Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate Éclairs

No one makes desserts like the French. If I had to rank all the amazing sweets and pastries I had while in Europe recently, that Chocolate Éclair I had one morning in Paris undoubtedly takes the top spot.

You have NO IDEA. I actually had an epiphany when I ate it!

At first glance, it looked utterly nondescript. But take a bite and I assure you, the stars will align. It was a magical trinity of choux that was light as air, crème patissière that was pure ambrosia, and a chocolate glaze that was smooth as silk. It was to me, the perfect Chocolate Éclair.

If you are going to Paris anytime soon, this is where you can find it:

Artisan Boulanger Patissier Maison Auvray (at the corner of Rue Cler and Rue de Champ du Mars). I lifted this photo off Google Maps, actually. Pity it doesn't show the place when it is opened for business.

After that éclair, nothing else will do. Nothing. I know I will never be able to make an éclair of that calibre, but that ain't such a bad thing ... because it just means I have to make a trip to Paris every year to satisfy my éclair cravings. *silent squeal*

Still, that didn't stop me from making éclairs for my children (until such time they taste that perfect éclair themselves). If there was one thing I can bake to save my life, I would say Choux Puffs With Crème Pâtissière. The only thing was, I have never made them in éclair form, and I did a terrible job while piping the pâte à choux. Ah well, everyone's got to start somewhere. ;)

So there you go, Chocolate Éclairs, everyone!


Pin It

Making the Crème Pâtissière
You can make this the day before and keep it in the refrigerator. I like to do it this way, so that I have less to do all at one go. Besides, the custard needs to be nicely chilled before you use it to fill the hollows of the Choux Puffs.

Recipe
- 1 cup milk (236ml)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup caster sugar (55g)
- 1 drop vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 pinch salt (only if not adding butter, or using unsalted butter)
- 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, for additional shine and firmness
* I added about 20g of Valrhona Caraïbe into the custard to flavour it.

1. Whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup milk (60ml), sugar and vanilla beans. Mix in cornflour and salt (if using).

2. Bring the remaining milk to a scald* in a saucepan. Pour the hot milk in small stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk as you pour (very important). Once incorporated, pour everything back into the saucepan.
* To scald is to heat to just below the boiling point.

3. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it thickens and firms up. Remove from heat and whisk in butter (and chocolate, if using).

4. Pour the hot custard into a bowl and plunge the bottom of the bowl into another larger bowl of iced-water to cool, give it a whisk occasionally.
- I just continued whisking in the same saucepan until it cooled down.

5. Once it reaches room temperature, scoop the crème pâtissière into a piping bag (twist the open end to seal up the custard) or into a ketchup bottle. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Pin It

Making the Choux Pastry
I prefer to make this fresh on the day itself. Choux doesn't keep its crusty shells very well in our humid weather.

Recipe

- 1 cup water
- 55g unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 120g plain flour
- 3 large eggs + 1 large egg (beaten lightly)

1. Place the water, butter and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. When the butter is completely melted, remove from the heat and add the flour all at once.

2. Mix rapidly with a spatula until fully combined.

3. Place the mixture on the stove over a low heat and dry mix for about 5-6 mins. The dough should be soft and but not sticky. If there is a thin white crust at the bottom of the pan, it means the dough is sufficiently dried.

4. Transfer to a bowl and spread to cool. Let the dough cool slightly.

5. Add the 3 eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next.

6. Add the last egg a little at the time to control consistency. You do not want a mixture that is too runny, or the choux puff will not hold its shape. If the mixture looks right to you, stop adding the egg. The pâte à choux should look smooth, shiny and have the consistency of thick mayonnaise.

7. Preheat oven to 190 degree celsius. Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag with the dough with a piping nozzle.

8. Pipe the pâte à choux to your desired size. Obviously, if you want giant éclairs, cut a bigger hole in the piping bag. I made mini éclairs for the simple reason that my children were the ones eating, and I did not want to deal with half-eaten éclairs if they couldn't finish. Press down any peaks gently with your finger (dipped in water). Otherwise, the peaks will burn as they bake.


After piping the pâte à choux, dip a small fork in water and gently run the tines length-wise. This will give the éclairs some rustic looking ridges (see photo above). It's totally optional, but I just like the look of it. :)
Pin It

9. Brush the top with the egg wash (mix some egg with water)*. Some recipes call for giving the puffs a quick spritz of water before baking, as steam helps the puffs rise better.
* I totally forgot about this step! Oops!

10. Bake for about 35 minutes or until well puffed and golden. The drier, the crustier, the better - you want a cavernous, not soggy, centre. Shut off the heat, leave the oven door slightly ajar, and let the puffs cool slowly. The puffs may collapse if they are cooled too fast. Some people make small slashes at the bottom of the puffs to allow the steam to escape and then put them back into the oven. I don't, and my puffs still turned out fine each time.

Now that you have your choux puffs and your crème pâtissière, you're ready to fill! Using a sharp knife, make small slits at the bottom of the puffs. Pipe in the crème pâtissière that has been chilled in the ketchup bottle or piping bag.

Making the Chocolate Glaze
Recipe
(from here)
- 50g caster sugar
- 50ml water (less if you want a thicker consistency)
- 25g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 10g butter

1. Place the sugar and water into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil for 4-5 minutes, or until it thickens. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for five minutes.

2. Add the chocolate and butter to the pan and stir well until the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally. When the sauce has cooled and thickened, spread it on top of the éclairs.

Place the éclairs in the refrigerator to chill before serving.


A far cry from the perfect Chocolate Éclair, but good enough for home consumption. ;)
Pin It

16 comments:

  1. totally understand how you felt about the eclairs! after i ate the polo bun at kam wah cafe hk, nothing will do!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful pictures as always. Bet it tastes good as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, you've convinced me that I have to go to Paris. In the meantime, I'd happily devour your eclairs.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Same feelings when i tasted it. You should have tried the macaroons there as well. Heaven....

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think your eclairs look spectacular!! Don't think I'll ever try to make them myself but will definitely check out the Boulangerie when i'm in Paris! It's definitely a good reason to plan a trip there soon! haha Happy Blessed New Year to you and your family!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mais ils ont l'air délicieux ces choux! Ces éclairs..Bravo!!

    Look at you..Miss Paris:) Suits you.. so well.
    Happy New Year dear girl..xx

    ReplyDelete
  7. Merci, Nana. Bonne année et bonne santé! Bisous.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for sharing the good thing!Hope I will be able to find this patisier to have an experience of the eclairs on our coming trip to pasis again!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You've always been very humble. I think your eclair looks really good! I've not tried any pastries in Paris before (even though I went there years ago). I'm sure it can made one feel on cloud nine anytime! :) Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    Happy new year to you and your family!

    ReplyDelete
  10. These look delish. Eclairs are on my 2012 bucket list. I read somewhere if you use bread flour you get a crisper eclair. Then I watched an old Julia Child episode where a French Chef told Julia Child to use cake flour unless you are making something with yeast in it. Do you have an opinion about this? Also, how many mini eclairs does your recipe make? Oh, and I have started baking by weight and I really love it so thanks for this recipe in grams. My skills have improved so much since I adopted this method. Not sure why it took me so long.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh man! Those look super good! Well done on these eclairs! YUMMY.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wishing you and your family a happy and prosperous new year! I love everything with choux pastry.....mmmm :D

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh baby...one of my very favorite things in the world...your look perfect...just perfect!
    I can just close my eyes and taste one!
    Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I totally agree with you that no one take desserts so seriously than the French! :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. mmmm!! Looks really amazing! I hope you enjoyed your wonderful Paris trip!

    ReplyDelete
  16. How many eclairs does this make? They look great!

    ReplyDelete