Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chocolate Eclairs

I read a lot of blogs. As I may have mentioned, google reader makes this really easy, because it shows me a list of my blogs that have been updated with the title of the post. I can click on it, and it shows me a little pop-up window (that looks like a little conversation bubble from a cartoon). If I want to see the whole thing, I can get it to open in a new tab or window; if not, you close the bubble and it considers it read.

Well, Brown Eyed Baker has a list (I think this is awesome) of the top 100 things she'd like to make in her lifetime. I was perusing this list and I saw that she had made chocolate eclairs! They are an all time favorite of mine, and the idea of making them made me so happy. It took me a long time to get up the gumption, and even longer to get things moving. I did this project over 3 or 4 days, because I was a little scared. Next time, I'll try to do it in 2 days: the first making the pastry cream and the second making the rest.

There are three parts to making eclairs:

1 - the pastry outside
2 - the cream filling inside
3 - the chocolate glaze on top

I decided to follow the BEB and go with 2, then 1, then 3.

The Cream Filling (aka Pastry Cream)

Makes about 3 cups
Don’t whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the half-and-half is already heating. Straining the finished pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve ensures a perfectly silky texture.
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 20 seconds.

3. When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

I couldn't take pictures along the way because it seemed like I was always doing something important. Here's a picture of when I was putting it in the pastry bag to pipe into the eclairs. I think I left my filling in the fridge for 2 days.

The Pastry (Pate a Choux)

Makes enough for 24 profiteroles or cream puffs, 16 gougères, or 8 éclairs.
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons whole milk
6 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1. Beat the eggs and egg white in a measuring cup or small bowl; you should have 1/2 cup (discard the excess). Set aside.
2. Bring the butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice. When the mixture reaches a full boil (the butter should be fully melted), immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand, and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 minutes (the paste should register 175 to 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
3. Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly. With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream. When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms. (If not using immediately in one of the following recipes, transfer the paste to a medium bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap that has been sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray directly on the surface, and store at room temperature for up to 2 hours.)

4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper; set the pan aside.
5. Fold down the top 3 or 4 inches of a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip to form a cuff. Hold the bag open with one hand in the cuff and fill the bag with the paste. Unfold the cuff, lay the bag on the work surface, and, using your hands or a bench scraper, push the paste toward the tip of the pastry bag.

For cream puffs: Twist the top of the bag and pipe the paste into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch mounds on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 to 1 1/4 inches apart. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in a bowl of cold water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped mounds.
For éclairs: Twist the top of the bag and pipe the paste into eight 5 by 1-inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in a bowl of cold water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped strips.
6. Bake 15 minutes (do not open the oven door), then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm (the puffs and éclairs should not be soft and squishy), 8 to 10 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. With a paring knife, cut a 3/4-inch slit into the side of each puff and on the top of each éclair to release steam; return the puffs to the oven, turn off the oven, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. Dry the puffs and éclairs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist (not wet) and the puffs and éclairs are crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer the puffs and/or éclairs to a wire rack to cool completely. (The cooled puffs and éclairs can be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours or frozen in a zipper-lock plastic bag for up to 1 month. Before serving, crisp room-temperature puffs in a 300-degree oven 5 to 8 minutes; crisp frozen puffs/éclairs 8 to 10 minutes.)

7. When ready to serve:
For puffs: Use the tip of a paring knife to make a small X in the side of each puff, about halfway between the top and bottom. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip with the pastry cream and then pip some pastry cream through the X in the side of each puff. (Fill each puff until the pastry cream starts to ooze out the side.) Top with chocolate glaze or sifted powdered sugar.
For éclairs: With a paring knife, cut around the sides of each éclair to remove the top third. Dip the top of each éclair into the glaze, shaking off any excess, and transfer the tops to a wire rack to dry. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of pastry cream in the bottom of each éclair. Once the glaze has set, set the tops on the éclairs and press gently to secure.

I think I waited too long on my pastry creme. Mine was very liquid-y and I only used about half. It was oozing everywhere.
But they sure did taste goo. I think I'll have to try this again sometime. Plus, my chocolate was quite grainy and not smooth, but who cares when you're eating an eclair?!?

Oh wait! Here's the recipe for the chocolate on top:

Chocolate Glaze
(Source: Dorie Greenspan “Baking: From My Home to Yours” pages 290-292)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
Melt the chocolate with cream and corn syrup in a small heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until the glaze is melted and smooth.


  1. My mother made eclairs or profiteroles a couple of times each year when I was growing up. I always thought the pate a choux dough was so cool, the way it formed a ball in the saucepan... Thanks for the memory!