This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was Chocolate Éclairs. Using a simple mixture of Pate a Choux pastry, pastry cream and a chocolate glaze, the challenge was to create our own version of this fancy treat. I was really looking forward to this challenge since I’ve wanted to try Pate a Choux for some time.
I love the idea of making éclairs. I got turned on to the prospect after watching an episode of ‘Good Eats’ on the Food Network called ‘Choux Shine’. Alton Brown (AB) made the prospect of whipping up a batch of éclairs seem within my reach. That being said, I never did take the chance to try it, until now.
Overall, things went pretty well. The dough was really no trouble. I chose to use a food processor for the final incorporation of the butter into the mix as suggested in ‘Baking Illustrated’. I also chose to use their recipe and instructions for both the pastry cream and the chocolate glaze. Since chocolate and chocolate seemed bit too much for me, I decided to try both a chocolate and a vanilla pastry cream. The creams and the glazes came together well.
My only real problem was the pastry. Following some suggestions, I neatly lined out some marks on my parchment paper with a ruler so I could keep my éclairs in nice neat rows of the same size and length, while maintaining the spacing that is important for the rise of the dough. I wasn’t certain how I wanted to do the piping, so I decided to follow AB’s suggestion from his show and did a kind of ‘s’ shape as I piped the pastry. I think I missed one step though, and that was to smooth out the layers of dough into a more uniform tube shape. As I pulled the puffs from the oven, I realized that because I didn’t do this step, the puffs were uneven and looked a bit like smaller tubes of dough stacked together, not one larger, puffier tube. They did bake and rise well, but I shorted myself on another step – the rest in the oven. That wasn’t a good choice. Again, following another suggestion, I pierced the ends of the éclairs with a paring knife at the end of the baking to help release steam and placed them back in the oven with the door propped open to let them dry out. Okay, that was fine, but I needed the oven to cook dinner, so I only let them dry for about 10 minutes – no long enough. Most of my éclairs collapsed within the next hour, only a few survived. I did pipe a few pastries in the classic cream puff shape and, aside from being a bit overcooked, actually turned out much better than the éclairs.
Filling and glazing were actually pretty easy – they all came together pretty quickly.
The final results were okay. I would have liked to have had prettier éclairs, but I wasn’t too disappointed for a first go. As for taste, well, they were fantastic. The dough was just right, the cream and the glaze were very good. My wife and I both agreed that the vanilla cream and chocolate glaze combination worked better together than the double chocolate. Just our personal preference.
Thanks again to the DB’s and to Meeta and Tony for this month’s challenge, it’s been fun. If you would like to give this recipe a try, I’ve posted a copy of the complete challenge recipe here.