Today's tastespotting.com features a "baker's dare" collection from food bloggers who took on the delicious challenge of making homemade eclairs. Leaving me wondering what other yummy recipes are available. CH's, please share your pastry tips, filling ideas, flavor combos, chocolate preferences. TIA! HillJ
Choux puffs called "Salambo" contain rum pastry cream lightened with whipping cream, and the tops are dipped in caramel, with chopped pistachios sprinkled over the top. Really delicious!
For the choux I like to work in metric:
100 gms butter, 150 gms flour, 250 ml water (the numbers for the butter and flour add up to the number for the water, and the flour is 1.5 x the butter), and 4-5 eggs (usually about 4.5). I bake them at 400 F.
Michel Roux, the French pastry chef from England, insists that pastry should be piped in staggered rows for even heat circulation. Is it really necessary? I don't know, but I do it anyway.
Here is a recipe from one of the "masters" of bakers !
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough Makes 20-24 Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 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.
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. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon. The dough should be still warm.
Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2 cm) plain-tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 4 1/2 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.
Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for seven minutes. After the seven 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 eight minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.
I like to follow recipes "as given", because I believe the author of the recipe knows more about baking than I do!
One tip that I read somewhere......before taking the pastry shells from the oven, remove *just one* and break it open. If the inside is still a bit under-baked, or too moist looking.....leave in oven and continue baking the rest a few more minutes to dry completely. A lot depends on your oven thermostate, too! Know your oven! Even the best of ovens vary. Be careful not to open the oven door too soon, before completing baking time, or they will surely collapse!
Remember that whole milk does contain a modicum of fat, where water has none. Think it may make a small bit of difference in flavor and texture.
Julia Child's recipe calls for : 1 cup water, 6 Tbls butter (cut into pieces), 1 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper (for savory puffs) OR 1 teaspoon sugar (for dessert puffs), pinch of nutmeg. All this into a heavy bottomed pot, bring to boil slowly over moderate heat.
Take off the heat and add 1 cup all purpose flour all at once.
Then, I use a large wooden or plastic spoon and beat like crazy for a few seconds, then put back on the heat and contiune beating until a very slight film is left in the bottom of the pan.
After that remove from the heat again and add 4 eggs. And this is important... add them one at a time and beat each in until it is absorbed thoroughly. Each egg will take a little longer than the one before. When you think this has happened, beat a smidge more until it is very smooth.
I should mention that I make the savory ones most often and usually use chicken broth for the liquid.
To bake: you can use a pastry bag, but I never have. They go on a well buttered sheet. Brush the tops with well beaten egg. Avoid "glueing" them to the sheet or they won't puff. Place in the middle of the oven at 425.
They are done when doubled in size and lightly browned. Remove from oven, pierce each with the point of a sharp knife and return to the turned off oven, with door ajar, for about 10 minutes. Bon apetite!
I participated in the Daring Bakers eclair challenge. I did a batch of chocolate pastry cream filled, a batch of chocolate mousse filled, a batch of butterscotch, a batch of pistachio cream filled, and a batch of pistachio mousse filled all topped with a dark chocolate glaze.
By far my favorite was the pistachio filled, both the mousse and the cream. The chocolate on chocolate was a bit much, and in general, I find most pastry creams to be too rich for my taste so I find mousse or pastry cream folded with whipped cream preferable. Callebaut makes for a great chocolate glaze. I'd also recommend filling them with a pastry tip rather than cutting them in half. They just look nicer.
I would avoid the recipe the Daring Bakers were given to use. It came out eggy for most and the directions to open the door caused deflated eclairs for many.
Also, if fat content is a consideration, I used 2% milk instead of whole milk in my pastry cream, choux, and ganache that I topped some of them with, and it came out beautifully. Unfortunately I didn't perfect the recipe until AFTER it was time to post. The fourth time's a charm =)
These are not really hard to make, even though they may look fancy. Choux pastry is very workable and pastry cream, once you find a good recipe for it, is not hard either. Most eclair recipes that I have found fold whipped cream into pastry cream for the filling. I love caramel or coffee flavored eclairs, as well as croquembouche, the tall tower of cream puffs attached by caramel. Now that is a bit more complicated.