Sunday, 31 August 2008

Daring Bakers August Challenge: Chocolate Eclairs

I've sat out the last few challenges, but this month's -- Chocolate Eclairs -- was absolutely irresistable. Thank you Meeta and Tony for the great selection, and the delectable recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé.
The challenge was perfect because I love eclairs, but my one attempt to make them was a bit of a flop and I'd shied away from pate choux since. Well now was time to conquer my fears. After reading through other Daring Bakers' experiences and plenty of tips, I finally hit the kitchen this past week. I decided to go the whole chocolate hog, making the chocolate pastry cream and the chocolate glaze.
And I'm proud to say the results were great, even if I do say so myself. Well actually, a bunch of my colleagues said so too! Truthfully I could have eaten all those eclairs by myself but I thought the better of it and took more than a dozen to work. (I made the eclairs just before I headed to work -- I start in the afternoon. So while I was able to bring in the eclairs while they were still fresh, I did have to rush to get to work on time. Hence I didn't get a chance to review my photos, otherwise I would have caught those awful fingerprints in the glaze. Oh well.)
Oh, and my super picky 4-year-old ate two. That's a success in my book!
The leftover pastry cream, glaze, not to mention sauce, means I'll be making the eclairs again sometime very soon.
Do check out other Daring Bakers' creations!

The only real issues I had were while making the pastry cream, even after straining the yolk mixture, I found some scrambled yolks at the bottom, and I ended up straining it again. And it seemed a little runny, but a few hours in the refrigerator helped it firm up. I did feel like I could taste the egg in the final cream, but I think I'm a bit oversensitive. Nobody else complained.
The other was with the actual baking. I didn't have the common deflation problem. But the eclairs seemed a bit soft, so I stuck them in the oven again for a while.
And I know lots of people commented on the number of pots and bowls needed. I was able to cut back on that slightly by using one pot to make the sauce, emptying it and making the glaze in it, and you guessed it, emptying it and making the cream in it (thought at this point I did have to rope in one more pot).

Anyway, I highly recommend this.
Here's the recipe
Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Cream Puff Dough
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)
• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
(makes 1 cup or 300g)
• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)
• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Another chiffon cake

Can you tell I've become a convert to the religion of chiffon! What amazing results and taste with such little heartache. After my first attempt convinced me it wasn't hard, I thought I'd give it another go, for dinner
with friends. I knew the kids for sure would be happy. The only problem was our water being cut off from 10 am to 4 pm... yes six whole hours while the plumbing system is overhauled in our apt complex. This is the third day it happened. What sucks is that you don't know when it might happen. You have a few days of no problems, you're complacent and the next day they hit you. Only another four weeks. *crossing fingers*
So as you might guess, I started at 4 pm. Wrong. Due to various other emergencies (DH+work) I didn't start till 6.
At which point I also got started on a chicken curry I had promised to bring to the dinner. *Sigh*. I was using a bigger, 9x15 pan, so instead of Aamena's adaption, I went with Orangette's version. I managed to get the cake into the oven within 20 minutes... Waiting for it to bake were the longest 35 minutes ever!. And then cool.

I had no patience. Instead of letting cool all the way down, I pried it out of the pan. Then I halved it down the middle since I planned to do one side with cream and strawberries and the other with cream and chocolate sauce. Then I thought if I halve the two pieces horizontally, they'd cool faster. I was right, but a thin layer got stuck to the rack. I was able to cover it with cream, and it tasted great anyway. Phew!
Oh, here's the chicken curry:


Thursday, 21 August 2008

Mango chiffon cake

So I recently made this yummy Mango chiffon cake. For a few weeks now, what with California flooded with mangoes, I'd been day-dreaming about mango cake, one that incorporates mangoes in the batter, not just as garnish or mousse, which I'd already tried. At last I put thought to action and using my Google muscles, found that those clever folks in Southeast Asia had already been there, done that. So I used this apparently tried and tested recipe that I found at Cook Bake Legacy.

I liked the result, though I think my oven was acting up and it didn't rise as well or cook through as much as it should have. But I will be making this again. I also plan to try using mango puree in place of buttermilk in a regular cake. I think the mango should provide enough acidity to replace the buttermilk and should be about the same consistency. Watch this space for updates!

Recipe and more photos after the jump.

Mango Chiffon Cake
4 large eggs
1 tsp Mango essence
1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) Whole milk
1/2 cup mango puree
1 cup sifted cake flour (110 g)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (100 gm) sugar
1/2 tsp Cream of tartar
Method: Set oven at 350 degrees F (180 degree C)
Separate egg yolks from whites. In a bowl, beat yolks with the mango essence (I didn't have any and used vanilla)
In another bowl, mix the oil, milk and mango puree. Sift the flour and baking powder together.
In the bowl of a mixer, whip the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar until stiff peak forms. Now add the yolk mixture and beat well, then add in the oil/ puree blend and and also stir well. Fold in the flour mix gently till well blended. Pour batter into a 20 cm. chiffon cake pan. Bang the pan on a hard surface to release the bubbles. ( a step I forgot, which may have contributed to the results)
Bake for 35-40 mins. When the cake is ready, remove from the oven and give it a bang on a hard surface.Then invert the pan and cool the cake.When the cake is completely cool, remove cake from the pan.
Well here are a few pictures of how I cut the mangoes.

The cake after taking it out. It seemed kind of OK to me, then I realized it was underdone and put it back in the oven, but evidently not long enough.