Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Second Challenge...Eclairs!

It's always so awesome to see how everyone turns the same suggested recipe into so many different, beautiful finished products. I finally got around to making my eclairs in one evening...from start to finish! It was tiring...although I think that might be more from all the dishes I had to wash afterward. I was surprised at how easy the choux was...really, all the components...but I felt that they just didn't come out as nice as I had hoped sad


I made half chocolate and half banana (split the mixture in half after before adding the chocolate...added chocolate to one half and vanilla extract and 1 mashed banana to the other). I think my pastry cream would have been better off if I had strained it one more time - it seemed a bit lumpy. I agree with a lot of other Baker's on the glaze being a little tedious for what it wound up being...but it was very shiny and it does taste good. My chocolate cream was a great consistency and I probably could've piped it and made them a little prettier, but my banana cream was very runny, so I spooned my cream in and sort of spatula'd the glaze on the tops (I assume this is from the chocolate setting up as the cream cooled). I also made some banana chips, which, after following a quick set of instructions I found online, they still came out a little too brown and tasted a little too much like the lemon juice I dipped them in to prevent them from becoming too brown :)

My husband and I tried them together and we both had the same opinion - DELICIOUS! The chocolate was right up my alley - nice and cocoa-y, not too sweet. The banana tasted so fresh. I also brought a bunch into work, as did he, and they were all gone within one day - even though both of our offices were short-staffed. I think the flavor of the chocolate cream was a little too much for some people, but in my mind, there is no such thing. Considering the co-workers didn't get to try them until day 2, I think the shells held up really well. I wound up with 24 eclairs, because I piped them smaller than I realized, but I think people honestly appreciated them over a huge eclair. I think I would make them again, experimenting more with the flavors - I remember my mother making cream puffs often when I was younger and filling them with fresh whipped cream, which I prefer to pastry cream. As for the chocolate glaze, I would definitely go with a simpler recipe in the future. I won't say it isn't nice having extra chocolate sauce left over for ice cream, though :)

Oh eclairs!

I love eclairs. I love all the combinations one could come up with. And I love Pierre Hermes. 

Of course no picture..I still can't figure it out.  I followed the recipe but instead of chocolate pastry cream, I made a vanilla pastry cream and added trablit, coffee extract and YUM!!!! That was just the first time though. I also made raspberry, white peach, and pumpkin. The raspberry and pumpkin I glazed with chocolate ganache and the white peach I glazed with poured fondant.

I really love eclairs and will most definitely use this recipe again!!

Thanks Meeta and Tony!!! And all you other lovely bakers!!

Best Eclairs Ever!

I'm no stranger to choux pastry, but I admit that I was a little shocked when I first saw the challenge recipes. C'mon.. homemade chocolate sauce to make the chocolate glaze?! It seemed so unnecessarily complicated. Since I didn't have any free weekends this month, I made the eclairs over the course of a few evenings.

Day One: I adapted the chocolate pastry cream recipe to make vanilla cream and coffee cream. Note to self: Next time, add instant coffee directly to cream instead of first dissolving in a few Tbs of water. That extra bit of liquid made my coffee cream a little too runny to put in the eclairs.

Day Two: I tried to pipe the dough into a cute shape. It sort of worked...

Day Three: Chop chocolate (a labor of love),
prepare chocolate glaze, and assemble eclairs! Even though this recipe was time-consuming, it was totally worth it. To watch the chocolate sauce bring the somewhat unsightly looking chocolate mush come together into an absolutely decadent chocolate glaze was little short of magic. ;)

Plus, they look so cute when they're done! I ended up with a few dozen because I made them half the size of normal eclairs (I couldn't help myself. I heart mini-desserts.) I gave most of them away to friends and neighbors, and got rave reviews all around. Great recipe. I would definitely make them again.

Climbing the Mountain, Or Why I Don’t Bungee Jump

It’s part of the human experience to try and push oneself to new heights. Most of the time. Often, we find ourselves settling into routine because it’s comfortable, familiar, easier than taking chances or moving beyond the realm of the known. I’m sure even astronauts sometimes say, “Oh, look, the Earth from space. Again. Sigh.”

There are others who continually strive for new experience, to challenge themselves. Some of those people are admirable. Others, slightly insane. I’m looking at you, wilderness survival guy on the Discovery Channel.


While I long for adventure, I’m also constrained by my own sense of practicality as well as knowledge of mortality. So, while it sounds intriguing, you won’t find me base jumping, storm chasing, street luging, or going to Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. I spend my days writing about death-defying adventure, so, for myself, I adhere to a slightly more feasible, less life-threatening list of culinary challenges. The prospect of making cupcakes no longer thrills me (though I definitely enjoy the end result). On this list of challenges are such daunting Mt. Everests such as puff pastry, dacquoise, croissants and pâte à choux.

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier

Am I fan of the éclair, the cream puff, the profiterole? Not especially. But I needed to make pâte à choux because, in the words of George Mallory, it’s there. I was also pleased, when learning of this month’s DB Challenge, that there were multiple components to the éclair recipe. Therein lies the more esteemed aspect of the pastry chef’s art. Anyone can bake a cake and make a simple powdered-sugar buttercream, but pâte à choux, pastry cream and chocolate glaze all held the possibility of failure, and thus, challenge.

Mt. Blanc
Mt. Blanc

What did I learn from this experience? The mountain is much smaller than it had looked at the base. Granted, it wasn’t a completely smooth climb, fraught with occasional stumbles and slides, but, when I reached the summit, I could bask in the glow of my accomplishment—éclairs with butterscotch pastry cream and chocolate glaze. I even delivered éclairs to my friends, which, for me, is a sure sign of success. The two different cakes I made for last month’s challenge were not distributed to the public because I was mortified by the utter failure of the glaze, rendering gateaux that were delicious but aesthetically displeasing. In fact, the hazelnut gateau went straight into the garbage in a fit of pique.


But not so with the éclairs. I stood on the mountaintop and hoisted my flag, announcing that I’d made it.

So, how do I get down from here?

I remain,
Yours, &c.



This month's challenge was an ode to the Sugar Daddy in the form of an éclair. Now, I'll be honest…..I've never liked the éclair, nor the cream puff. Sacrilege you say? Well I concur with that. I've tried them over and over again wanting to "love" them. I was unsuccessful until I moved to Korea. In my neighborhood there is this fantastic little bakery called Paris Croissant and they make THE best éclair and cream puff. So when first looking at the challenge I was a little bummed because I knew that it would not be what my mouth wanted it to be. While the recipe looked complicated, I realized while making it, that it was one of the easiest recipes I've made. I made the pastry cream first so it would have time to cool before I made the éclair. I did alter the recipe a smidge by not adding chocolate and adding cinnamon to the cornstarch mixture. After all, cinnamon makes everything taste good. (well that's what my palate tells me…) I then moved on the pate choux. I was nervous as the method was pretty specific and seemed to need to move quickly. I however, was totally amazing and did it pretty seamlessly. When I put the piped éclairs into the oven I did nothing but watch the timer. I usually rough guesstimate the timer, but I did not want to mess these up. When the final timer dinged I pulled out the most perfect pastries you have ever seen. And then to my horror they went flat. I knew that this happened with some of the other bakers, so I wasn't totally surprised, but still…..their beauty had diminished. And I totally used a timer. So I really needed a chance to step away from them and refocus. I figured I would come back to them later in the day. Well fate then dealt me a nasty hand….I ended up slicing my finger open. Of course it was my right hand and my middle finger. Who knew I was dependent on it so much? Anyway, I ended up having to wait a couple of days to assemble as I tried to heal enough to be able to hold things in my right hand. Unfortunately the wait made my pastry cream loosen up. So when I assembled I had flat éclairs with cream that could hold no shape. They look pretty sad….but they taste FANTASTIC! Now I don't have to walk down to the bakery to get one. I can make them myself and to be honest….they were fairly easy. Once I figure out the flat issue I'll be able to make them whenever I want them. I love that Daring Baker's makes me feel like I can make anything. I'm learning it doesn't have to be perfect to be good.


My First Daring Baker Challenge - Éclairs!

Hello readers of the Daring Bakers non-bloggers blog! My name is Emily and this is my first time.

I was very excited when I found out the first challenge was making Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé. I've never heard of the man, but éclairs are absolutely one of my favourite things and I haven't made them in years. These éclairs as per the recipe use a chocolate pastry cream as the filling with the traditional choclate glaze. My favourite local boulangerie (well, probably my only local boulangerie) sells amazing eclairs with chocolate or vanilla pastry cream. I never even thought to ask what was in them before, but now I know and I can make it myself!

I had some problems with this recipe which was frustrating. I managed to make choux pastry at age 13, but not now? I thought I had improved at this baking lark! My first batch of eclairs had not hollow, managed to deflate even despite that and were far too eggy. I think this was due to a number of things, particularly that I did the mixing of the dough by hand and did not cook them long enough.

As I have no standing mixer (I almost never meet people who do in
England) I decided on my next try to use a food proccessor forthis mixing. Thanks to whoever suggested that on the sooper-secret DB forums!

So, I had made the pastry cream the night before (absolutely delicious!). Sadly, due to forgetting to charge the camera battery I only have pictures of the end. The next morning I was up bright and early; I wanted to have them done before people arrived at midday. The food processor worked a dream for mixing the pastry up, it looked incredible. I had managed to forgot to bring my pastry bag to my boyfriend'shouse, but ended up finding it much easier to use a sandwich bag with a corner cut off.

I put a tray full of water atthe botton of the oven to help with rising and set to making the glaze. I had a problem here as the glaze consistently separated. I managed to get it reasonably together though before the eclairs were done.

cooked eclair

I think that in the end these were slightly underdone as well, but I was being over cautious. Wha felt like a triumph then was that they were definately hollow! Most deflated a bit, but I did not mind so much as I was able to fill them (using a spoon)!

filled eclair

And cover them in glaze!

glazed eclairs

They were not the prettiest eclairs in the world but they were certainly delicious! I used 70% cocoa dark chocolate and it was amazing. They were eated up very quickly and everyone loved them, even if the pastry was slightly soggier than it should have been.

Thank you and good night!

- Emily

Experiments with Chocolate Éclairs

I love chocolate éclairs!!! I remember when I was a teenager and could go to our local bakery and eat 2 or 3 at a time (with no ill effects). I even made chocolate éclairs when I was a daring 9th grade baker! I thought these would be a delicious piece of cake so to speak.

The éclairs themselves turned out very small, soft & eggy even though I baked them for more time than the recipe called for. The chocolate filling was wonderful but more like a pudding filling. My chocolate glaze seemed pretty drippy – although delicious. When I put all the parts together, they formed a very soft, gooey, chocolatey confection. I was disappointed; these were not what I was craving.


Taking my cue from other daring bakers who do not let one disappointing batch deter them, I attempted to make new & improved éclairs. A recipe from my good old Betty Crocker cookbook was a winner. They puffed magnificently; they browned and crisped to perfection. Unfortunately, they also cooked too long when “someone” forgot to take them out of the oven on time! They were hard as rocks. My only consolation was that my sister and I spooned the last of the chocolate pastry cream into little bowls, topped it with whipped cream and enjoyed a tasty little treat.

Lucky for me, my childhood bakery is still in business and serving the chocolate éclairs that I know and love!

- Robin

The Mysterious Chocolate Sauce Disappearance!

I just completed my first challenge. And a challenge it was.

I had never made eclairs before. I had to try three batches of dough till they came out as they should. But thanks to tips posted along and by other members I was able to determine my mistakes and finally get some nice results.

First I forgot to slice them while in oven and they went flat as sheets.
In my second attempt I surely was too fast in goving in the eggs and finally opened the oven too early and they went flat again. So I had to make a third batch of dough.

For the first batch I had decided to use both the chocolate pastry cream filling as also the chocolate glaze and had made pastry cream and chocolate sauce ahead beforehand.

2008.08.25. db eclairs 09 left banana right pudding

But I never used the sauce for the glaze because the first eclairs were all flat and we ate them only with the cream or nutella on top while I started the second batch. They came out flat like the first batch and my boyfriend found a liking in the chocolate cream filling so that there was no trace of it as I came to fill the third batch of eclairs.

So I had to change plans. First I wanted to fill them all with whipped cream. But one moments unawareness and now we have a nice amount of sweetened butter to eat. *sigh*

With nearly all my cream gone to butter I had to improvize once more. I decided on making two different cream fillings. I cooked some thick vanilla pudding and whisked some cream fraiche into it.

2008.08.25. db eclairs 12 with banana filling

Then I made some youghurt-banana-cream because bananas go so well with chocolate. I filled half the batch with vanilla cream and the other half with banana yoghurt cream.

Finally I cooked the glaze with the rest of the choclate sauce which was miraculously also nearly half gone (and some innocently looking childen couldn't remember anything). I must say this glaze is the best I have ever made. But I don't know if I will ever make that chocolate sauce again. It took nearly 40 min. to thicken but as it did it was delicous.

The eclairs were gone before I could finish my photo session at all. All of them prefered the chocolate cream filling which went with the first two batches. Threre surely can't be enough chocolate for these kids. There was a debate about which of the other fillings was better but one of the children doesn't like vanilla, one other doesn't like bananas at all so I think there is no winner between the two.

2008.08.25. db eclairs 10 with pudding filling

I definitely will make chocolate eclairs in the future, maybe when I don't remember clearly how many bowls and sauce pans there had been to wash.

- Bana

White chocolate pastry cream, dark chocolate glazed éclairs with crushed raspberry foil

Hi Guys

Well I wanted to join DB for the experience and the challenge of baking new things…and actually being told what I HAVE to bake, so there are no excuses or opportunities for me to wimp out.

I have to say, these éclairs definitely were challenging…not counting my insistence on using my oven, which has no temperature markers, and a fan force that doesn’t actually work properly, to bake them in.

batch number one

I had two attempts. Trial 1 failed completely. My éclairs puffed up lovely and golden in the oven, and then fell flat as a pancake. I hurriedly tried to resurrect them by shoving them back in the oven before anyone noticed. They looked like they were coming good, until I took them out again and the same thing happened.

very flat

Obviously they hadn’t cooked properly, and I had an idea they could be too thickly piped to cook enough in my oven with its temperamental temperature. I had piped a profiter roll type shaped éclair, as I had a little bit of dough left, and that was the only éclair in the first batch that cooked properly.

By this stage I had made up the pastry cream, and had no more eggs for a second attempt there and then. So I trialled the small éclair and my mum thought it was nice with the pastry cream, although there was no glaze at that stage.

batch number one (2)

I made up the pastry cream, but flavoured with white instead of dark chocolate, as I planned to use berries in the mix as well. Because I had white chocolate left over, and only exactly enough bitter dark chocolate to make the glaze, I ended up having to use white chocolate to make the chocolate sauce that went into the dark chocolate glaze…? Anyway, it worked out well, and the glaze was bitter dark, but not to bitter to be enjoyed in a chocolatey way. :)

So my when I could get another 5 eggs to room temperature, I tried the pastry again. I never had trouble mixing it up with the hand mixer, although I didn’t get the ‘shiny, ribbon’ texture quoted in the recipe. The second time I piped the éclairs thinner, and made closer to the amount of éclairs the recipe said I’d get, so I think my first ones must have definitely been too thick.

batch number one (1)

This time I had the oven realllly hot the first time. Popped the éclairs in and watched and waited. 7 minutes went by, and I decided they didn’t look cooked enough on the top shelf, so I left them a few more before popping in the wooden spoon. I kept a close eye on them, and in the end, probably cooked them for a total of 30 or so minutes, even trying to raise the oven temperature again. There were still some floppers resulting from this batch, but not so many that it wasn’t a successful bake. Probably 4 out of the 24 flopped beyond use.

shiny glaze

I had also still made little profitter roll ones, as they were cuter and bite size, good for me . Filling and glazing was easy, but I added in some defrosted, slightly crushed raspberries on top of the pastry cream before putting on the glazed tops. I was impressed with how nice they looked, especially the glossy glaze, and the studded red of the raspberries, which perfectly went with the white and dark chocolate in the cream and glaze.

teeny eclairs

I will not be making these again for a long…long while, not because they weren’t delicious, it’s just that I’ve never thrown out a whole batch of anything before, even if a cake doesn’t bake I can usually spoon it through ice cream. Binning the whole lot was really horrific, the more I think about it. My reluctance to make them again also wasn’t helped by much sampling of the pastry cream, glaze and sauce along the way, spoiling my desire to try a finished éclair, although, thankfully none of these mixes were a problem to get together.

This was a great first experience with trying something new and learning to show some perseverance. I will look forward to more challenges from now on.

- Monique

Pâte à choux - Finally :)

Éclairs certainly did meet my high expectations leading up to my first daring bakers challenge. I probably never would have attempted the recipe on my own, which is exactly the impetus I was hoping for when joining on. Generally éclairs do not take top billing on the list of desserts I would choose to eat. After completing the challenge, however, I can revise that to include only store-bought éclairs, because the home-made version was surprisingly fresh and ever so much tastier. For some time now, I’ve wanted to attempt pâte à choux to make a cream puff creation of some sort, but just never quite got around to it until now.

Olivia (5)

The challenge exposed major deficits in my kitchen equipment, though: I had to keep washing and coordinating the reuse the same heavy pot because I only have one suitable to the various tasks required of it. (Hopefully my fiancé will now understand why I’ve registered for several new pots and pans.) The challenge also revealed a bit of my baking personality: an appreciation/reliance on well-organized and aptly descriptive recipes.

Olivia (1) Olivia (2)

The recipe took several readings before and flipping back-and-forth during to appropriately cobble together all necessary components. A few things I just winged, which turned out to affect the end result. For instance, I was unsure of the exact dimension of piping the choux. Yes, 4 inches long but how thick? “Chubby fingers” was a relative term that left me guessing and so I varied the thickness, which altered the cooking time, which I probably underdid. While beautifully golden, puffed, and hard upon removal from the oven, my buns deflated with cooling. I suspect I undercooked them or perhaps had moisture issues during the cooling process.


The original Hermé recipe, with two elements of dark chocolate, was a bit decadent for my palate so I chose to alter the ingredients of the pastry cream. But I did not venture too far. Hoping for something more traditional in appearance, I substituted white chocolate for the semisweet. The result was excellent! I used Green and Blacks organic white chocolate, which lended a delicate vanilla flavor and a multitude of vanilla bean flecks to the pastry cream.

Olivia (3)

I would have liked a more professional appearance by piping/injecting the pastry cream directly inside the pastry shell in lieu of splitting into messy, uncontained sandwiched layers, but I was unsure of when it would be acceptable to pipe. Does the pastry shell have to cool or do you do it while it’s still hot? If you do it while it’s hot what does this do to the texture of the pastry cream? Being pressed for time I did not experiment or consult pertinent resources. Also, I had a bit of trouble controlling the application of the chocolate glaze. Should I have left the chocolate glaze to cool a bit to let it firm up? I applied it after removing directly from heat. The result was a bit runny for my preference, but thickened nicely once refrigerated. I know this because I am enjoying daily spoonfuls from the bountiful leftovers. While I was not completely satisfied with the presentation of the final product, the pastries certainly were delicious and a huge hit at my housewarming brunch.

Olivia (4)

- Olivia

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Dad's 56th Birthday Cake!

Well as my first daring bakers challenge I was really excited to make this recipe, it was certainly not anything I would ever decide to make on my own but sounded like an ideal celebration cake for my dad's 56th birthday which was at the start of August. I ran into many many challenges along the way but somehow ended up relatively happy with the results.


The hazelnuts would not skin, after trying to "toast and rub" which took most of a night for the genoise, I opted for the "boil and wash" method for the prailine which worked much better but did leave the nuts soggier, which was fine for the praline but good to note for the future. I also used a double foil pan for baking for stability which lead to a underbaked middle which, upon cutting into (2, not 3) layers, had to rebake and therefore slightly dry out the cake itself. The praline buttercream was increidble and definitely made the cake...the 3 sticks of butter also broke my hand beater, and therefore everything post-beating the butter was done by hand; it was fun to get down on the floor and really work the ingredients by hand, especially the whipped cream.


Overall the cake was a big hit, it looked beautiful and tasted good if not a little dry. I would love the chance to make this again and can't wait for the next challenge!