Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge- Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs

This is my first DB Challenge. Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey and Tony of Tony Tahhan chose Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs. These were fairly simple and straight forward. After I made mine, I was concerned that they were too skinny and small, but after looking at some other's pictures, I guess they were ok. I thought the pastry cream was really yummy, but the pastry and the glaze were only so-so (was anyone else bugged to make all that chocolate sauce for just 7 T?). I thought the chocolate glaze with the chocolate pastry cream was a little too much chocolate for me (and believe me, I have a HIGH tolerance of chocolate). I'd like to try this recipe with a different filling and the chocolate glaze. Maybe just a vanilla or some kind of berry cream.

The pastry cream:

Right out of the oven:

All ready to eat!

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. 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.
2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.
3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 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 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.
1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:
• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside thebottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.
3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottomswith enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry creamand wriggle gently to settle them.
1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.
2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup whole milk
• ½ cup water
• 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil.
2) 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.
3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using yourhandmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time youhave added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted itshould fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.
2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined bakingsheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer thepiped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks

• 6 tbsp sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
2) 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.
3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stopping) 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.
4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F 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.
1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze Recipe
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup)

• 1/3 cup heavy cream
• 3½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.
2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.
2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce Recipe
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups)

• 4½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup water
• ½ cup crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.
1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TWD- Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte

I'm finally back to TWD! This week Amy of Food, Family, and Fun chose the Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte. Let me just first say I'm out of town and I'm without the following luxuries:

  • 8" springform

  • food processor

  • plates and forks from this century- just kidding, mom! (kind of)

Anyway, this was fun and easy to make. Without the smaller pan, my layers were thinner. And without a food processor, my arm did a lot of beating. And without attractive plates... well, you'll see what that resulted in. I did mine this morning so it was ready to unmold before dinner, and ready to be eaten after dinner.

I made the raspberry ice cream as described in the recipe for one of the ice cream layers, and a chocolate ice cream with chocolate covered peanuts and fudge ribbon for the other. I'll admit that I rushed putting on the second ice cream layer, hence the uneven layers (hey, we were going to eat lunch at my favorite Mexican place!!).

I used a warm towel to unmold; apparently, I took too long cutting the other pieces before taking a pic of the slice- this baby melts fast!

We ate the torte with this view:

A very yummy, easy dessert! I'd love to try it with coffee ice cream or vanilla ice cream with Heath bar chunks. Click here for the recipe. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Octopus Cake

For my daughter's 1st birthday, I made her an octopus cake. That was her nickname for the first half of her life. I saw Pink Cake Box's and thought it was perfect for my little munchkin. I tweeked it a little. This was my first time carving cake. My (a LOT more artistic) dad helped me. The cake and octopus are covered in fondant. All the decorations are fondant and gumpaste. I had a difficult time getting the gumpaste to the right consistency. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make it firm enough to work with, but moist enough so it doesn't crack?

Before the bow was attached. The base was white cake with raspberry buttercream and the octopus is white cake with pistachio buttercream:

The finished cake:

(I also made these again- how does she get them to look so good?)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008


My in-laws (all 20 of them) came in town this weekend for a week. I decided to make treats for them for when they got here today. I made sugar cookies from Confetti Cakes. I noticed something was a little off when the book said over four cups of flour for 2/3 c sugar and not much butter, but I thought hey, that's what the book says. When all I got was a crumbly mess, I ran upstairs to look online. That's when I saw that there is a misprint in the book- there should only be 2 2/3c flour. Not cool. Good thing the yummy buttercream was so yummy I was willing to forgive. Well, I did some whole milk and sugar fixes and they came out ok- a little dry, but still buttery. Not my favorite type of sugar cookie; I prefer the thick, soft chewy kind, but these held up better with the royal icing and flooding.
I also made these cupcake bites. Bakerella makes it look much easier than it is. What I thought was the right kind of cookie cutter wasn't, so I ended up molding them into cupcake shapes by hand
(Beansy thought they were mushrooms). It was all quite time consuming so needless to say, I'm going to find the correct cookie cutter for next time. I can't give up on these, they're just too cute!

Dora cake

I made a Dora cake for sweet Natalie's 3rd birthday. It was my first time using gumpaste for figures and I'm hooked. It dries so perfectly unlike fondant (which I'm sure you other experienced cakers knew, but I didn't). It was a lot easier to work with, even though it start drying out fairly quickly. I loved making this cake, especially since Beansy loves Dora, too, and was up every morning to grab her stool and look on the counter to see what I made the night before. I was disappointed the bottom tier fondant was bubbly; I think the powdered sugar must've been lumpy. And Dora's features should've been bigger, but it was my first time painting gumpaste. The rest of the decorations and the cake covering are fondant. The bottom tier was chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and the top was white cake with raspberry buttercream (I love, LOVE this buttercream!!):