This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK. The challenge was to create éclairs using chocolate in either the pastry cream or glaze. I felt like using some orange flavoring in this and made orange and vanilla filled éclairs (sort of like creamsicles), topped with bittersweet chocolate glaze.
The recipe takes a bit of work and time, but it's great to do if you have a weekend where you just feel like relaxing in the kitchen and making something different. You can easily mess around with different creams and glazes, making any sort of flavor combination you want.
Pâte à choux:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375ºF. In a medium sized pot over high heat, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil. Once a rolling boil is obtained, reduce heat to medium and add all the flour at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes, or until dry (a thin film will remain on the bottom of the pot - that's what you're looking for). Move to a stand mixer with paddle attachment and stir on medium-low speed. Add eggs one at a time, waiting for each egg to fully incorporate before adding the next. The choux should now be shiny and ribbony. While still warm, place into piping bag (I removed all tips to get a thick diameter, but you could use any round tips about 1 inch in diameter), and shape the éclairs onto parchment paper placed over a baking sheet. At this point the éclairs can be frozen until ready to use, or place directly into the oven. After 7 minutes have passed, open the door just a crack and wedge your wooden spoon's handle in to keep it ajar. Keep heating it for an additional 5 minutes, then quickly turn the baking sheet front to back. Bake 8 more minutes or until golden brown and firm.
1 cup whole milk
Juice of half a large orange
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
Food coloring (optional)
In a small heavy pot over medium heat, combine milk, juice, and sugar. Heat until lightly steaming. Temper in the egg yolks, and then add the cornstarch. Turn heat up to high and whisk vigorously until thickened. Move pot into a bowl containing ice water to stop the cooking - continue whisking vigorously to keep the cream smooth. When cooled to about 140ºF, remove pot from ice bath and add butter one piece at a time, waiting until the previous piece is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add food coloring until a nice orange color is obtained. Wrap with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, combine the ingredients and mix over medium-high speed until whipped cream forms. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.
4 1/2 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate (like Valrhona), chopped finely
1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
Combine all ingredients in a small heavy pot over medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until boil is reached. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until thickened, 10-15 minutes or until nappe.
Place the éclairs onto a cooling rack, and set an empty one next to it. Cut each of the éclairs in half, leaving the bottom where it is and transferring the top to the corresponding spot on the next rack - this helps keep track of which top goes to the corresponding bottom. Remove creams from refrigerator and pipe onto the bottom halves of each éclair, half orange and half vanilla. Dip the tops into the chocolate glaze, and place on top of the matching éclair bottom. Allow the glaze to set, about 5 minutes, before serving. Yields about 18 éclairs, more or less depending on the size.
As mentioned before, the choux can be frozen ahead of time, so long as the éclair shapes are already made. Take out of the freezer and place directly into the preheated oven, and just add a couple minutes to the baking time (before rotating). The creams can also be kept in the refrigerator for a few days, so this recipe can be spaced out over the course of a week or so if you don't have enough time to do it all at once. The glaze, however, needs to be made right before the tops are dipped into it to ensure a nice shine.