I made all the elements of the chocolate eclairs listed in the recipe by Pierre Herme but I also added my own twists, such as a vanilla bean custard that is so good it will make any vanilla lover swoon, the chocolate whipped cream that required overnight chill in the refrigerator, and a beautifully light colored lime custard that would be just as delicious in a tart of it's own. All of the custards were topped with a decorative piping of chocolate whipped cream, chocolate glaze, and toasted, chopped macadamia nuts or just the decadent chocolate glaze. The chocolate sauce used in the chocolate glaze is finger dipping delicious but when added to the short list of ingredients making up the glaze, well, simply Wow! Tongue Dipping Good! This is a glaze that I will forever want to use again and again. My favorite custard filling? My vanilla bean custard. The chocolate custard is bowl licking good but I think there is a little too much corn starch called for in the recipe. This is one of those issues that I just didn't see coming. . .my custard thickened too fast. . .in fact, so fast that I had a bowl of thick chocolate paste instead of a smooth and delectable chocolate custard. I would turn the heat down on my stovetop a little more and add a little less corn starch the next time. The only thing I had missing on my eclairs was a marachino cherry to top everything off. Was this challenge fun? The eclairs were an absolute blast to make and the combinations are endless. I just happen to love the traditional vanilla custard filling with a decadent chocolate glaze. The eclair pastry itself? Yum! Not eggy but instead a true cream puff pastry dough that does the taste buds a service for being a conveyor for further flavors.
Pierre Herme's recipes that come together to make the perfect chocolate eclair include 3 elements. A Choux Pastry, a chocolate pastry cream, and a chocolate glaze that requires a chocolate sauce as part of the ingredients. You can find all of these recipes when you click on Meeta's or Tony's site highlighted above.
I love Herme's Cream Puff Pastry recipe. I made the whole batch into smaller eclairs so that I could try all my different custards and fillings. I even used my blueberry ice cream as a filler but for some reason the picture is evading me. You know the recipe from Dorie Greenspan that the TWD'ers did making the sourcream and blueberry ice cream? For those of you who don't, the recipe is found in her Baking, From my home to yours cookbook and the ice cream is not only delicious but a beautiful lavender color that is excellent for pairing with other fun colors and flavors. . .including chocolate.
I think the hardest part to the cream puff recipe was beating the mixture on the stove top for a whole 3 minutes until the dough dries out. Having a KA mixer definantly saves the day for mixing all the eggs in, one at a time. I think next time I will add just a tad more sugar to the recipe and use my vanilla flavored granulated sugar. I am a vanilla fanatic. I know, I know, vanilla sounds bland to many but I don't think so. I order vanilla beans through a co-op at 30 to 50 beans per bag and the flavor, aroma, and color of these long, dark brown vanilla beans are just beautiful. Some are so fresh, there are actually little white crystals formulated on the outside of the bean. Delicious!
I still need practice piping my eclair shapes because this time I wasn't sure what size a 2cm tip was and the tip used for this batch was too small. I feel like I am in a Goldilocks story here. =). The next time I will use a tip twice the size so there is no grunting noises needed while squeezing the dough through the tip. Heart shaped eclairs was the idea but creating straight little eclairs was a happy ending.
Baking and timing seems to be a tricky skill I need to work on. The eclairs were golden brown and puffed up in the oven but after taking them out, most of the little eclairs deflated. I had this same problem when I made Dorie Greenspan's recipe for the large choux pastry so I 5 minutes was added to the baking time. Only a couple of the cute little eclairs were perfectly done and the rest still had a bit of doughy consistency in the middle. Not enough to damage the end product but enough to not have a perfect eclair.
The Chocolate Glaze is a recipe that has to be as good as if not better then any top quality chocolate glaze purchased at an exorbitant price from any reputable retailer. Delicious, silky smooth, and intense but not overwhelming chocolate flavor. Adding a Chocolate Sauce to the chocolate glaze is something unheard of in my kitchen. The chocolate sauce was so hard to keep fingers and spoons out of until the right amount was added to the glaze. Ice cream dishes were immediately taken out of the cupboard shelf just so the smooth and creamy, warm sauce could be tasted correctly on a scoop of cold ice cream. Watching the ice cream melt slightly as soon as the sauce was drizzled on created just enough anticipation for getting to scoop out as much sauce as ice cream in the first bite. Oh so good!
My lime custard actually came from The Barefoot Contessa's Lime Curd Tart found at the Food Network website. Just click on the highlighted link =) for the original but here is what I used:
Lime Curd Filling:
4 limes at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
Remove the zest of 4 limes with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the limes to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add-- the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside.
I would cook this mixture a little longer next time just to be more like a custard thickness. This time, the lime filling was cooked about 18 minutes and refrigerated over night but still just a little to thin. I had oozing over the sides of the eclairs. If you like a fresh lime flavor was just a little tart bite, then this is the tart curd for you. Me too! I loved it. Just the right amount of sweetness for me along with the intense lime flavor. I believe finding the ripest limes for the recipe has everything to do with getting the correct flavor. If the limes are hard, do not use for this recipe until the fruit is all the way ripe. You will taste the difference.
My vanilla bean custard filling is written down by my Mom so I have no idea where it came from. I apologize to the chef behind this delicious and perfect every time, vanilla bean custard.
Vanilla Bean Custard
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
2 c. half-and-half or light cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla
4 beaten egg yolks
In a heavy saucepan stir together sugar, flour, and salt. Gradually stir in the half-and-half or light cream. Add vanilla bean, if using. Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more.
Gradually stir about half the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Then return all of the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan. Bing to a gentle boil, then reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, Remove and discard vanilla bean or stir in liquid vanilla, if using. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Cool slightly or chill in the refrigerator till serving time. (Do not stir.)