more luscious and amazing eclairs be sure to check out the Daring Baking Blogroll.