26 August 2008

Daring bakers

Chocolate eclairs

Daring bakers time again, my first challenge last month, was extremely challenging and although delicious the finished cake was not as attractive as I would have liked. I was so looking forward to this months challenge but slightly apprehensive at the same time, however when I discovered what this months challenge was any apprehension I had melted away.

This months challenge was hosted by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK from 'whats for lunch honey?' - they choose Pierre Herme's Chocolate eclairs from 'Chocolate desserts' (Pierre Herme & Dorie Greenspan) I was so excited by this recipe choice, I love Pierre Herme's recipes and I adore chocolate eclairs.

The challenge consisted of three elements, pate a choux (choux pastry), chocolate pastry cream
and a chocolate glaze.

Modifications: The hosts stipulated that the choux pastry dough used must be the Pierre Herme recipe, however we could veer away from the filling and glaze recipes as long as one of the original chocolate elements remained. I chose to keep the original chocolate glaze but substituted the pastry cream filling for regular whipped cream - while I like pastry cream, for me a eclair needs whipped cream.

The choux pastry was relatively straight forward, bring milk, water, butter sugar and salt to a boil, add flour and stir vigorously until the dough comes together, stir a little longer so the dough can dry out a little.

In a mixer, add the eggs to the dough, the dough is ready when it is thick and shiny. While the dough is still warm it needs to be shaped, this is the fun part, using a 2cm plain tip nozzle pipe the dough onto baking sheets in 4 inch long eclair shapes.

I found the cooking instructions a little odd, Pierre's recipe instructed to bake the eclairs for 7 minutes, then slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the oven door to keep it ajar. After the eclairs have cooked for a total of 12 minutes the baking sheets need to be rotated from front to back then cooked for a further 8 minutes. They should emerge from the oven golden and firm.

I am not sure why the spoon is inserted in the door, maybe to moderate the heat, maybe to let out steam (although I was always told eclairs need steam) and I am not sure if it was completely necessary but I did as I was told. I did veer from the recipe at one point by slitting the eclairs with a sharp knife as they came out of the oven - Pierre's recipe did not stipulate this but if hot air is trapped inside a eclair it will go soggy and no one wants a soggy bun.

When the eclairs were cool I sliced them in half and lay the top half on a wire rack to be glazed. Pierre Herme's chocolate glaze is absolutely wonderful, I will use this again for other cakes, totally delicious and very simple too.

In a saucepan bring heavy cream to a boil, remove from the heat and add chopped chocolate. Stir in butter and Pierre's chocolate sauce (dark chocolate,water, double cream and sugar,boiled together in a small saucepan,then cooked gently until thickened). This makes the most delicious chocolate glaze.

I piped the chocolate glaze over the 'tops' of the eclairs, I found piping it gave me more control over where the glaze went and allowed a thick covering. Once the glaze had set I filled the bottoms with very softly whipped double cream and placed the lids on top.

This recipe was delicious and I really enjoyed this one, especially compared to the stress my first challenge caused last month. I will definitely makes these eclairs again.

Thank you to this months hosts, Tony Tahhan and MeetaK the recipe for these eclairs can be found on their blogs, don't forget to check out other Daring baker's challenges on the Daring bakers blogroll.

22 August 2008

Strawberry jam

Before I write anything I feel I must apologise, as I have failed to blog anything for a few weeks now, life just got in the way, in a wee spare moment I decided I had to use up the strawberries sitting in the fridge before they got wasted, jam seemed the obvious answer so I turned to the gorgeous James Martin. I love James' recipes and his passion for British food, and as a jam making novice I thought his recipe would be fail safe.

This recipe, found here , simply uses preserving sugar, lemon juice and strawberries. The jam making process was straight forward and it smelled absolutely wonderful, the only problem I had with it was it didn't set quite as thick as I would have liked it, I love a thick set jam, my foodie friends on a forum I frequent advised me to boil the jam back up for 10 minutes and it should set perfectly, I did this and also added a extra half a lemon of juice to it .
This worked perfectly, a lovely thick, chunky strawberry jam.
The kids and I decided this was the most delicious jam ever, they particularly liked getting whole strawberries in their jam on toast....who wouldn't.