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Daring Bakers Challenge August 2008

Ok – éclairs – go!

This month’s challenge was Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé, a challenge posed to Los Bakers de la daring by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK.

No problem I thought. Piece of cake. Or piece of puff. I thought…

One of my favorite things in life (always in retrospect because when it’s happening, it usually sucks at least a little bitty bit) is when I think something is one thing, and I’m proven wrong. W-R-O-N-G. Keeps me humble, which is not something the women in my family are known for. So it’s always good, and in the end, always funny…

So éclairs. Well, look. I’ve made really glorious cream puffs before without breaking a sweat. Chocolate sauce? If anyone was born to make chocolate sauce, t’was I. So how hard could these things be? Start with the requisite obscene amount of butter.

Melt it down with some goodies in a medium sauce pan.

Add some flour then stir like superman (faster than you can see – wooden spoon a blur)…

then add you some eggs. One at a time. And stir. Keep stirring. Stir until your arm falls off.

And you end up with something beautiful, that looks like this

Get your ghetto-fabulous make-shift pastry sleeve (aka a ziplock baggie with a corner cut off)

And pipe these bad boys

Put them in the oven at the proper temperature with extreme confidence that you are going to have the most beautiful little éclairs in the world. Your husband will fall all over you. You will be hailed at work on Monday as a pastry queen. Because, after all, you’ve done this before…so what could go wrong?

This photo comes nowhere near showing what a disappointment these shells were. That’s my husband’s fault – he’s a really good photographer. The one you can see here is actually fairly nice looking…in all, there were four (out of at least two dozen) that wound up being worth using. What happened? I’m not quite sure – underbaking most likely. The puffs were flat and full of wet gunk that had to be picked out. Also, Julia Child’s recipe, which is what I’ve used in the past, calls for slashing the puffs open when they are taken out of the oven, to let the steam escape. Whatever the case, most of the puffs were unusable, which makes me quite sad as I am a tightwad and hate to throw out food.

On to the chocolate sauce(s) – and as a side note, what’s up with these recipes that have us making a chocolate sauce to make a chocolate sauce?

Anyway…started out with some pretty egg yolks and corn starch

scalded some milk

and made a lovely pastry cream.

Oh dear…here’s where it gets a bit fuzzy…I really need to write this stuff down as I go along…

I made some chocolate thing – I think it was the FIRST chocolate sauce – I didn’t have anything to make a proper water bath, so into the sink it goes.

Oh wait! Now I remember. This is the pastry cream..and it turned out beautifully

So NOW I made chocolate sauce…I think

At some point I added cream and made a glaze. I really have to take notes while I do this. There’s just so much stirring, it’s hard to write anything down as I go along.

The four surviving shells were split and picked for filling

and four baby éclairs were glazed and filled.

Assembly complete.

And because we’re all secret aspiring food photographers here’s the glamor shot

If last month’s lesson was never overestimate a recipe, this month’s was definitely never underestimate a recipe. It was fun – super fun – no doubt about it. And the four éclairs were great. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I think the double chocolate was too much. One of the ways I know I’m 100% girl (despite occasional evidence to the contrary) is that I will eat chocolate any time of the day or night. Full? When presented with a piece of chocolate I will forget the meaning of the word ‘full.’ But this was a lot of chocolate and sometimes, a little less of the thing you love makes you love it a little more.

Next time I make these (the husband is a big fan of éclairs and I am bound and determined to make them better than the cafe down the street), I will try a vanilla or a cream filling and see what happens. In fact, I may need to go right now and get one for, uh, strategic research purposes….

Next time I will also bake the puffs until I know they’re done. Can I please just learn to trust my instincts every once in a while?

This was a great challenge – I learn something every time I bake – I can’t wait for September…


  1. Kirstynn says:

    This post sounded exactly like my experience. Espeically the girls lovin chocolate thing! Give me my chocolate, and an ice cold diet coke, and I am a HAPPY girl. My kitchen had chocolate everywhere! when I was throught with this challenge. I loved reading about yours though!

  2. Patti says:

    Beautiful job.

  3. marye says:

    well, the ones that survived look fabulous!

  4. Tina says:

    hehe…I loved your blog it made me giggle =). Yes, I am not sure what was up with that Choux recipe but I will stick with mine from now on, I know it works, I had a few do the same thing to me. But the ones that made it are fantastic! I wish my sink was that big for a nice water bath lol.

  5. claire says:

    I do think that underbaking was a problem brought about by the instructions. I had the same issues you did. This looks great! Glad you had some good ones.

  6. Angela says:

    I agree that the baking instructions for the éclairs are a bit dodgy. I knew mine weren’t done at the end of the 20 minutes so left them in until I was certain they were done. Definitely go with your instincts next time! The choux pastry itself was fabulous, though!

    Your éclairs do look fantastic, though!!

  7. Mom says:

    I don’t know WHERE in the world this Ninja woman learned to love to cook. Maybe it had something to do with her steady diet of ramen growing up………heh.

  8. Micha says:

    I’m totally with you on the too much chocolaty goodness. I, like you, am a chocolate fiend…and I really preferred the half of the batch that was vanilla éclairs. Of course, that did NOT stop me from eating more than a few of the chocolate on chocolate ones 🙂

    The four that turned out really are beautiful! They look scrumptious!

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