31 August 2008
I was good this month and actually made my challenge early instead of waiting until the last minute like I usually do. This month the challenge was eclairs, hosted by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey? and Tony. When I saw what the challenge was I felt sort of ambivalent. I had a vague feeling that I didn't actually like eclairs but could not remember if I'd even ever had one so, like any Daring Baker, I decided to give it the old college try.
A few things did intrigue me about the recipe before I got started. One was that the eclairs are made using a pate a choux, a type of French style dough that involves dumping flour into boiling mixture of milk, water and butter and 2) that the eclairs were to be both filled and topped with chocolate. I love chocolate, but would topping and filling be too much of a good thing?
I started with the pate a choux, which proved remarkably easy to make. Simply boil, dump and stir, and stir and stir and then make Zach take a turn stirring when my arm gets tired and then stir again. Once the eggs had been incorporated into dough, I spooned it into a ziploc bag (still no piping set in my kitchen) and piped out the eclairs, then baked them. I had read that eclairs tend to go soggy, so in an attempt to circumvent sogginess, I immediately made a small hole in the side of each eclair when they were done baking to let out the steam and set them back into the warm oven to cool. This didn't help at all as when the eclairs cooled, the air inside condensed, sucking the eclair with it, forming flat little logs that were rather tricky to cut apart.
With step one done, I proceeded to the filling and topping. The filling was a chocolate pastry cream, and while I had never made a pastry cream before, the recipe was clear and it proceeded with no problems. The cream used cornstarch as a thickener and it did indeed do the job, producing a very firm cream somewhere in the consistency range of a jello pudding.
The chocolate glaze was a bit more complicated. It called for first making a chocolate sauce, which would then be used in the finished glazed. It seemed rather fussy to me, but I had the time so I made it and then had a little taste. Good, but not outstanding and not worth the time to make it again. But then on to the glaze. Made like a traditional ganache by melting chocolate into heavy cream, it called for the chocolate sauce and additional butter to be stirred in. Again good, but I just don't think the additional steps of adding the butter and chocolate sauce did anything for the finished product. Well, I take that back. It did seem to make the glaze a bit softer and shinier than a traditional ganache but not by very much.
I assembled the eclairs right before serving, as directed in the recipe and we all had a taste. They were chocolaty. Very chocolaty. Almost too chocolaty. And this is from someone who loves chocolate. One eclair was more than enough, but that was actually a good thing. One small portion of dessert that is very rich and satisfying is much healthier than eating a bigger quantity of lower quality sweets. I did have some extras that I refrigerated overnight and everyone agreed that we liked the taste better chilled, rather than at room temperature.
Bottom line- I did not love these eclairs. I think that I might have liked them better if the eclair shells were slightly crispy (how they are supposed to be) than the soft flat pancakes mine because and if I had used a different flavor pastry cream for the filling. I am really happy that I got to try making pate a choux for the first time and might be trying desserts with it in the future.
If you would like the recipe you can visit Meeta or Tony at the links above.