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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Bake Eclairs


The first of the month always generates a bit of excitement in the food blogging world. You see, that's usually the day that the new Daring Baker challenge is revealed. I was especially excited to see that the challenge for August was one of my favorite sweet treats ever - Chocolate Eclairs. And, not just any old eclairs, mind you, but Chocolate Eclairs from the man, himself, Pierre Herme! Woohoo!

I planned my strategy of when and how I was going to create these delectable little confections, and waited with anticipation for the assigned day I had chosen. Then, disaster struck! A few days before "E" Day, my oven just up and died. Yes, dear readers, it was deader than a doornail! After spewing a long stream of expletives, I was sure that I would have to miss this challenge. Then, I thought, "I'm a Daring Baker, for heaven's sake, I can overcome this!" So, I spit in the face of adversity, made all of the individual components of the recipe, and hightailed it over to my mother's house to bake my pastry in her brand new and marvelously functional oven!


Though the original recipe calls for a chocolate pastry cream, I decided to go with what I like best, which is a vanilla cream. For everything else, I stuck with the recipe as written.

Although, the recipe is quite long, with many different components, I sailed through most of it with ease. Everything came together beautifully for me until I actually baked my choux. I followed the directions to the letter, but my eclair shells just didn't puff up as much as I'd hoped. They also deflated quite a bit after I removed them from the oven. I don't know why this happened, but I'm attributing it to the staggering humidity and the fact that I had used an unfamiliar oven to bake them in. Even so, they were still fabulously delicious and well worth the effort!


Many thanks to Meeta and Tony for selecting such a wonderful recipe to challenge us this month!

Please take some time to see what the other Daring Bakers have created. I know you won't be disappointed!


These eclairs consist of 3 elements:
- Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough
- Pastry Cream
- Chocolate glaze

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes: The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.


1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create
2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.


1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.


1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.


1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.

2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.


Manggy said...

Oh, you even have a menu of Ladurée in the background! How romantic! As éclairs tend to be ;) Despite the deflation, they still look quite substantial (thanks to the voluminous cream!) and extremely, extremely delicious. I find that Hermé's recipe does call for too short a baking time, especially in our latitude. Ah, I'm sure there's a next time for pate a choux for you!

If my oven died, I'd probably tremble like a tweaker and let out a blood-curdling scream.

Anonymous said...

Oh my... they're lovely in spite of it all! :)

RecipeGirl said...

Those are definitely some bakery worthy eclairs! Delicious!!!

Anonymous said...

Way to be a true DB. They look incredible!

Lucy said...

I love your determination! The things we do for eclairs :)

The photographs are stunning.


Heather B said...

They look amazing! Very tasty I'm sure! Great job!

Rebecca said...

Absolutely lovely. If I hadn't already made these eclairs, your photos would've inspired me.

Matin said...

seriously tasty looking eclairs:-)

Erin said...

These look beautiful and delicious!

Patti said...

Those are beautiful.

Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide said...

Stop with the damn dessert torture already~love them!

Dianne said...

Sorry they deflated a bit, but they look fabulous none the less! :)

Andrew's Mom said...


Bellini Valli said...

I can imagine sitting in a sidewalk cafe or outside the Notre Dame with an eclair in hand:D

tanya said...

Your eclairs look wonderful and I'm sure they taste delicious! Great job!

The Stressed Baker said...

They look fantastic! Yours definetly were puffier then mine so don't worry about that and your vanilla cream looks so much tastier then mine...I wasn't happy with the outcome of my vanilla recipe but yours looks delicious!

Lauren said...

they look perfect, absolutely perfect!

Claire said...

The look just great! I had the same issue with them not quite baking correctly and then deflating. Who knows!

Aran said...

that is a daring baker right there... you have the spirit, anywhere and anytime right? they turned out great susan!

Sandy Smith said...

Swoon. These are all I want for Christmas. Well, these and a fairly decent treadmill.

Tartelette said...

All the pictures make me feel like home! Great post Susan and your eclairs are perfect!!

Honey Pickles said...

Your eclairs look perfect! Even your oven misshap didn't stop you. Bravo!

noble pig said...

Even with a new oven they look amazing, love em'.

Katie B. said...

I dig how determined you were - and it certainly paid off! Your eclairs look delicious!

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

These look so professional and so delish. Glad you went to Mom's!

bonnie said...


Proud Italian Cook said...

I thought I was in France there for a minute! Love your photo's, and your eclairs look like they just came out of a French pastry shoppe! Hope your oven gets fixed soon!

Cakespy said...

I love your whimsical presentations...and of course, they look mouthwatering!

Half Baked said...

Great job! your eclairs look perfect! love your photos!!

Andrea said...

Wow, your mother was quite happy to help out, I'm sure, especially if she got to sample the goods. Your eclairs look great!

Heather said...

oh! these are lovely, and i love, love, love the pic of the calendar with the eiffle tower!

Mary said...

Your eclairs look amazing. That's true dedication to carry everything to your mom's.

Amy said...

A true DB indeed! Oh man do those look good! Love the calendar photo.

Foodie Froggy said...

Oh oh ! Ladurée and the Eiffel Tower : they sound familiar to me, I don't know why, lol !!
Your éclairs are great, very gourmands !

Grace said...

i've come to expect perfection from you, and you've delivered!
really, even a food stylist would be impressed with these buggers, and i'd wager that yours taste much better than whatever they end up using for magazine pictures... :)

Christa said...

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm looks delicious and looks like a lot of work! Wow

C.L. said...

I love the backgrounds! And they look fabulous! MMMMMmmmmmmmm.

Bria said...


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

What absolutely stunning pictures, Susan! I'll bet they tasted as gorgeous as they look. My big baking task for today is chocolate chip cookies for my DS for his first week of school lunches.

Nina Timm said...

You are a tough one, I can tell. I will give up after just reading this lengthy recipe.....your end result was stunning!!!

genkitummy said...

your eclairs look lovely.
mine did not puff off as much either.

TeaLady said...

I love your pics. The Eiffle just adds a little something to your eclaires. Altho, they look good enuff to stand all by them selves. Great Job.

Cooking Confections said...

Stunning! It is that time of the day when I sit down and peruse food blogs and always admire yours. These look so delicious. Thank you for posting.

Kevin said...

Your eclairs look good. Many of mine deflated after coming out of the oven as well.

CookiePie said...

Beautiful eclairs!! And the vanilla cream looks delectable. How do you say "yum!" in French? :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, your eclairs look fantastic. A job well done.

Anonymous said...

Oh, your eclairs look fantastic. A job well done.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

The photo with the luscious eclair in the foreground and the pic of the Eiffel Tower in the background is tres magnifique!

Elle said...

Who needs fat choux shells when you have such a lovely amount of rich pastry cream? Love you photos! Gorgeous eclairs, too!!

Lynn said...

Ooh! Lovely eclairs! If they deflated, you sure can't tell. They are beautiful and yummy-looking!

Bridgett said...

I love the cream slightly oozing out on that first pic. It is just begging you to run your finger along for a taste. These look beautiful!

canarygirl said...

Oh dear. All these eclairs are making me dizzy (in a good way! lol). I have a sudden urge to run to the "pastelería" and buy up all they've got! lol Beautiful job, Susan!!

veron said...

perfect eclairs, Susan! Love how you filled it, so appetizing!

Brilynn said...

I don't know how you're surviving without an oven, but those pics are fantastic!

Jodie said...

I think they would've been good with vanilla cream- yours look so yummy. Mine deflated after baking, too.

enza said...

I saw comment like yours spread over the blogger.
and I've experienced the same skill, the dough didn't arise enough or as I've expected I think is somenthing due to the cooking method but PH is PH and averything escaping from his hand is marvellous.
I'll come back to my tested old recipe for cooking method mantaining the ingredients of the dough.
soooo...great and marvellous set!

Laurie said...

Your eclairs look so yummy!

Anita said...

Loved how you posed your eclairs in front of all the French props! Eclairs make me think of Paris too. Lovely!

Aimée said...

Love your super creative photos!! I could go for a half dozen of these right now.

Cakelaw said...

Your eclairs are so pretty, and as ever, your food styling is immaculate.

Chez US said...

Your eclairs look great and I love the french add-ins!! Great job!

Katrina said...

Your eclairs looks as yummy and beautiful as I've seen "professional" ones look!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Your eclairs make me want to lick the screen!!! Gorgeous! I can commiserate with you about your oven, mine died this summer too, but luckily it was repairable.

Valisa said...

OMG this looks so gorgeous!!!!

Jeanne said...

Love those photos - very clever :)