Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chocolate Covered Coffee Petite Éclairs - Project Food Blog #2

My French Fantasy - Chocolate Covered Coffee Petite Éclairs
As I spent over 6 hours in the kitchen preparing and cleaning up after my French fantasy, Éclair making, I came to a realization. The French do it better...... Period. How is it that something so small and seemingly innocuous could be such a labor intensive, sweat inducing, curse worthy sweet to make? Why?...... Because it is French.

Do you know what éclair means? It means, flash of lightening. They sure lived up to their name when I served them last evening at a party. As soon as they were on the table.... they were gone, in a flash!
Even though this round of the competition supposedly is "bypassing the French and Italian Standards", there is nothing standard about these. Bypass the French...Sacré bleu! I have never ventured into French pastry making, so for me... this is totally new ground. I have made sesame ladoos from India, chicken mole from Mexico and homemade mochi from Japan, but I have always held French Pastry Making at an arms length. It just always seemed too difficult..until now.

I decided to embrace French Pastry making, specifically petite éclairs. Why? Because the French do it better, that's why. Their precision, attention to detail, design and beauty is second to none. I shy away from lengthy recipes that seem "complicated and confusing". I tend to lose my focus quite easily, so taking on a 3 step French pastry recipe demanded all of my attention. I like to be tested, to see if I can accomplish what I previously thought was impossible. And tested I was as I set out to create these delicious, bite sized, French pasty treats. My little femme fatales.... irresistible to all!

For the first part of the recipe, I made Choux Paste or as the French call it...pate a choux. This really turned out to be a divine little pastry dough that I am looking forward to using again. The recipe is quite simple... but if never done before... make sure you read the directions a few times before making the dough. I learned that is feels so much better to be able to anticipate the next step in a recipe, rather than scrambling in the moment and potentially botching your recipe.                            

Choux Paste - Sheila Linderman - The New French Baker

Ingredients
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 and 3/4 stick of unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
2 cups minus 2 TBS all purpose flour, sifted or strained after weighing.....get your sifter out..don't be lazy
12 large eggs (I only ended up using 10)

1) Place milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat, yet leave pot on stove.
2)Pour all of the flour into the liquid and mix with wooden spoon. Tun heat back on to medium and, stirring constantly until the dough is smooth, and pulls away from the side of the pot.
3)Pour dough into large mixing bowl fitted with the paddle. Mix on low speed, adding 1 egg at a time. Be sure to scrape the bowl in-between additions.
4) Before adding the last 2 eggs, check the consistency of the dough. It should give a bit and pull away just a bit from the paddle when you turn it off. If mixture is still stiff, add another egg.
5) If not using right away, place dough into container and cover dough surface with plastic wrap so a crust does not form.

Baking the éclairs - Simple, straightforward.... or so I thought (see photos below)

1) Oven at 400. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place a bit of the dough paste under the corners of parchment to keep it in place.
2) Get our your pastry bag and a 3/8 inch tip. Fill pastry bag with dough. Pipe 3" inches long, 1 inch apart.
3)Take wet pastry brush and brush the tops of the dough before going into the oven.
4)Into the oven for 13 minutes...at 13 minutes, prop oven open with a wooden spoon (to let steam escape) and continue to cook with door propped oven for another 9 minutes. This timing may vary. This is what worked for me. You prop the door open when the eclairs have fully expanded or "puffed" up.
5)They should be ready to come out of the oven at this time. Cool on racks.
Attempt #1 = eclairs gone wrong....(did not follow directions) Do as I say.... not as I do!
Attempt #2 = eclairs gone right...(did follow directions)

Chocolate Coffee Pastry Cream

Ingredients

4 cups whole milk
1 cup plus 2 TBS organic sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 large egg yolks
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1 TBS espresso powder
1 TBS hot water
6 oz, semi-sweet chocolate (chopped into small pieces)

1)Bring the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
2)In separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is a nice pale yellow. Sift the corn starch and flour over the eggs, whisking in until there are no lumps.
3)When milk begins to boil, pour 2 cups of liquid into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Change the heat to low. Add egg mixture back into the milk mixture, again whisking like mad until the mixture begins to simmer.
4)Pour custard into a large bowl, pull out vanilla bean, add vanilla extract and butter. Whisk again.
5)Add 1 TBS hot water to 1 TBS espresso powder, dissolve and whisk into cream. Whisk chocolate into cream and stir until chocolate is melted. Cool to room temp, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Filling the Pastry Shells- The fun part! - I really felt French when I whipped out the pastry bag!

1)Take a sharp piping tip, or use the one you used for piping the pate a choux, and poke 2 little holes in the side of the pastry shells or on the bottom. Leave about 1 inch between the holes.
2)Fill pastry bag with your pastry cream and insert the tip into the holes. Fill with cream until you feel the little Éclair shell start to give a bit. If you over-fill the éclairs, you risk the chance of breaking through the pastry shell, and then being forced to eat one of your éclairs early... darn.

bittersweet chocolate waiting to be melted into submission
The last step in this wonderful process was glazing the petite eclairs. I used a delicious chocolate glaze that was a bit tedious because you had to clarify your butter first. Luckily, I have made clarified butter several times, so it was not too much of a setback. It was all worth it as the chocolate set beautifully with a wonderful smooth shine. By the time I was to this point in the recipe, there was no going back, only the sense of accomplishment waiting around the corner.... a lovely eclair, waiting to be eaten!

Chocolate Glaze - Sheila Linderman - The New French Baker

Ingredients
1.5 sticks unsalted butter
10 oz. high quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 TBS light corn syrup

1)Clarify butter, keep warm. -
2)Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set in simmering water. Stir chocolate until just about melted. Take off heat and continue stirring.  Do not let chocolate get too hot.... it should just be barely warm to the touch.
3)Pour in butter and corn syrup, whisk until smooth. Place in container and get ready to dip those eclairs! 

The delight of this wonderful dessert was the pleasure I had in eating one after so much time and trial and error in the kitchen. Zut alors I proclaimed as I sunk my teeth through the delicate pastry shell into the creamy middle! Do you recall the photo above of the éclairs "gone wrong"? Well I did not want to waste the dough and I had just enough chocolate glaze left, so I dipped them in the chocolate and made "Petite Sticks". They were wonderfully delicious. They too disappeared quickly from the party last evening.

"petite chocolate sticks".... proof that you can find good in every bad situation!
I stretched myself again. Without change, there is no growth. I tried new things, read lengthy recipes, followed the directions (most of the time) and made something I thought one only finds in the window of patisseries around France! Voila! I can do it at home! 


Thank you all who voted me into the next round of Project Food Blog!  I appreciate all the support from my friends and family who love me even with out contests and tasty treats....Do what you love, love what you do and most of all......Eat. Good. Food.♥♥♥ Megan

58 comments:

  1. What beauties! You did a great job with the pate a choux. It is definitely an intimidating process, but as long as you practice and carefully read through the recipe like you say, it is surprisingly simple. And OMG, that chocolate coffee pastry cream! I love how you turned the first batch into "petit chocolate sticks"! great thinking!Congrats on making it to the second round.

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  2. Oh my goodness!!! Those are absolutely beautiful!! I don't think I have the patience to do French pastry. I too get impatient, and skip recipes, or don't read properly. Congratulations on making it to the 2nd round, with this recipe I see no reason why you won't be in the third. Very nicely done!!

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  3. You are KILLING me, these are gorgeous! Good for you for tackling one of the toughest cuisines in my book, and especially pastry! You are a brave woman. I will have to make these for my mom, she is the quintessential French Chef (meaning she puts about a pound of butter in EVERYTHING).

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  4. OH MY GOODNESS do you know how much I LOVE eclairs!? I'm drooling, your eclairs look so delicious and beautiful. You are seriously amazing to take on eclairs. Fantastic, amazing, incredible post!! Good luck.

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  5. Wow these look so amazing! Never knew that eclairs meant flash of lightening, but it does make sense! haha
    I wonder how the eclairs would turn out if I used egg substitute instead of real eggs, since I am vegan. I think it might work..my family would love it if I made these! : ]

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  6. I can see why they disappeared so quickly--I could probably eat that whole tray by myself! Great job!

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  7. good luck to you. they look delcious.

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  8. I don't think there is anything easy about french pastry--especially if you've never tackled it before. I'd really like to try this one day, but like you said--the French do it better. Some things are meant to be bought (when you find a really awesome bakery)

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  9. Beautiful! I'm intimidated by eclairs- yours are gorgeous, and I'd love to have one right now! Good luck in the competition!

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  10. I looooove eclairs, but have never had one with coffee before. Yours look delicious and so worth the work!

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  11. I love eclairs and will never say no to one.
    It's a really nice feeling when there's so much effort put in reading and cooking, and when everything turns out good. Real satisfaction!

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  12. Oh I love this post so much! You're hilarious...I must agree the French truly have perfected their éclairs, but you do it equally as well. It's so gratifying when you replicate something you've seen in a café or pastry shop window. Well done!

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  13. They look amazing!! You certainly turned a kitchen nightmare into a success with those sticks! If they were in my presence they'd be gone at lightning speed, too. Good luck advancing to the 3d round!

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  14. Wow, if a plate of these is right in front of me, it will be a flash of "now you see it, now you don't"!! Looks absolutely lovely! Good job!

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  15. Megan, these turned out great! So, the other day when you wrote to me... is that the 1st batch or the 2nd? Beautiful post! Wishing you all the best & good luck!
    Kristy
    p/s I have an award for you. Please feel free to hop over to collect it. You deserve it. TQ!

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  16. I had to immediately vote for you because your official entry photo made me want to head to my local bakery asap!

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  17. Megan, These eclairs have my vote! I never even looked at a recipe for eclairs. You did a wonderful job with them, and I like the way that you turned the first batch into something wonderful as well.

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  18. I was one of the lucky participants in the magic disappearance of the above eclairs. Wow, Megan, you are a goddess. What a great story. Just loved the creamy delicate flavor. You get my vote in whatever contest you enter! Thanks a whole bunch. It was a delightful evening. Yummy food and wonderful people. I look forward to testing many more of your culinary adventures.

    Sally

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  19. Very fun. I think these are definitely one of those things that get easier with time as you get a feel for the dough and what not. You have my vote.

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  20. gosh, this one is a killer! Love the presentation and your recipe...

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  21. Wow, how delicious does this look!?

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  22. One of the things that makes eclairs in France so much better is the chocolate pastry cream. These look fantastic.

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  23. As a french girl...these spoke to me! I'm so impressed with your eclairs...they look better than what I buy at the bakery. Thanky you so much for sharing...I'll be sure to cast my vote!

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  24. You did a fantastic job on these and I like your take on the challenge. It really was all about getting outside your comfort zone. Great work, you got my vote!

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  25. Ok, I am totally expecting a batch of these next time I am in Madison!! Eclairs are my number one favorite dessert and I looove dessert!!!

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  26. this looks delicious :) Good luck with project food and you got my vote for this one! Feel free to drop by :) Good luck and best wishes for making to the top !! WOOHOO

    jen @ www.passion4food.ca

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  27. Great éclairs. They remind me of my childhood, I ate a lot of them younger lol. Pate a Choux can be a pain but its a fun one to master, try a Paris Brest next! Voting for you and please vote for me too!

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  28. olala....love these chocolate eclairs! Ain't they just wonderful!!

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  29. This looks wonderful…Good luck in the competition!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and for the kind comment :)

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  30. You got my vote! Those are gorgeous! I think I drooled on my keyboard;)

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  31. French pastry is definitely no joke! I made croissants the other day and they worked out well but not quite the French standard!

    Bonne chance, bon courage, et bon appetit.

    http://indulginginguiltypleasures.wordpress.com

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  32. Catchy title... and the eclairs look awesome..

    you have got my VOTE!

    I would love it if you check out my entry for this challenge
    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/703

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  33. Hey Megan, I voted for you. Yeah, I did! These eclairs look wicked awesome (smile). I would eat three of them...seriously;)

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  34. I can't even believe how kind you all have been to me on this post! Thank you so much for the wonderful words of encouragement and foodie ♥♥♥. The best thing about this competition is that is has been doing things that I may not have tried... pushed outside my comfort zone... Thanks again for your votes and kindness - megan

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  35. I so wanted to do French, but French is my favorite, so I had no wiggle room. I love your take on it! I really wish we could taste each other's entries! You got our vote (and our post is here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/957 )

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  36. I love what you did with the ones that went wrong!! :) got my vote!

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  37. I've made this before!!!! But they didn't turn out as nice and professional as yours. I also left out the glaze because I was lazy and cheap, tee hee. Awesome job. You've got my vote!

    p.s. I don't think that no-French thing is mandatory!

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  38. I agree!! This dish is definitely a challenge! You pulled it off though, and kudos to you for trying. What a great challenge though.. it really tests our abilities to stop underestimating ourselves and just try something new. And it also to be reminded of petit chocolate sticks if something does go wrong ;)

    XOXO best of luck! You've got my vote!

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  39. Mmm, I love eclairs. That top picture with the chocolate icing all glossy looks almost too good to eat. Yum!

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  40. Hi Megan, it's me again! I have an award for you. Please do drop by to pick it up when you can. I'm glad to know you even if it's only through blogging! You have a lovely site. Have a nice day.

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  41. they just look so wonderful and delicious.

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  42. Great post! In the end the mess ups look just as temping as the "good" ones. Great job. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at : http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/864

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  43. Even your mistakes look beautiful. Growing up my parents would give me an éclair if they wanted a moment of silence. Voting for you, hope to see you in round three!

    Lick My Spoon

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  44. Seriously?! Super impressed you made éclairs...I've always wanted to try but have been held back by fear. Good for you!

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  45. Oh, you have brought back some wonderful french memories. I always vote for chocolate :)

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  46. Those couldn't look any more delicious! They turned out perfect - some of the best I've ever seen. Good luck in this round!

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  47. Those look professional (and delicious!) Good luck with round 2.

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  48. I LOVE eclairs but have never dared to make them! Those looks so delicious...great job with this challenge ;)

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  49. You sure got a vote from me. These look gorgeous. Do you have any left? :)

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  50. Very impressive! I envy your baking abilities and love that you were able to find another use for your 'failures'. Sending my vote and the best of luck as you proceed through the PFB challenge!

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  51. Looks like your eclairs turned out really well. The pâte à choux looks beautifully browned and airy-light.

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  52. O, and those chocolate sticks look great too :)

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  53. I'm drooling, can I please pick one :)
    Gorgeous eclairs!

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  54. These are delicious. At least you can say you have made french eclairs - something a lot of people can't say. I wish I had one right now. By the way, I love your blog and have given you an award on my site.
    http://mouth-open.blogspot.com/p/awards.html

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  55. Congratulations on making it to the next round!

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  56. Catching up on commenting - but did vote for you. I mean - you made exclairs - aside form the fact that it's one of my favorite desserts - it's exclairs - does anyody have a comfort zone with eclairs? And they look oo la la!

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  57. Your eclairs look perfect! You have to tell me what you did wrong, I am all worried now, but will definitely be sure to follow your directions, thanks!

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