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Recipes & Stories

Inspirited by the wonderful movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s and by the spirit of blue Christmas, I prepared a sweet breakfast with Cortado coffee in champagne flute and with chocolate éclairs (using Pierre Hermé recipe) and chocolate cake with forest fruits and mascarpone blue cream. What a joy!

The recipe for my gourmet blue-chocolate cake you can read it in my previous post about the Christmas dinner that we had. This layer cake is velvety from the chocolate mousse and sourish from the forest fruits. Is the perfect marriage with a cup of coffee in the morning or with a glass of champagne in Christmas Eve or NYE.

The chocolate éclairs of Pierre Hermé were a true challenge for me. Mainly, because I was running out of time when I started to prepare them (in the morning of our Christmas dinner), so I was not sure if I will have enough time to finish them before the guests will arrive. Secondly, because the recipe was pretty straight and on internet I was not able to find much of critics about the famous recipe. Though, on the food blog of Vera from Baking Obsession it was clearly written that the recipe of Pierre Hermé has some fuzziness.

To be more clear, the fuzziness is some paradox (?!) and is related to the number of eggs needed for making the pâte à choux for the éclairs. Even if the recipe is the original one from Pierre Hermé – Chocolate Desserts cookbook (with measurements converted to European and US system), actually the making of the pâte à choux needs only 4 eggs. I don’t know how other cooks who tried this recipe managed the pâte à choux with 5 eggs, but personally, the 5th egg is not needed, and it would be really good if you’ll not use it. Otherwise your pâte à choux will be more liquid then it should be. And the result will be : flat and shapeless éclairs.

I just wanted to make an highlight on this issue for those who want to try the recipe and don’t want to be disappointment after. Maybe for the big chefs such as Pierre Hermé the recipe makes very much sense with 5 eggs, but for the ordinary self-taught want-to-be-cooks (as me) is not really working. All this being said, let’s see the original recipe.

How to make the pate a choux (Pierre Herme recipe) :

 

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 200°C. Place a pan with hot tap water onto the bottom of your oven.

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 (don’t be afraid), 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 (it must be still warm).

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 a few 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 (this is actually very important) 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 150°C after the éclaris started to be puffy. 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.

How to make the chocolate-coffee pastry cream :

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. Reheat the milk once again to the boiling point. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and flour 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). until the milk mixture will become thick and smooth. 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 been cooled (not completely) 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. Fill the éclairs with this delicious chocolate pastry cream. The pastry cream can be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

How to make the chocolate glaze :

 

Place the chocolate and sugar 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 on medium heat to finish melting, stirring once , then add the water and keep on stirring until the glaze becomes thick and smooth.  When has the thickness that you need, you can remove it from the stove and add the butter. Stir once and your glaze is ready to be used.  Use it right at way, to be shiny. If is to liquid, cool it for few minutes, but remember that it will be then more difficult to spread it on the eclairs. I used a small brush for spreading the glaze and the eclairs were really shiny and beautiful. I used also small snowflake sprinkles to celebrate adequately the winter.

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