This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by hosted by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey? and Tony of Tony Tahhan. I've been pretty tired and stressed this month from our move and hadn't even looked at what this month's challenge until about a week and a half ago. I had been contemplating forgoing the challenge to give myself a bit of a break. As soon as I saw what the challenge was, however, I knew there was no way I could skip it. The challenge was a Pierre Hermé recipe from a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan: Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé for chocolate éclairs. If you are not familiar with Monsieur Hermé, he is one of the best, if not the best, French pastry chef.
Chocolate éclairs. Those two little words send me into a fit of nostalgia that puts me back eight years to when I was living and studying in Paris. If I close my eyes and really concentrate I can feel the uneven cobblestones of the street under my feet near my school in Le Marais, I can feel the weight of my books in my bag on my shoulder, and I can smell the intoxicating smells coming from the corner bakery. I've always loved food, but my true love affair with food really took off during that time. I visited many food establishments and always tried something different, not wanting to take my time there for granted. One thing I hadn't tried was an éclair as I had never been particularly impressed with éclairs in the US. As my time in France was coming to a close, my family came out to visit me and do some travelling.
While in Paris I took them to visit Les Catacombes. I remember surfacing after our adventures underground and being hungry. We were walking to the nearest métro station and happened to pass a pâtisserie that had some of the most beautiful chocolate éclairs I've ever seen on display. My dad bought a couple for us to share to hold us over until we could get lunch somewhere. I remember very distinctly how incredible that first bite was, how the rich vanilla pastry cream oozed deliciously into my mouth as I bit into the pâte à choux, and how well the chocolate glaze complimented the other parts of the pastry. That bite forever changed my opinion of éclairs. I've since been back with Mr. Fuji several times (the last time was almost four years ago, *sniff*), and made a point of eating one of my beloved éclairs.
Despite my change of heart, I have never made éclairs and was eager to try. They are not particularly intimidating, consisting of 3 parts: a pâte à choux (aka, choux pastry or cream puff dough), a pastry cream for the filling, and a chocolate glaze. I chose to make the éclairs just as the recipe is written, rather than make any flavor changes. I mean c'mon, a rich chocolate pastry cream and chocolate glaze that uses almost a pound of chocolate in total? That is my version of heaven.
I made the pastry cream first, which took me the longest. I will definitely be making this again, as it was sinfully good. I could have hidden in a corner somewhere with a spoon and gotten fat and happy off of eating the whole bowl of pastry cream by myself–it was that good.
I then made the pâte à choux and chocolate glaze.
Both worked up easily and soon I was assembling éclairs. This is a simple process. First you gently slice an éclair horizontally. Next you spread the top half of the éclair with the glaze, and fill the bottom with pastry cream. Then you put the glazed top onto the pastry cream and gently wriggle the two halves together to settle them.
Finally, you eat your masterpiece!
You may be asking, were they worth it? Yes, they were worth it. Were they as good as the ones in France? Maybe. These were incredibly good, but I'm no professional, and there's something very satisfying about walking into a pâtisserie and walking out two minutes later with a perfectly made éclair ready to be eaten. These were good enough though that they've put me into a "French mood" that I can't quite shake as I continue to meander through memories of my time spent in La Belle France. Merci Monsieur Hermé for sending me a bit of France.
For the recipe, visit Meetak. If you are interested in how the other Daring Bakers fared this month, check out the blogroll.