Tuesday, November 23, 2010

classic chocolate eclairs

I love when friends want to bake. It's such a fun time, getting together with people, making messes, laughing at kitchen disasters, and taste-testing dessert. And I'm sure the fact that they get delicious food out of it has nothing to do with wanting to spend time with me. Nope, not at all.

Tonight, my boys [i.e. Raj, Hersh, Nathaniel] came over to bake eclairs. This whole bake date was actually all Hershil's idea, though he and I both compromised on the dessert of choice. Mainly because I've never made choux pastry before and thought it was about time to try, but also because Hershil had no idea what an eclair was.


Classic Chocolate Eclairs

For the choux pastry, you'll need:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs

For the pastry cream, you'll need:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp butter

For the chocolate glaze, you'll need:
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz chocolate

To make filling: in a medium size saucepan over medium flame, heat milk. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and flour. When the milk is steaming, pour about 3/4 cup of hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. [This is done to temper the egg yolks so they do not cook once added to the milk.] Once combined, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Continue whisking. Once milk mixture comes to a boil, whisk for about 2 minutes and then remove from heat. Add in butter and whisk until well blended. The filling should have thickened. Let filling cool to room temperature before pouring into a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. [Note: pastry filling can be made up to 2 days in advance if kept in the fridge in an airtight container.]

To make choux pastry: preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan over medium flame, heat water. Add the butter, sugar, and salt, and stir with a wooden spoon until butter has melted. Add flour all at once, and stir vigorously. The mixture will immediately start to thicken and pull away from the sides of the pan. Once blended, remove saucepan from heat and let cool for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add eggs, one at a time until each is fully incorporated into the pastry dough, stirring vigorously. Spoon pastry dough into a piping bag or plastic bag with a medium-sized hole cut in the corner [or a No. 10 or larger tip for the piping bag]. Pipe pastry dough in 1x4-inch strips, with about an inch space in between. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Let cool to room temperature before filling.

To fill eclairs, cut through the pastry with a knife, along the middle [but do not cut pastries in half]. Spoon filling into a piping bag or plastic bag and pipe a generous amount of filling into each eclair.

To prepare chocolate glaze: in a microwave or over a stove-top, melt chocolate and butter. Let cool for 1-2 minutes before drizzling over filled eclairs. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Eclairs will keep well in the fridge for up 2-3 days.

So, I picked the boys up around 7. We swung by Kroger and picked up some milk and eggs, then headed over to the apartment. I didn't initially realize that eclairs would be as long a process as they are [the filling in particular], so we made the filling and played some Catch Phrase while it was chilling. We won't even go into how embarrassing of a game that was [long story short, I for the life of me could not remember the word for 'termite', though Nathaniel and I ended up winning. Twice. Even when he thought that a body part with the word 'blade' was 'nose' instead of 'shoulder'], but it passed the time well as the pastry cream was setting.

Then we made the choux pastry. Oh man, what an adventure. Basically, it didn't occur to me to let the dough cool before adding the eggs, and I added them immediately after removing the scalding hot dough from the heat. [Never mind the fact that I remembered the need to temper the eggs before adding them to the pastry cream.] Needless to say, my poor little eggs scrambled.

Initially, Raj and Nathaniel suggested that we could salvage the situation. Not so. Scrambled eggs + pastry dough = tastes like pastry dough with scrambled eggs. So we ended up having to throw out the dough completely and restarting from scratch with the choux pastry. But, hey, baking is always an experiment. Plus, I taught Nathaniel how to separate egg whites from yolks while Raj skimmed through some of my cookbooks and Hershil ordered us some Chinese take-out.
what we demolished while the choux pastry was baking
But the choux turned out perfectly the second time around, and after another round of Catch Phrase and chitchat, we filled the eclairs and covered them in chocolate.

Oh man. These were good. I was pleasantly surprised; choux pastry is pretty difficult, and I'm not a huge fan of most pastry creams, so I wasn't expecting these to be as tasty as they were. The boys helped me fill and glaze them, and I recall leaving them to finish up while I washed dishes. And when I caught up with them, half the plate was already demolished.

But hey, at least they liked 'em!

I sent all but three home with them to share with their dorm, because the last thing I need is to be munching on eclairs during the dead of night before the last day of class.

Though I'm thinking that after Thanksgiving feast [which is back on, by the way (YES!), as I was told by mom earlier today], I'll give the baking a bit of a break. I mean, this hobby is getting both expensive and bad for my health. For rulz.

But that also means that I get to experiment with more cooking! Six pounds of chicken breasts frozen in the freezer, here I come!

In other news, there are 6 egg whites in a bowl in my fridge right now.

Guess I'm going to be eating one epic omelette for breakfast tomorrow morning.


  1. The pate choux turned out perfect it seems.Since you have mastered the art of pastry making,may I suggest giving it a rest and focusing more on your classes.

  2. oh mother. don't worry.
    prepare yourself for thanksgiving feast. then maybe i'll give it a rest.


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