Sunday, May 18

Dark Chocolate Eclairs

Yesterday I was so sick & so tired revising about the history of bananas, oil and gutta percha gum, (yes, history degrees are more fun than you can believe), that I gave up early and I headed off for some lunch with the hockey girls. 
We sat in the bright sunshine, nattering about our dreaded deadlines and gushing over our desires to hit the sunny Terrace (bar) with multiples pitchers by our sides. I planned to take the afternoon off anyway for a well earned baking break and, of course, at the sheer mention of food the gals were all ears. I told them what I was planning on dishing up, they started laughing about my new nickname of 'cake-sec' (I'm newly on the hockey committee- woo!) and then something that one of the girls said to me struck a chord.

"Oh I wish I could just be born a good baker, I'm simply dreadful at it!"

Well. This I simply don't agree with. 
So here is a little well known known fact....Everyone screws up at baking. 
Yes, even Mary Berry.
It's damn annoying when it goes wrong. I feel like breaking down in tears and binning a badly turned out cake instead of putting it in front of my house mates...Oh the shame of it!! 
But, even though it's disheartening, that's just part of learning the skill and experience. The dreaded  term, 'practise makes perfect' is highly annoying and time consuming, but my gosh is it true. 

I pride my blog on the fact that the recipes on here should be simple, easy to follow and good for people of all skill bases to follow. I try a recipe, multiple times if needed and pop the instructions on here with the tweaks and tips that I found cleared it up a little.
And so today I decided to go outside my comfort zone. 





Chocolate éclairs. 
We've all seen them neatly lined up in an elegant French patisserie or simply bundled up in a cheap supermarket paper box, but have you ever considered making them? Probably not.
I've never made choux pastry before so this was a fresh insight for me too. 

To put this into perspective, the first batch was like sweet tasting Yorkshire puddings, the second batch were too small and the third batch I was happy with for a first attempt...(so to speak!)
So don't fret if a recipe goes to pot the first time, trouble shoot what went wrong and keep on learning and adapting until you are happy with the results.
That's the perks of baking, you can create something scrumptious and always put your own twist on it!


My choux pastry making skills definitely need some work over time, but here's my day's labour as a pastry novice. Dark Chocolate éclairs, piped full of fresh double cream and sprinkled with some crunchy pistachio nuts. 
They got a big thumbs up from the boys as they trekked in from the library and won me some serious brownie points!





Fancy giving it a go, pushing your baking boundaries and trying something new?
Well, here's what to do.....


To make your own Dark Chocolate Eclairs, you will need:

(For the choux pastry:)
- 60g salted butter
- 130ml water
- 80g plain flour
- 2 eggs

- Either double cream or if you are fancy a cheat's option, the spray cans of whipped cream work wonders too!

(For the ganache:)
- 100g dark chocolate
- 50g butter
-50ml cream or a big dollop of the squirty stuff!

Preheat your oven to 220C/180 and line two large baking trays with parchment.
Get all of your ingredients weighed out and ready to roll, (it's also a good idea to read the whole recipe first so you know what's lurking around the corner.)


Put the butter and the water in a saucepan on a medium heat until boiling and all the butter has melted.




Take the pan off of the heat and instantly tip in the flour.
Using a wooden spoon, beat the dough vigorously for about a minute. 


The dough should be resembling a ball, all be together and quite shiny.

Leave to cool completely for about 4-5 minutes.



Beat one egg in a separate bowl, add this into the saucepan and once again beat vigorously for about a minute.
Here is the tricky bit, the dough needs to be thick, shiny and have a good dropping consistency. 
This means that when you pick up a big ol' spoonful, it should drop off with a shake. It shouldn't be runny (this means there is too much egg and they won't hold their shape once piped into thick, slug like shapes.

So, add the second egg a little at a time, beating in between.
I ended up using only 1 3/4 eggs. If you need a little more, add a little more and vica versa.


Once the pastry is primed and ready, spoon into a piping bag. (Here's a cheat's secret that I might use all of the time. Instead of using the student funds on proper piping bags, use sandwich bags and cut off one of the corners; such a money saver and good sandwich storers too. Winning.)
Pipe into 10cm long lines, (don't worry if they are a bit wonky, this is just part of the charm!)

Turn the oven heat down to 200C/180 fan and slide into the oven on a high shelf for 25 minutes. 
Try not to oven the door at all if possible until they are crisp and golden brown.


Once the éclairs are out of the oven, use a sharp knife to punch three holes into their underside to cool down.

Once completely cool, whip up the double cream with an electric beater until thick. (I'm not going to lie, spray cream is the same price, a similar taste if you go for the full fat stuff and is much easier to fill... I made one batch with double cream and the other with squirty and I actually preferred the cheat's stuff!)


Using a sharp knife, slice open each éclair and pipe it full of fluffy cream. There is nothing worse than an empty éclair after all...


I made two batches of ganache, one as the recipe should be and the other the classic and cheat's option.

For the original choice, break up the dark chocolate into a heatproof mixing bowl, add the butter and melt on a low temperature in the microwave, stirring regularly in between timings to stop it from burning. Once the chocolate and the butter are melted together, add in the double cream and stir well to combine.



Fingers crossed you should have a thick, dark devilishly smooth ganache ready to smother all over your long cream filled fingers of pastry.
Bash up some pistachio nuts in a plastic bag with a rolling pin and sprinkle on top for that final little delight if you fancy it.

The other option makes the éclairs look more like those classic, milk chocolate and velvety shop bought variety. The 'standard' image so to speak.
For this, instead melt 100g of milk chocolate in the microwave along with the butter until molten.
Add a good squirt/pouring of cream and beat well until shiny and thick. Spoon onto the éclairs and there you have it, simples.


So, going out of the comfort zone is not a bad thing. You don't learn unless you try and believe it or not, all of those 'pro' bakers started on a simple Victoria sandwich too.
In the spirit of 'World Baking Day', yes that is TODAY, have a bake, see what you can come up with and most importantly, enjoy it! 

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6 comments

  1. Totally agree with you on the whole everyone can bake thing.. these look like a similar recipe to the one I used for Profiteroles which was surprisingly straight forward! It just requires a little bit more effort than your standard cupcake! Beeeeeautiful pictures as always!

    Imogen / imogenscribbles

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  2. I think this works pretty well for life advice too :)
    If at first you don't succeed, keep on at it until you're damn fricking awesome!!!!
    These look the bee's knees - you really at a domestic goddess through and through
    x x x
    {The Lobster & Me}

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  3. What a task! But they look really yummy - perfect in their imperfections! xxx

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  4. A wonderful treat! I can imagine how delicious they are!

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  5. JUST YES:) pretty pretty please save one for me for thursday:) haha xxxx

    http://www.katieskitchenjournal.com/

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  6. You have no idea how much of an éclair monster I am.. This recipe in my hands is VERY dangerous!

    These look amazing. I just had a mental image of them with freeze-dried raspberries on top!! MMMM

    Katie <3

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