Sunday, August 31, 2008
Daring Bakers - chocolate eclairs
Chocolate eclairs are one of my favourite cakes. Recently recipes seem to be appearing everywhere for choux pastry, which is the foundation of chocolate eclairs and its more glamorous cousin, profiteroles. I was getting ready to make a batch of eclairs when the August challenge for Daring Bakers was posted - and it was for chocolate eclairs! Excellent timing.
Hosts Tony Tahhan and MeetaK chose their recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. This recipe departed from traditional eclairs in that the eclairs were filled with chocolate pastry cream and iced with a rich chocolate glaze. We were allowed to modify the original recipe as long as we maintained one chocolate element, so I chose to fill my eclairs with whipped vanilla-flavoured cream and iced with the chocolate glaze, as this is the more traditional eclair that I like. However, I will make this recipe again and next time I will go all out and make the full chocolate version!
Choux pastry is an easy and forgiving pastry to make, with no kneading or resting time required. Butter, water and milk is brought to a boil in a saucepan, then a cup of plain flour is added all at once and the mixture stirred until it is soft and smooth. This dough is removed from the heat and several eggs beaten in until the dough is silky and shiny and can be piped into eclair shapes and baked. I don't have a very good piping bag set (it's on my list of kitchen gadgets to buy), so this limited my eclairs a little. The recipe called for a 20mm plain nozzle but I had one that was much smaller than that, so I piped three strips together to make the required size. This was not hugely successful, as the pastry did not rise as much as it should have, but I thought it was better than trying to spoon it on the tray. I noticed that this recipe, unlike my other choux pastry recipes, did not call for a slit to be made in the side of the eclairs once they were baked and removed from the oven. I think this is a step that I will include next time, as my gorgeously golden, puffed eclairs deflated not long after coming out of the oven. I've found that slitting the side helps the air inside the eclair to escape and prevents the deflating.
Although the eclairs did not look the best, the pastry had a nice flavour and I was able to puff up my eclairs with lots of whipped cream, finished off by the chocolate glaze on top. The eclairs were well received by my tasting group and this is a recipe I would definitely make again. Well done to this month's hosts for an easy but fun recipe that did not take half a day to put together!