Daring Bakers - Challenge FOUR!

And the challenge for August is ... *drum roll* ... Eclairs!

This month's challenge is Chocolate Eclairs, a Pierre Hermé recipe (GASP!) from Dorie Greenspan's book "Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé" sexily hosted by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK.

You guys are in for a treat today! HEHEHE! Happy Ahmad had a lot of fun with this challenge. Especially with the photography too! I'm getting much better with lighting and whatnot and as you shall see, the pictures in this episode of The Daring Baker are probably the best I've done so far. This time around I'll not try to talk to much and let the pictures do the narration.

Anyway, time for obligatory background check, eclairs are basically choux pastry (read: shoo pastry) filled with a filling, in this case chocolate pastry cream, and optionally topped with chocolate glaze. Choux pastry is so easy to make, and its so amazing too since it puffs up insanely much using only its own steam (no baking powder! GASP.) Pate a choux, as it is also called, can go from this ...

... to this ...

... with only heat! Brilliant isn't it!? ^_^;;

But before you make your pastry shells, old experienced me suggests you make your filling first (especially if it is a pastry creme, since they need time to chill) to save yourself lots of heartache and frustration. Especially if your DAMN F*#%IN$ PASTRIES KEEP FREAKIN' COLLAPSING *Bashes head against counter-top*.

Ahem. Moving along.

Making Your Chocolate Pastry Cream:

The base of a good pastry cream is good fresh milk.

Stir continuously until it reaches a boil. Supposedly a "rolling boil" but I have no idea what that means. *Shrug*. Do you like my cool nifty whisk gadget? IKEA!

On the side, break some eggs and steal their yolks.

Throw some cornflour over them to stop their complaining.

Oooo! Pretty close up shot!

I should at this point in time, despite you having so much fun violating your eggs, remind you to keep stirring your milk, lest you end up with a nasty skin layer. Which has to be manually removed, and ends up looking ...

... slightly disturbing.

Whisk the egg yolks, and add them to the milk ...

... whisking continuously until ...

... it becomes thick and creamy-licious. Mmmm!

Melt your dark chocolate and pour it in (with one hand and camera in the other hand. Haha. My camera ended up so sticky by the end of this.)

Stir, then add soft butter...

Stir stir stir somemore and then you get the most delicious chocolate cream filling EVER. It's SO GOOD. I kept eating it with a spoon even though I hadn't even made my eclairs yet! Haha.

Be sure to chill. It's way tastier cold. Well, I think anyway.

Now for Step TWO!

Making Your Choux Pastry:

Melt your butter in your milky-water as quickly as possible to avoid water loss. Once I even melted my butter in the microwave and poured it in the milky-water. It was a good idea I think.

Then add your flour ALL at ONCE in one great floury flourish!

Stir over low heat until it gathers into a ball and unsticks from the sides. This little guy needs a bit more drying. Not quite together yet.

Add your eggs one at a time (LOL I really should practise what I preach haha) and use a mixer (or if your a masochist use a wooden spoon) until it becomes smooth. Here's where choux pastry gets a bit tricky. Because chickens are weird and can't make perfectly identical eggs all the time, you might not need all of the egg. You kind of need to make a judgement about how thick you want your pastry to be. I like to think the ideal point is where it can be piped and hold its shape with only slight drooping. But then again, I usually make things up as I go along.

Love this picture. And there you have your "dough".

Part Three!

Baking Your Shells:

By this point, I had generally made the recipe about 6 times (no exaggeration) and so besides knowing the recipe off by heart, I felt like experimenting with different shapes to see what kind of results I got. The first is with spoons, the second a regular pipe, and the third is a squiggly sort of shape I saw in some video on the internet. And the results are...

Wow. Fat. LOL!

Damn top heating element. Keeps burning all my crap! Never fear happy people, I bought a new oven and it's coming soon! Weee! The top heating element actually made the things crispier, which I really liked.

I cut them in half and glazed their tops.

And last but not least...

The Result!

I love how this looks. But even more, the taste is amazing.

Full-frontal shot.

I tried my hand at desert plating. Looked cute, but I think I'm not quite there yet.

Extra Fun:

I've been dying to try my hand at making a Paris Brest since forever and I thought this was the perfect opportunity. Lots of leftoever choux! What to do!? That rhymed. By the way.

Hot, no?

*Phew*. That was fun. Now I have to go wash the damn dishes. My silly FAT family keeps eating all my food and never helps me clean up!


Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats 31 August 2008 at 5:58 pm  

These look super delicious and I think your plating is really good - love the snail trail.

Cristine 31 August 2008 at 6:40 pm  

Beautiful! I really love the Paris Brest! Gorgeous!

Rosa's Yummy Yums 31 August 2008 at 7:15 pm  

What creativity! Your Eclairs and crown look extremely good and ever so beautiful! Great job!



Aparna 31 August 2008 at 9:38 pm  

Came to leave the comment.:)
Looks absolutely wonderful, especially the the choux ring.
Btw, I know it was to die for, but you have a new oven coming and another challenge to live for.:D

Dhanggit 31 August 2008 at 10:31 pm  

OMG you are one talented baker!! You've done a gorgeous job for this month's challenge!! i love them

Anonymous 31 August 2008 at 11:18 pm  

Wow Ahmad! These really lok incredible and I think your dessert plating is perffect as is.


Nidhi 31 August 2008 at 11:22 pm  

I think the paris brest looks fabulous!! Great step by step photographs!

Marija 1 September 2008 at 12:51 am  

I love the paris breast! Great job!

Mcwhisky 1 September 2008 at 1:21 am  

Your version of Paris Brest sure does look good! Seriously! The shots for Paris Brest is awesome! (*Saliva dripping*)

Cynthia 1 September 2008 at 2:24 am  

i adore paris brest too! will try making it sometime. very nice work! :)

Audax Artifex 1 September 2008 at 2:45 am  

The Paris brest worked out really well. You are a clever baker, it is a classic. Would make a great party treat. Love all the pictures

Beth 1 September 2008 at 3:24 am  

The photo of the dangling milk skin is disgusting, because it's true! No one likes milk skin!

pixxienix 1 September 2008 at 3:53 am  

Hi Ahmad ^_^ dangling milk skin = dodgy. Ikea whisk = cool, for i'm an ikea-whore. Squiggly deco on strawberry = mad cute! AND, fat eclairs = er, I'd still eat them!

Angela 1 September 2008 at 7:11 am  

They all look amazing, but I love the Paris Brest!

HoneyB 1 September 2008 at 8:08 am  

Wow, you did an awesome job!

jillian 1 September 2008 at 8:49 am  

Great post and beautiful Paris Brest!

pat 1 September 2008 at 1:30 pm  

Wow! Your post makes me want to try to make some pastries.

Vera 1 September 2008 at 2:32 pm  

Ahmad, your pastries look great! I love step-by-step photos - very informative.

morgana 1 September 2008 at 5:38 pm  

Beautiful! I love that "crown" with strawberries... It's a great idea!

Rachel 1 September 2008 at 11:16 pm  

I love the eclair and the brest..perfectly done!!!

Ann 1 September 2008 at 11:30 pm  

Beautiful! I like the way the piped squiggle came out, too.

Dragon 2 September 2008 at 3:20 am  

Beautiful and sexy! Well done!

silverrock 2 September 2008 at 9:42 am  

Wow! your eclairs look delicious... and such a smart idea to use the leftover choux to make a paris brest. Way to go on this month's DB challenge :)

Tanya 2 September 2008 at 1:26 pm  

This was such an entertaining post - I love your writing! Your eclairs and the Paris Brest look sexy indeed. That "milk skin," not so much.

Amber 2 September 2008 at 4:12 pm  

I always laugh when I read your blog, a little sarcasm and a little cussing, I like that. 6 times huh, are you nuts. It is funny, I seem to end up near you on posting day. Great job by the way.

ARLENE 3 September 2008 at 9:07 am  

Hope you bought a great new oven! Your eclairs look gorgeous, but the Paris Brest is really wonderful.

Ruth 3 September 2008 at 10:23 am  

I think your desert plating looks great. I am with you on the chocolate pastry crean it is so delicious

Temperance 4 September 2008 at 2:15 am  

How did the wisk work? I have been eyeing it for a while but wasn't sure it was a significant improvement.

I love the paris brest. It is a great presentation.

I choose not to make the chocolate pastry cream but you have made me rethink the decision. I am thinking I will make this next time I have a craving for chocolate pudding.

Ahmad 4 September 2008 at 3:03 am  

Temperance: Well, the whisk is kind of like most things at IKEA; shiny, looks like it could be useful, cheap, works surprisingly well, but then gets shoved in the cupboard never to be used again or breaks within 3 days. (But that's just being mean. I have lots of cute ikea svedish-ness around the house). And yes! Do make choc creme patisserie. And use the strongest choc you can find! It is quite unlike any custard or refular pastry cream.