Well, another month has come and gone, which can only mean, you guessed it, that it is time for the Daring Bakers Challenge for August to be revealed. Just about now, the blogosphere is being populated with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of photos featuring this month’s culinary creation, each bearing the unique personal stamp of the Daring Baker who took on this sugar-coated task.
The August, 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge comes to us courtesy of Meeta, author of What’s For Lunch, Honey? Meeta hails from Germany, a country that definitely knows its pastries, so it should come as no surprise that she made a fantastic selection–eclairs. This particular version of eclairs is from Pierre Herme’s cookbook, Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. As with every month, there were some portions of the recipe that we were asked to follow to the letter, while we were allowed to let our creative minds run wild with others. I guess that my mind only felt like going for a little jog, because while I changed the recipe a little bit, I don’t know how incredibly innovative my choices were (hey, it’s been a tiring week.)
The rules for this challenge stated that we should keep the choux pastries the same as directed in the recipe. Choux pastry is the light pastry dough that is used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, and eclairs. It rises due to the moisture content, which creates steam throughout the baking process, puffing out the pastry. We were allowed to change either the glaze or the pastry cream filling, which in the original recipe are both flavored with bittersweet chocolate. I chose to make a raspberry-Chambord pastry cream, using strained raspberry puree and a few tablespoons of Chambord liqueur in place of the chocolate.
Although I thought that this was a decent eclair recipe, I admit that I prefer Gale Gand’s recipe from the Food Network website, which is the one that I have used multiple times in the past. Something was just "off" with the results. The pastries did not puff up as they usually do, and the interior was not dry, as it should be. The filling and the glaze both turned out beautifully, so maybe a combination of these two recipes is the way to go! Regardless, I had a fun time with this challenge–great job, Meeta! If you too would like to attempt this recipe, head on over to Meeta’s blog, where she has it posted in its entirety. Here are some extra eclair-making tips:
- One nice thing about eclairs is that the various components can be prepared in advance, and then the pastries can be assembled just prior to serving. The pastry cream can be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. The glaze can also be stored in the refrigerator and then brought to room temperature when ready to use. The pastry shells can be stored in a cool, dry place for several hours prior to filling.
- When making the choux pastry dough, I chose to mix the eggs in by hand. I have always used this method for profiteroles, gougeres, eclairs, etc., and I find it to work just as well. It is definitely much easier to clean up afterward!
- Eclairs are a great dessert to serve in a miniature format. Just pipe 2-inch "fingers" of the choux dough as opposed to the 4 1/2-inch ones. Use various fillings and glazes to fit the them of your party (i.e. pink for a baby shower, pumpkin for Thanksgiving, etc.)
- If you do not have a pastry bag and round tip for piping the eclairs, then just snip the corner off of a zip-top plastic bag, fill it with the choux dough, and use this as a substitute. It works just as well!