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Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Eclairs

Éclairs…where do I even begin? They are so delicate, so rich, so luxurious. However, if you decide to make a french pastry, you need to go all out. I mean the finest chocolate, exact measurements, following the recipe to a T.

I obviously decided to go big, and tested out Pierre Hermé’s recipe for Chocolate Éclairs. Considering he is the youngest person ever to be named France’s Pastry Chef of the Year, this is an authentic, intricate recipe with several delicious components 😀

I began with the chocolate sauce, which is used in the chocolate glaze. (The recipe actually makes a lot more than you will need the glaze, so you will have some left over to dip fruit, make chocolate milk….the possibilities are endless). The recipe called for:

  • 4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar

I placed all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and brought the mixture to a boil.  Stirring constantly, I then reduced the heat to low and continued stirring with a spoon until the sauce thickened (about 10 minutes). You’ll know that the sauce is done when the sauce sticks to the back of you spoon.

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I made this sauce in the morning before yoga, and then began the chocolate cream filling in the afternoon. Yes, this was basically a whole day affair. But if you ask me, it was a great way to spend a Sunday!

The chocolate cream filling called for:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 6 T Sugar
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 7 oz. Bittersweet chocolate (melted)
  • 2.5 T unsatled butter

In a small sauce pan, I brought the milk to a boil. While I was waiting for the milk to heat, I combined the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a  heavy-bottomed sauce pan. When the milk was boiling, I slowly tempered it into the egg mixture by whisking in a couple spoonfuls of milk.I continued to whisk the eggs and slowly poured the rest of the milk into the tempered yolks.

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I then made sure that none of the eggs had scrambled (and made sure to remove any that had), and poured the mixture back into the sauce pan while whisking vigorously (yes this gave me a GREAT arm work out) until the mixture returned to a boil. I continued whisking for a couple minutes, and then stirred in the melted chocolate.

Next I spooned the pastry cream in to a small bowl and set it in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. My ice bath was a little ghetto, but I think it did the trick. I made sure to stir the cream as it cooled to ensure that it kept its smooth texture.

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Once the cream had cooled a bit, I mixed in the butter in four installments. I then returned the cream to the ice bath and let it cool completely (and stirred it occasionally) before I put it in the fridge.

At that point, I decided it was time for a breather, and went on a walk through central park with my roommate. It was nice to take a little breather and enjoy the sunshine!

Once I got back, I tackled the dough (choux pastry, aka pate a choux). The dough called for the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 water
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (cut into 8 pieces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs

I brought the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. I then added the cup of flour and reduced the heat down to medium, while stirring vigorously. I continued to stir for about 2-3 minutes, so that the dough could dry a bit, until it was soft and smooth. Don’t worry if a slight crust forms on the bottom of the pan at this point in the process – it’s supposed to happen. I then transferred the dough into a medium sized mixing bowl, and let the mixture cool for about ten minutes. It’s important you let it cool before adding the eggs so that the dough will properly rise. I then mixed each egg in one at a time. Don’t worry if your dough separates when you add the first couple eggs, it will come back together as you continue to mix it.

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Once the dough was mixed together (and still a bit warm), I put it in a bag and piped it in 3 inch long strips on my lined baking sheets. I cut the edge of my bag about 3/4 of a inch, and piped about 30 eclairs. I froze one of the sheets (the frozen dough lasts for about a month), and baked the other two pans at 375 degrees. It was a strange baking process…but I followed the directions. I let the pastry cook for 7 minutes, then propped open the oven door with…a wooden muddler. I was supposed to use the handle of wooden spoon…but believe it or not I don’t have a wooden spoon! The muddled worked just fine though. After the pastry had cooked for a total of 12 minutes, I rotated the sheets top to bottom and front to back. I then continued baking for 10 more minutes (until the pastry is puffed, golden, and firm).

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I then transferred the pastries from the cookie sheet to a cooling rack. As the pastry cooled, I made the chocolate glaze for the top. I used:

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 7 T Chocolate Sauce (made above)

I brought the cream and chocolate sauce to a boil, then removed the pan from the heat and slowly added the butter and chocolate. I let this cool a bit as I prepped the pastry for assembly.

Once they were cooled, I cut them in half, and laid the tops right side up so that I could easily glaze them. I used a metal icing spatula and spread the lukewarm glaze over the tops. I then piped the chocolate cream filling onto the bottom half of each pastry. I made sure the glaze had set before I placed the tops onto the cream covered bottom half of each pastry.

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I was really pleased with the way these éclairs turned out! They were the perfect level of sweetness, kept their form, and were decadently rich 🙂 I made them a teensy bit smaller than the original recipe called for, but I actually liked them being small! It made them easier to eat, and i didn’t feel as guilty for having two…or three…haha they were just so tasty!!! Some of my friends helped me taste test, and they agreed 😀

The only thing I would try to improve on next time would be the presentation; I think I got pretty sloppy with my glaze! Next time I may try to dunk the tops in the glaze, or just lightly drizzle it the glaze over the tops.

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