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.
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…