Chocolate Eclairs for the Avid Baker’s Challenge

Thanks to my baking groups, I conquered another fear….the fear of choux pastry. Can I call it chouxphobia??

While for the Avid Baker’s Challenge it was chocolate eclairs, it was Paris Brest (pronounced PA-REE BREHST), an elegant French dessert for the Daring Bakers Challenge.

Eclairs coverWhat they both have in common is that they are made from the same base- the Choux (pronounced ‘shoo’) pastry or pâte à choux (paht ah shoo). The shapes are piped differently.

On retrospect, the fear seemed unnecessary. The recipe from King Arthur’s flour website for the choux pastry was easy and the blog walks you through the process of making choux.

Choux is a classic French pastry dough (actually more a thick paste then a dough in the strictest sense of the word),

It is said to have been invented by Catherine De Medici’s chief baker the French chef Panterelli in 1540. The original recipe went through a series of changes in the hands of various chefs. The recipe that is used today is credited to Antoine Carême who published the recipe in 1815 in his cookbook ‘Pâtissier Royal’.

Made from flour, water, butter and eggs and sometimes milk, there is no leavening (rising) agent used in the dough. The pastry puffs up due to the high moisture level in the dough which creates steam.

I was amazed at how much they puffed up

I was amazed at how much they puffed up

The dough is cooked twice. Once on the stove and then in the oven.

Water and butter are heated together till the butter melts. Then the mixture is brought to a rolling boil. It is important that the butter melts before boiling as we do not want too much water to evaporate. This will change the consistency of the dough .

After taking it off the heat, all the flour is added in all at once. It is then stirred briskly so no lumps are formed. This dough is called ‘panada‘. 

This panada is then set back on the heat to dry, stirring till the dough comes together into a ball. (The bottom of the pan will be lightly filmed with the paste which you shouldn’t scrap while cooking).

After cooling the panada, the eggs are added one by one, mixing in between till the dough becomes smooth, silky and falls off the spoon after about three seconds. (I read somewhere that ‘it’s texture should be reluctant dropping consistency’).

The chox is a very versatile dough and can be piped into different shapes to make a variety of sweet and savory dishes- eclairs,  profiteroles, croquembouche, Paris Brest,  gougères (cheese puffs), French crullers, Gâteau St-Honoré, Parisian gnocchi and Salammbos to name a few.

Fried Choux pastry is used to prepare Churros in Latin America and Spain.

A well baked choux is puffed up, has a crisp, hard, golden crust and a hollow, dry interior. It should retain its shape when cooled.

To achieve this the shells are first baked at a higher temperature so that the water content evaporates rapidly. This steam is what causes the pastry rise and puff up. The high temperature also sets the structure of the shell. After about 15 minutes, the temperature is reduced. This way the crust becomes crisp and firm while the interior dries out.

Sometimes a small slit is made in the pastry at the end of the baking time and the pastry is put back into the oven to allow the steam to escape. This ensures that the pastry does not deflate when cool.

I used the same dough to make 4 chocolate eclairs and 2 Paris Brests. For the filling I used the praline mousseline recipe.

This is our last bake of the year and from the King Arthur flour website.

We begin the new year baking from the blog ‘Scientifically Sweet’. Looking forward to some great bakes.

Chocolate Eclairs for the Avid Baker’s Challenge

Chocolate Eclairs for the Avid Baker’s Challenge

For the pastry:
113 ml water
56 gms unsalted butter
A pinch salt
75 gms all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
Praline mousseline recipe
Any other pastry cream
For the chocolate glaze:
30 gms semisweet chocolate, chopped
30 gms cream
To make Pâte à Choux:
Preheat oven to 350°F/180° C.
Lightly grease or line a baking tray with parchment. (Draw 3” lines on one side, reverse and use these as the guide while piping).
In a large pan pour in the water, sugar and salt and heat till the butter melts.
Bring to a rolling boil and remove from heat.
Add the flour in all at once stirring briskly to ensure no lumps form.
Return pan to heat and cook over medium heat, stirring all the time until the mixture smoothens and follows the spoon. A thin film will form at the bottom, do not scrape and try to incorporate into the dough.
Remove from heat and let the mixture cool for 5-10 minutes. If you have a thermometer, the temperature should read below 50C/125F, or you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds.
Using your stand mixer or hand held mixer, beat in eggs one at a time. It may look curdled but when you add the last egg the dough will turn smooth.
Beat another 2 minutes after you add the last egg.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a 3/8-inch (10 mm) plain nozzle with the choux. Pipe lines on the parchment following the guideline.
Brush the top with egg/milk.
Bake the pastries for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 175C/350F and bake for another 20-25 minutes till pastries are medium brown. (I baked for 20 minutes).
Don't open the oven door while the pastries are baking.
Remove pastries from oven, make a small slit on top of each and return to oven for another 5 minutes. This allows the steam to escape.
Place on wire rack to cool. (I cooled them in an air conditioned room since I did not want them to turn soggy).
When they are cool, split into halves and remove any soft dough from inside..
Unfilled choux pastry can be stored in an air-tight container in the freezer for a month. Defrost them by heating them up in a 180C/350f oven for about 5-7 minutes before filling them.
Once filled, they should be stored in the fridge and finished within 2-3 days.
They are best eaten on the day that they are being filled, after which, they will begin to soften the longer you keep them.
To make chocolate glaze:
Heat the chocolate and cream together in a microwave till chocolate melts.
To assemble eclairs:
Pipe in or spoon some praline mousseline (or pastry cream) on the bottom half of the eclair, cover with the top.
Spoon some glaze over the eclair.
Let the glaze spread to the edges.