Pierre Hermé’s chocolate éclairs were the August Daring Bakers’ challenge. The rules were to follow exactly the pâte à choux recipe and make at least one of the two chocolate components from the original recipe – rather the chocolate pastry cream for filling or chocolate glaze. As for the filling, I didn’t change it drastically. I just turned it into the mocha variation by infusing milk with French-roast coffee beans flavor. It was absolutely marvelous. I used a different recipe for the chocolate glaze (to be honest, I just recycled what had left from the previous challenge (it was about time :))
As for the pâte à choux… I was surprised to see that the recipe called for an exact number of eggs (5 – no more, no less…). Usually there’s a ratio given and a baker is advised to use the eggs judgmentally. The dough consistency is of particular importance here – thick but pliable, and not at all runny. I tried to be a rules follower – I broke all 5 eggs in a measuring cup, lightly whisked them and added them to the dough gradually. I ended up with a leftover about one egg-worth. With all my due respect to the maestro, the stated baking time, as well as the oven temperature, were not sufficient for successful baking and needed some adjustments. I started at the higher temperature and even baked longer than was suggested. You can see my step-by step photos below. I posted the pictures of the just baked éclairs as well as completely cooled ones. I didn’t have any problems with deflating of the éclairs or their eggy taste.
I filled them using a Bismarck tip. It allows to pack the éclairs generously with the pastry cream and makes the eating less messy and therefore more pleasureful.
To summarize… sure the éclairs were fabulous. The filling was smooth and creamy, and very much coffee-chocolaty. My big thanks to Meeta and Tony, this month DB hosts, for choosing a wonderful dessert appreciated by everyone.
Adapted from “Chocolate Desserts” by Pierre Hermé
Makes 20-24 éclairs
For the pâte à choux:
- 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
For the chocolate-coffee pastry cream:
- Heaped ½ cup French roast espresso beans, very coarsely ground
- 2 cups (500g) whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
- 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, finely chopped
- 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the chocolate glaze:
- 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 12 tbsp (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp light corn syrup
- 5 tsp water
For the espresso crème Anglaise: I used some of the espresso ice cream base by Kate Zuckerman, before it’d been processed in the ice cream machine, of course. I’m posting the recipe later, or you can follow this recipe for making the crème Anglaise omitting the honey (half batch will be enough for serving the éclairs) and infuse the cream with coarsely ground espresso beans (about 1/3 cup of the beans will suffice).
Make the pâte à choux, form and bake the éclairs:
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.
Place an oven rack in the lower part of the oven. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place a pan with hot tap water onto the bottom of your oven (Pyrex pie pan works well).
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil.
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.
Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough on medium speed for a minute to cool the dough slightly. Break the eggs into a liquid measuring cup or a bowl, lightly whisk with a fork. Add the eggs gradually, in 4-5 additions beating well after each portion has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first portion, the dough will separate, once again- do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon. You might have some eggs left over. Use your judgment, the dough doesn’t have to be too liquidy and runny.
The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.
You can pipe the dough and then 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.
Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 1 ½ cm plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in 3 1/2 – 4 inches long fingers.
Leave about a 2 inch (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to let them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.
Put one baking sheet into another to isolate the pastry bottoms from strong heat and slide the baking sheet into the oven; place another baking sheet with piped éclairs immediately into the freezer (if your oven is not big enough to accommodate both baking sheets at once). Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, until the éclairs are well puffed and golden brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Open the oven door and take the water-filled pan out of the oven. Rotate the sheet from front to back. Poke every pastry with a wooden skewer or a knife tip to allow the moisture to escape and leave the baking sheet in the oven for another 5 minutes, until the éclairs are well browned, firm and crisp to the touch. Turn the oven off, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep it ajar. Let the éclairs stay in the oven for 5 more minutes.
Cool completely on a rack. The unfilled éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.
Bake the frozen éclairs as described earlier without defrosting, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.
Make the chocolate-coffee pastry cream, fill the éclairs:
In a small saucepan, bring the milk and coffee beans to a boil. Off the heat, cover and let steam for an hour. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth into a bowl.
Prepare an ice bath.
Wash the saucepan or use another one; return the coffee-infused milk into the clean saucepan. Reheat the milk once again to the boiling point. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl and whisk together.
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.
Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously and continuously 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.
Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in the ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so it remains smooth.
Once the cream has reached the temperature of 140F 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. In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
The pastry cream can be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
To fill the éclairs, transfer the pasty cream into a piping bag fitted with Bismarck tip. Insert the tip into the hole made earlier during the baking and squeeze the bag. You should feel when the éclair shell is full – it will get heavy and expand. Repeat with the rest of the éclairs.
Make the chocolate glaze, glaze the éclairs:
Place all the ingredients in a small heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently until the chocolate is almost completely melted; do not overheat. Remove the glaze from the water bath and set aside to finish melting, stirring once or twice until perfectly smooth. If necessary, before using, cool the glaze to 88-90 F. It will be optimally shiny if you use it at that temperature. Place a sheet of parchment paper or foil under the rack. Dip the top of each éclair into the glaze and place the glazed éclair onto the rack for the glaze to set.
Any excess glaze may be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen.
The éclairs are best served soon after they have been filled.
September 3, 2018 at 5:57 am
Excelente tutorial de la forma fácil y sencilla al explicarlo, cualquier principiante en pastelería fina lo entenderá con mucha facilidad de principio a fin, lo felicito por la didáctica y padagógica que posee para transmitir sus conocimientos, porque da todos los detalles sin omitir ninguno. Le reitero mis felicitaciones.
February 16, 2016 at 3:17 pm
Why do you need to prick the eclairs to release the moisture and need to freeze them. If you freeze them would it not increase baking time?
July 20, 2013 at 9:20 am
Mine didn’t raise….. Wonder why. I’m not new at this…:-((
May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm
Hi, your eclairs look so pretty and delicious~ I’ve made eclairs about 5-6times but they never looked so pretty like yours.
would like to know how you creat the lines on top. I used a fork to make some lines but when they puffed off in the oven, they weren’t straight like yours.
Do you suggest to make some lines before baking ? Or , is it not necessery to do that?
Thanks for sharing the recipe and nice pastry photos.
November 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm
wow…these came out perfectly…how to get them to rise evenly?
February 28, 2012 at 11:12 am
Sarah, you are very welcome! I’m so glad everything worked well. Thank you for your feedback!
February 28, 2012 at 8:42 am
Thank you so much for this beautiful and helpful post! I followed the recipe and froze the piped eclairs, and much to my delight, they baked perfectly straight out of the freezer. I love finding new ways to make fancy recipes a little bit easier. Thanks a million!
July 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm
Yeshi, you can’t just add some flour or sugar to get the right consistency of pâte à choux. You have to add the eggs gradually and maybe not all of them to the batter. Sorry, I couldn’t reply earlier.
July 9, 2011 at 11:29 am
i tried the recipe but halved the ingredients as i did not want to make 24 eclairs. However, the dough was little runny and i added little more flour and sugar. But, the eclairs did not rise. They fell flat. tasted good but you cannot fill them. What could have gone wrong?
January 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm
this is the most perfect one, I try many kind of recipes during years, and this is the best. I realy like it..
January 29, 2011 at 12:37 am
These are perfect, beautiful, delicious and … Thank you so much for all of things
November 12, 2010 at 7:06 am
I love your work – it’s truly perfection! However, I tried your baking method for the pate a choux and it was rather disappointed – the pan filled with hot water, reducing the oven temperature from 400F to 375F after 18 minutes of baking time, turn the oven off, leave oven door ajar, leave the baked eclairs in the oven for another 5 minutes… All of these tips sound like a Great idea to produce that wonderfully shapped, hollow, golden delicious pate a choux, but they did not! Mine didn’t puff up at all, it felt flat!
September 4, 2010 at 2:46 pm
Just a quick question – what did you do with the creme anglaise? Did you make that and then mix it with the chocolate-coffee pastry cream ?
September 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm
For Heaven’s sake…those look absolutely delicious!!!
May 5, 2009 at 7:01 pm
Tania, I used an open star tip, a little bit over 1 cm.
May 4, 2009 at 2:58 pm
yours looks so pretty..
i was wondering which kind of tip did you use for the pate a choux?
September 8, 2008 at 12:21 am
Dana, chocolate and orange are great together :)
Pam, thank you very much!
September 7, 2008 at 12:26 pm
Your eclairs are perfect and I love mocha and expresso. Beautiful work.
September 6, 2008 at 9:31 pm
I thought about making mocha ones as well but settled on chocolate orange instead!
September 5, 2008 at 5:56 pm
Pea and Pear, thank you so much for your kind words!
Deborah, thank you very much!
Culinary Cory, you certainly can :)
Giz, thank you very much!
Olga, thanks a lot! And my best friend’s name is Olga, too :)
Hillary, thanks for stopping by and for the complement!
Holly, thank you very much!
September 5, 2008 at 5:52 pm
Your eclairs are the most perfect I’ve seen!
September 5, 2008 at 4:26 pm
Very cute eclairs! I wish I could have one right now.
September 5, 2008 at 6:44 am
wow, they look absolutely perfect! great combination of flavors.
P.S. my mom has the same name as you :)
September 3, 2008 at 8:37 pm
Really picture perfect. I’m so impressed at how perfect they are.
September 3, 2008 at 12:15 pm
There is a bakery down the street from my house that makes eclairs. I keep telling myself if I walk there, rather than drive, then I can have two.
September 3, 2008 at 10:05 am
Your pictures are amazing! The eclairs look perfect.
September 3, 2008 at 5:39 am
Well if that isn’t hands down the most perfect looking eclair then I don’t know what is. Even my husband who is looking over my shoulder commented on how amazing they look. Amazing!!!!
September 2, 2008 at 9:04 pm
Dee, thank you so much for your words! It wasn’t just a plain nozzle :) It was a large star tip with rather small notches.
September 2, 2008 at 8:41 pm
I don’t know how your blog escaped my compulsive blog hopping habit, but I’m glad I discovered it. Your eclairs are stunning (as everyone else agrees), and I love the ridges. How did you achieve that using just a plain nozzle, I wonder?
September 2, 2008 at 7:49 pm
Once again, thank you, thank you very much for commenting on my blog! I read and greatly appreciate every single comment! You all make it worthy!
September 2, 2008 at 3:55 pm
What lovely eclairs. I love the looks of them and I am sure the taste is even better!
September 2, 2008 at 2:30 pm
Again, I have to say I am in awe of your talent! Beautiful. I’m not much of an eclairs fan, but I love your decision to give them a chocolatey filling! They are so cute and flawless….lovely job :).
September 2, 2008 at 2:14 pm
Picture perfect! Such a beautiful eclair!
September 2, 2008 at 12:39 pm
A beautiful work of art! The Eclairs look so delicious.
September 2, 2008 at 10:23 am
These are stunning pictures. And I agree, I baked mine much longer and at higher temperature so that they did not deflate. Perhaps Pierre has a secret trick to two for getting his recipe to work, but as a mortal I needed a higher oven!
September 2, 2008 at 10:17 am
Vera, what a terrific job! Can I have one please?
September 2, 2008 at 9:57 am
Wow! These look perfect! Great job! My stomach is growling now!
We’d like to invite you to participate in our September apple and peach recipe contest. All competitors will be eligible to win one of three prizes :)! Please email me, email@example.com, if you’re interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details: http://blog.keyingredient.com/2008/08/29/september-kick-contest/
September 2, 2008 at 3:50 am
Vera, those look so perfect, and I love every single photo ! :)
September 1, 2008 at 10:00 pm
Hollow pastries, hollow pastries everywhere I look…ahhhhh. Yours are beautiful, evenly piped, hollow, and perfect glaze. Lovely.
September 1, 2008 at 8:08 pm
Your eclairs look so decadent and beautiful.
September 1, 2008 at 6:56 pm
Wow, your eclairs are so gorgeous!! And what a shiny and smooth glaze! Your eclairs can totally compete with the ones we have here in france. And i’ll sure appreciate yours more especially because of the Mocha!
Also I totally agree with you about the pâte à choux recipe: 4 large eggs or just a little bit more would have been enough and the baking time was definitly too short.
What about changing the name of your blog..? Baking perfection would be… perfect!
September 1, 2008 at 2:41 pm
they taste dilicious!
September 1, 2008 at 2:04 pm
Such beautiful results! I wish I had the knowledge you did BEFORE I made these b/c I would have liked to know I should bake them longer than instructed. oh, well! Now I know!
September 1, 2008 at 1:17 pm
These are my favourite. Absolute perfection, my friend. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. xo
September 1, 2008 at 11:06 am
wow…those are awesome, how perfect…I don’t think I have ever made them look so perfect. Fantastic job, and the Mocha sounds wonderful for pastry cream!
September 1, 2008 at 10:54 am
September 1, 2008 at 10:06 am
Although usually eclairs are not at all perfect. yours are really perfect in every detail and the filling looks really smooth creamy and chocolate. I m dying to have one of them. hmmmmmmmmmmmm Great photos and they re really helpful
September 1, 2008 at 8:28 am
Wow… stunning! Your eclairs are pastry shop worthy!
September 1, 2008 at 7:13 am
Yours look just perfect! I love your tips on glazing them and filling them. Nice job!
September 1, 2008 at 5:19 am
This is perfection in every sense. Picture perfect eclairs!