Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eclairs in August

August was an especially hectic (but fun) month for us. With all of the birthday parties, camping trips, barbecues and day trips to amusement parks, I never really found the perfect time to make this month's challenge. And it wasn't for the lack of a good recipe - Pierre Herme and chocolate is the ultimate combination. Thanks to Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey? and Tony of Tony Tahhan, August's DB challenge was Pierre Herme's chocolate eclair recipe.

But with the deadline looming and not wanting to miss my first challenge in almost a year, I bit the bullet and decided to make the eclairs this past Thursday and Friday. With a birthday party to host at the same time and packing for the last camping trip of the summer on Saturday, let's just say that I had a few early (really early) mornings before work making all the things that I needed to get done. Luckily the eclairs turned out to be the easiest part of the equation. (Don't even get me started on the birthday cake that started out as a princess cake but ended up a crown. Not my finest baking moment but luckily the preschool crowd isn't judgmental - they love anything pink and sparkley and can use their imaginations to see a crown where the rest of us see a lumpy mess of a cake!!)

I started with the pastry cream and other than using quite a few dishes and utensils during the process, the cream was easy to make and tasted fantastic. It went into the fridge while I worked on the choux pastry (and cleaned up the mess!) I have made choux pastry many times before in baking class and this recipe was pretty much the same that I was used to. I did love a tip found on the DB private website of piping long rows of the choux, freezing them then cutting to the size you want. Made things very easy. I had read how many people found that their eclairs fell after baking. So I followed the advice and cooled them slowly after baking by keeping the oven door open. They came out great. I did find, though, that sitting overnight made them a little soft so I reheated them in the morning in the oven to puff them back up.

The morning of the party turned out to be more hectic than expected so I took advantage of homemade caramel that I had in the fridge rather than making a chocolate glaze. I covered the top with the caramel and swirled in a little chocolate that I also had around. I quickly got my very good and understanding friend Shelly to pull out her camera and take some pics before they were in the fridge ready for the party later. They were a big hit and I must say that the chocolate pastry cream was fantastic. Definitely a filling that I would use again. Can't wait to see what September brings!