Recipe: chocolate éclairs
Around this time of year, I’m usually too busy cleaning my house and cooking traditional dishes for the Lunar New Year to take notice of Valentine’s Day. That and the fact that I am not romantic AT ALL. Honestly, Valentine’s Day would not have been on my radar this year if it weren’t for my client’s product shoot last month. Since several of you inquired about the chocolates from this post, I thought I’d share some Robin Chocolates with you.
say hi to the valentine’s day chocolate truffle lineup (each is a different flavor)
Robin Chocolates is a local chocolatier based in Longmont, Colorado (just outside of Boulder). The confections and pastries that come out of that store are simply gorgeous, matched in beauty by the incredible quality of these award winning chocolates (rose caramel, salt caramel, raspberry, irish cream, molé, pomegranate, lavender, orange blossom, key lime pie… to name a few). I love working with Robin, the chocolatier and owner, in part because her candies are such a pleasure to photograph. The other reason is because Robin is badass. She is this petite, smart, no-nonsense, hard-working, talented, passionate, funny woman who is on her third successful career and loving it (first was Navy, then tech). BADASS, I say.
Each chocolate is a work of art – elegantly decorated and lovingly hand-crafted. Whenever I pick up product to photograph, Robin leads me around the back and fills a bag of “rejects” for me to give to Jeremy (because I don’t really eat chocolate and yes, she thinks I’m crazy). I mentioned the Valentine’s shoot to my mom a few weeks ago. Mom likes chocolate. She asked if I could send her the truffles when I’m done photographing them. I explained that I didn’t think they were suitable to send to her since they are heavily handled and kept around for almost a month until we are sure there are no reshoots. I could detect the disappointment in her voice even though she said it was okay. So I ordered a box of the Valentine’s truffles just for Mom.
12 of hearts: now that’s a pretty gift
And because I like you guys, I asked Robin if I could give away two boxes of her VERY AMAZING Valentine’s Day chocolate truffles. Robin does not screw around, kids. She uses Valrhona chocolate and magically weaves flavors and textures together into a most decadent and sublime masterpiece. You want a box, or at the very least, you want to send a box to someone you love… I mean someone you REALLY love. This is coming from me, the person who doesn’t really dig on chocolate, but who won’t shut up about Robin Chocolates.
THE DEALIO: It’s a giveaway! Win one of two 12 of Hearts boxes (heart-shaped chocolate truffles) shipped anywhere in the United States. That means if you live outside the US but want to ship the chocolates to someone or someplace in the States, you can enter.
1) Leave a comment on this post sharing who your favorite Valentine is.
2) One comment per person, please.
3) Comments must be received by 11:59 pm Mountain Standard Time, Thursday, February 7, 2013.
4) The chocolates can only ship within the United States (winner’s recipient must have a US mailing address).
5) Two winners will be selected at random by Jeremy (Kaweah has retired).
6) The two winners will be announced on Friday, February 8, 2013.
kaweah can’t eat the chocolates, but she’ll taste the props
We’re not done with chocolate, not by a long shot. Back in the day, when I was a member of the Daring Bakers and our ranks numbered in the hundreds, one of our monthly challenges was éclairs. I was excited because éclairs had been on my “learn to make” list for a while. But the week before the reveal date, I went into the ER with a leaky appendix (unbeknownst to us, it had been leaking for months) and left a few days later without my appendix. I had missed the August 2008 challenge, but the éclairs remained on my to do list for four and a half years. I finally crossed it off the list this weekend. The recipe has multiple parts mixed and matched from two different sources, so I’ll present them to you in the order I made them. First: chocolate pastry cream.
milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar, butter, chocolate
heat the milk in one pan
stir the yolks, cornstarch, and sugar together in another pan
temper the egg yolk mixture with the hot milk
If I were eating the éclairs, I would have made regular pastry cream. But I made these for Jeremy (and my neighbors) and I knew that a chocolate pastry cream would appeal to him. This chocolate pastry cream comes from the Daring Bakers challenge which follows Pierre Hermé’s recipe. It’s probably the nicest and most well-behaved pastry cream I’ve ever made – thick and smooth with terrific flavor. I think as long as you use good quality chocolate (I used Valrhona 66%) and other ingredients, it can’t go wrong.
add chocolate to the pastry cream
finish with butter
rich, silky, smooth
I started the pastry cream first because it would take the longest to cool. It stores in the refrigerator for 2-3 days in case you want or need to do this over a couple of sessions. For the cream puff dough, I followed a recipe on Serious Eats sourced from Miette’s cookbook. There is an omission in the recipe which someone addresses in the comments, but if you decide to follow that recipe it is missing 4 eggs which is kinda critical to the pastry. It’s a pretty standard pâte à choux.
water, milk, eggs, salt, sugar, butter, flour
parchment-lined baking sheet and pastry bag fitted with pastry tip
place the salt, sugar, butter, water, and milk in a saucepan
stir the flour in at once when the liquid boils
The recipe moves the dough to a stand mixer, but I’ve also made pâte a choux by hand. It’s a lot easier to beat the eggs into the dough with a stand mixer than to stir like crazy to incorporate the eggs. Once the dough is made, you want to pipe it while it is still warm. I can only bake one sheet at a time, but my second sheet of éclairs turned out just fine even with 40 minutes of waiting around on my counter before going into the oven.
place dough in stand mixer with paddle attachment
add eggs one at a time
piping the éclairs onto the parchment
brush with egg wash
make grooves along the tops
When the éclairs were done, I poked a hole in the end of each one to let steam escape and to also create an opening for piping the pastry cream into the puff. I found a chopstick worked well. I swiped it side to side to clear out any thin walls within the pastry. Once the pastries were completely cooled, I filled them with the chocolate pastry cream (use a 1/4-inch plain tip or smaller). You really have to gauge this carefully so that you don’t overfill (which can lead to breakage) or underfill (which is just setting someone up for disappointment) the pastry. When you near capacity, the pastry will start to bulge a little. If you keep forcing pastry cream into the pastry, it will spring a leak. Another way to estimate the capacity is to eyeball the amount of pastry cream you squeeze out of the pastry bag and the relative volume of the pastry in your hand.
poke a hole in one end
fill with chocolate pastry cream
The chocolate ganache glaze is also from Miette’s recipe. I made this after having filled the éclairs so I could be sure to dip them before the ganache cooled and hardened. It’s quick to whip up. I didn’t quite follow the instructions and it still turned out great.
dark chocolate, butter, eggs (yolks), powdered sugar, cream
stirring the confectioner’s sugar into melted chocolate
add the hot cream
temper the egg yolks with the hot chocolate ganache
stir in the butter
I made sure to finish the ganache in a wide bowl so that I wouldn’t have any trouble dipping the éclairs. Turn the éclairs upside down and dunk them into the glaze. The glaze is quite thick, so make sure you get a decent grip on the base of the pastry without crushing it between your fingers. Let the excess glaze drip back into the bowl and then set the éclairs on the rack to cool.
dip the éclair into the glaze
let the glaze set up
Of course, we couldn’t resist biting into one of the éclairs before the glaze had hardened. They were good, but I actually thought they were better the next day after having spent the night in the refrigerator in an airtight container. I think the flavors and textures were better developed on the second day and Jeremy agrees. My neighbors gave the éclairs the thumbs up too. This recipe makes 18, but I swear they go pretty quickly!
i did this for love
from Miette via Serious Eats (but there is an error in the Serious Eats version) and Dessert First
cream puff dough
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
3.5 oz. unsalted butter (1/4 cup + 3 tbsps)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (7 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 egg whisked + 2 tbsps water (this is the egg wash)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch plain tip. Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Quickly stir the flour in all at once with a wooden spoon and keep stirring vigorously until the dough pulls away from the sides (this dries some of the moisture from the dough too, which is good). Remove from heat. Place the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the dough on medium speed for a minute. Start adding the four eggs, one at a time, allowing the mixer to incorporate each egg completely before adding the next one. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. After you beat the last egg into the dough, beat on high for a minute.
Transfer the dough to the pastry bag and pipe fingers about 1-inch wide by 5-inches long and 3/4-inch high. Space each one about 2 inches apart (they will spread). When done piping, brush egg wash over each pastry, then gently run the back of a fork along the tops to create lengthwise grooves to promote even baking. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave for 20-25 minutes until the pastries are golden brown and hollow (tap them, they will sound hollow). Remove from the oven and pierce each pastry at one end to release steam. Cool completely on cooling racks.
chocolate pastry cream
from Pierre Hermé via Dessert First
2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
6 tbsps (75 g) sugar
3 tbsps cornstarch, sifted
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
Boil the milk in a small saucepan. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Temper the yolks by whisking a ladle of the hot milk into the yolk mixture (this prevents the egg from cooking by incrementally increasing the temperature). Whisk in a little more of the hot milk. Whisk in the rest of the hot milk. Strain the liquid back into the saucepan (to remove any cooked egg bits). Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk vigorously until the pastry cream comes to a boil. Continue to whisk over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the melted chocolate and remove from heat. Place the pastry cream in a bowl and set the bowl over an ice bath. Keep stirring the pastry cream to keep it smooth. When the temperature reaches 140°F, stir in the butter. Stir to cool the pastry cream completely, or do what I did and cover it with plastic (make sure the plastic touches the entire surface to prevent skin from forming) and pop it in the refrigerator. Can be made 2-3 days ahead of time.
10 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup (2.5 oz.) powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
3 tbsps unsalted butter
Melt the chocolate and powdered sugar together over a double boiler (or microwave the chocolate on half-power 30 seconds at a time until almost melted and stir the confectioners sugar in). Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until incorporated. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk a little chocolate mixture into the egg yolks to temper them. Whisk in a little more chocolate mixture. Whisk the rest of the chocolate into the egg yolks. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate ganache through a sieve.
Assemble the éclairs: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch tip (or smaller) with the chocolate pastry cream. Fill each éclair with pastry cream taking care not to overfill (it will seep out) or underfill (it won’t taste as good). Make sure the chocolate glaze is warm and fluid in a wide bowl. Dip the top of each éclair into the glaze allowing any excess to drip off. Set each éclair on a cooling rack to dry. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Makes 18 éclairs.