Friday, May 30, 2014

Chocolate Éclairs (Minis)

It was a lazy week for me after a long weekend as the federal holiday, Memorial Day happened to fall on the recent Monday. After cracking my brain on what to bake to fit the respective themes of the baking events I have been participating over the past weeks of the month, I was inspired by a store-bought dessert, Chocolate Éclairs, which a friend had brought along to our recent potluck dinner. And that's definitely one of my favourite pastry desserts!

Chocolate Éclairs (Minis)
Just like my past bakes, I would do a fair bit of research by comparing the various recipes, reading the reviews and comments of others who have attempted, including watching online videos on the making process, if available before I embark on my own baking experiment. Honestly, I felt a little intimidated after doing my homework because it seems like the challenge faced by many is in the making of the choux pastry, otherwise called pâte à choux, or simply known as the "shells" of the éclairs. Finally, I decided and settled on Paula Deen's Chocolate Stuffed Eclairs recipe found on, but guess what? My choux pastry, that is the shells of the éclairs turned out to be a success on my first attempt and I actually failed on the chocolate cream filling. @_@! I suppose I'm one of the fewer minority for that matter. The chocolate cream filling felt like the texture of red bean paste, if you know what I am referring. Somehow somewhere, I couldn't figure how and where it went wrong. So I quickly turned to the crème pâtissière of the alternative recipe by Gale Gand's Chocolate Eclairs which I've kept from my research and made a vanilla cream filling for my éclairs instead. And there goes my original plan of finishing up the last two episodes of my Taiwanese drama after my bake when a half day baking affair took almost the entire of my day. Thought I could enjoy these éclairs for my tea-break which I didn't get to have one today, and ended having these éclairs as an after-dinner dessert. Still, this is definitely worth it!

I am sharing this post with the event, Little Thumbs Up (May 2014: Milk) organised by Bake For Happy Kids and My Little Favourite DIY hosted by Tze of Awayofmind Bakery House.

(P.S. And I realised I have past the submission deadlines for the respective baking events, namely The Biscuit Barrel Challenge (May 2014: Favourites) organised by Laura of I'd Much Rather Bake Than…, AlphaBakes (May 2014: Letter "E") hosted by Ros of The More than Occasional Baker & Caroline of Caroline Makes, and Treat Petite May 2014 theme, World Baking Day hosted by Kat of The Baking Explorer & Stuart of Cakeyboi, which I had intended to share this baking post with when I was ready to publish this post. @_@!)

Chocolate Éclairs (Minis)
Makes about 120 pieces

Ingredients Required

Recipe referenced and modified from: Paula Deen's Chocolate Stuffed Eclairs

1 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) margarine or butter
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
4 whole eggs

Recipe referenced and modified from: Gale Gand's Chocolate Eclairs

2 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

Recipe referenced and modified from: Gale Gand's Chocolate Eclairs

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Bakeware Used

Any large rectangular baking sheets lined with parchment paper

Preparation Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat water and margarine or butter to boiling point. 
  3. Add flour and stir constantly using a heatproof spatula until mixture is smooth and forms a ball. 
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and let mixture cool. (Note: It is not necessary to cool the mixture completely, just lukewarm is fine so that the eggs don't cook).
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated after each addition.
  6. Transfer pastry dough into a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip. 
  7. Pipe out dough on parchment paper in thick lines that form eclairs. Smooth out any bumps of points of dough by pressing down with slightly wet finger.
  8. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown. Set aside to cool.
The dough will initially form into a ball after flour has been added to the heated water and butter mixture. After adding eggs, the pastry dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the spatula when you lift them out of the bowl.
I piped the pastry dough into roughly 2-inch length using a Wilton® No. 12 Round Tip to make mini eclairs. To make large eclairs, use a larger piping tip and pipe the pastry dough longer in length. You might need to increase the baking time by about 5 to 10 minutes (varies across different ovens) if making bigger eclairs.

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. (Refer to notes on my experiment below for substituting vanilla bean with pure vanilla extract).
  2. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. 
  4. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture until incorporated. 
  5. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the saucepan. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. 
  6. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. 
  7. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Remove from the fridge one hour before using.
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. 
  2. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in a medium bowl and whisk until melted and smooth. 
  3. Set aside and keep warm. (Note: The glaze can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, and rewarm in a microwave or over hot water bath when ready to use.)
  1. Using a serrated knife, slice the pastry puff lengthwise but not all the way through.
  2. Transfer the filling into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip and gently pipe the filling into the centre of the pastry puff.
  3. Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze and set on a baking sheet. 
  4. Chill eclairs, uncovered, at least one hour or until the glaze sets. Serve chilled.

The Dream Baker's Experiment
  1. For the pastry, I used unsalted butter and large eggs weighing approximately 57 grams each (with shell on).
  2. I baked two baking sheets of pastry puff at a time, placing one on the upper middle rack and the other on the lower middle rack of the oven, and switched the baking sheets down and up respectively halfway through the baking process.
  3. I baked the pastry puff for a full 20 minutes. Do not over-bake otherwise the pastry puff will become hard.
  4. For the cream filling, I used 2% reduced fat milk and 6 egg yolks weighing approximately 100 grams from large eggs weighing approximately 57 grams each (with shell on).
  5. Instead of vanilla beans (which I didn't have any since it was a last minute decision to use this cream filling recipe), I substituted with 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract which was added to the custard (as the last step after adding butter) when the custard has been almost cooled.
  6. I chilled the eclairs in the freezer compartment to set the chocolate glaze quicker. Like most store-bought, these eclairs can also be frozen and thawed in the lower compartment of the fridge at least 15 minutes before serving.  

To my surprise, these homemade eclairs weren't quite as difficult and intimating after all. The tedious part of the making I would say is the assembling of the eclairs which requires the piping of the cream filling and dipping them in the chocolate glaze. But they are definitely worth the efforts. I hope you will enjoy as much as I do.

Dare to dream.
The Dream Baker

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