Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Eclairs and then some.....

It's reveal day for the August DB Challenge! This month's challenge was chosen by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK and it was a great one. They chose Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Herme from his book Chocolate Desserts. The recipe was for éclairs with a chocolate pastry cream filling and a chocolate glaze. But with this challenge were were only required to use the given recipe for the pate a choux and keep at least one chocolate element....either the glaze or the filling. I kept the glaze and went for a vanilla pastry cream filling. Yum!

Let me start by saying that I loved....LOVED....the glaze and the pastry cream. The é I must admit, I've never had real French éclairs. I wasn't expecting the large 'long john' donuts you get at the bakery, but I also didn't know exactly what to expect as far as taste and texture and size go. The actual dough part of the éclair didn't have much flavor, but maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. Everything together tasted wonderful, but overall it didn't knock my socks off. (Recipes can be found at our hosts' sites)

So let's start with the pate a choux. It came together very easily. If I had ever thought about it, I guess I kinda had the impression that cream puffs were difficult. And they are tempermental, but with patience and a bit of trial and error, cream puffs aren't terribly difficult. So, I was happy to try my hand at a recipe that gives some a bit of trouble, but a recipe that's nice to have in your repertoire if you can master it. So, after saying all of that, my pate a choux didn't turn out perfectly. So, I haven't mastered it, but I am determined! The dough was a bit runny and although they puffed up, they weren't nearly as big or crispy as I thought they should be. I think part of it was the recipe and part of it was my fault. Listen to me....finding fault with a recipe from Pierre Herme! For my part, I don't think I cooked the dough long enough once I added the flour. I was supposed to add the flour to the boiling water/milk mixture and stir for 2 minutes or more....until it came together and was smooth. Well, it came together in 15 seconds flat and I took it off the heat in well under a minute. I think that was a mistake. I don't know why it was a mistake, but I'm on the hunt to find out. I kinda like the science behind baking....the reactions that take place. As far as the recipe goes, I agree with other DBers that five eggs is too much. Mine didn't taste 'eggy', but I tried a different recipe this morning to make zeppole and it only had 4 eggs, with virtually everything else the same, and based on how it performed I'm excited to try using it to make these eclairs. More on the zeppole in a bit. I also had some trouble with the eclairs defating. I had read the tips about poking a slit in them and letting them cool in the oven. So, I slit one pan and left the other pan of eclairs whole. The eclairs without the slit didn't deflate and weren't soggy in the middle. So, that tip just didn't work for me. When I make these again, I'm going to try baking them longer. Hopefully they'll come out crispier and none of them will deflate.

So the glaze....the glaze....divine. Simply yummy. The glaze as Pierre Herme makes it is a two-parter. You make a chocolate sauce first, then add that as an ingredient in the glaze, which had more chocolate. It's two recipes that are definitely going into the keeper file. The leftover sauce has been used on ice cream and although I haven't tried it, I hear from other DBers that it's great in making chocolate milk. I haven't done anything with the leftover glaze, but it was a great topping for éclairs and will be for other desserts as well I'm sure.

So,'s essentially fried cream puffs. At least as Giada DeLaurentis from Food Network makes them. This morning Mark sees another Food Network show with fried dough and asked me to make donuts. I've seen Giada make the zeppole before and always thought about trying it. So I looked up the recipe and since I had done the August DB Challenge, I immediately recognized it as a recipe for pate a choux. This one, as I said above, had only 4 eggs and it had more sugar, but everything else was the same as far as measurements. Instead of half milk, half water, Giada's recipe had all water. But I'm sure you could use half milk. Anyway, this time when it came together in seconds, I continued to cook the dough for 3 minutes and although I'm not sure if that made the difference, I can say the dough was a better consistency. And although these were fried and not baked, they puffed up beautifully. It was quite a fun recipe. I tossed the fried dough in a sugar/cinnamon mixture, then, for some, I drizzled with a vanilla glaze. Others I just glazed without the cinnamon/sugar. I'm excited to try baking the dough and seeing how it turns out. When I do I'll let you know how it turned out and if I've finally mastered cream puffs!