Sunday, August 31, 2008

blackberry custard and seized chocolate

Hello all! Sorry I didnt post this yesterday. I was in the air until about 10pm Irish time and when I got home I have full intention of just pressing 'publish'..however, tiredness got in the way I just crashed into bed. I was at a wedding over the weekend...lots of food, champagne and dancing, plus site-seeing of cute Lille and late nights meeting family members of the bride.

Two weeks ago I paid a visit to a lovely little kitchen shop just around the corner from my favourite shopping street in Dublin (Grafton Street). Had I known it was so close I probably would have spent some money buying cute kitchen accessories for the house and kitchen I don't have. After the last challenge where my big disaster was that Mom's piping bag split (oopps!), I decided I better spend some cash and get myself a newer, dishwasher safe (practically indestructable) piping bag. I dashed there after work and spent a happy half an hour ooohhhing and ahhhing over the embellished spatulas (some with little duckies printed on the spatula head!), bright coloured collinders and fancy looking copper cooking pots. In the end I left happily with a new DD sized piping bag with tips and the cutest little cake decorating set. I spent the next half hour curled up at Mr T's kitchen table playing with the cake decorating set, reading the instructions and generally showing how much of a woman I really am!

This incident was the single greatest reason that despite it being a crazy month, I decided to take on this month's DB challenge. This month saw me visiting Mr T's extended family in Germany.

the statue of the Musicians of Bremen (we flew into Bremen airport and travelled to Magdeburg)

The Green Citadel of Magdeburg, can you think of anywhere more fabulous to live!!? Look it up on the net, Hundertwasser left many more wonderful architectural masterpieces in other locations around the world

This trip consisted of having a barbecue in his Aunt & Uncle's allotment with fresh produce gracing the table and wonderful breakfasts every morning provided by his parents which included homemade jams, fresh honey and the best seeded dark breadrolls ever! The rest of the month was taken up with organising myself with job applications and interviews (I have been trying for months to leave this job of mine) and cat-sitting for my manager from hell. That was definitely something I am NOT going to do again. Cats are nice in theory, but in a small confined spinster flat where the owner has hidden the key that unlocks the windows and doesn't have a catflap for the greater independence of the cat, (and lesser hassle of a potential cat-sitter), it was an interesting month. Today I can finally breathe a sigh of relief because I found a wedding present, card, bag and outfit for the wedding I am attending in France, all in record time...and I am all packed for my flight tomorrow morning. Go me!

In the midst of all this, I seriously didn't think I could even hope to have the time to spare to make chocolate eclairs. The thought of attempting to make crispy, air-filled, golden brown choux pastry filled me with especial dread! However, I had my new piping bag which would get me through! I made them on Saturday 23rd, dividing my time between assembling the eclairs and making brunch for my family who was so cruelly barred from the kitchen so I could complete my baking.

The finished product!!

The recipe is below. I halved the choux recipe and played around with the pastry cream, using a different recipe found on and modified it a little. The pastry cream unfortunately came out more custard like: thick and creamy. I used sugar sparingly so it wasn't overly sweet either. To the cream I added home-made fresh blackberry jam (thanks Mr T's mom!), which resulted it a delightfully vibrant purple pastry cream for the centre of what were basically giant profiteroles (which I had such fun piping with my new bag!). I pretty much stuck to the chocolate glaze recipe, zapping the chocolate with a little butter and lots of cream in the microwave. This sounds great in theory, quick and easy, but I always always have seized chocolate on my hands. Luckily I find beating the hell out of it forces the oil and chocolate to combine again and form a very silky sauce. A final dusting of castor sugar on top counter-balanced the tang of the blackberries and the piquant taste of the bittersweet chocolate.

Problems I had with the recipe itself were confined to the choux pastry. It came together really well and I made it very easily. The only problem was after following the strict baking instructions (and having a bowl of hot water underneath), I found once they had cooled that they were underdone which gave them the eggy taste that many of the DBs complained about. I stuck them in for another few minutes with the oven door open and that did the trick. They were puffy and light, some were almost completely hollow inside. The pastry cream went down well even though it was thick. I didn't mix up enough of the blackberry-spiked cream so some of the eclairs were under-filled but there were no complaints. On the plus side, I tried my hand at more pleasantly staged photos of the finished product which you can see below. I think I have learnt something!

Roll on next month because it's my brother's 21st and a spot of baking will go down well for a family party!

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Eclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

Cream Puff Dough
• 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

I halved this recipe with the following measures: 63ml of liquid ingredients-57g of butter-70g flour-2 eggs-salt &sugar to taste.

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

3) 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.

4) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your hand-mixer 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.

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

6) 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.

7) 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) 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
Recipe from Epicurious (and modified)

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 1 egg
• 2 egg yolks
• Raw cane granulated sugar to taste (3 tablespoons I used)
• Vanilla essence/pod (optional)

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla 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) Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil and it thickens.

4) Strain it before use, it will be thick. I believe I might have put too much cornstarch. I will be thinning it with milk when I reheat it later this week and add some more vanilla essence to make it more like custard.

1) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

2) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(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 (maybe this is why my mixture seized, some already made chocolate sauce could have helped to ease the seize)

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) 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
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(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.

Assembling the éclairs:

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.