Éclairs. C'est du gâteau.

Gather 'round my foodie friends. What you're about to see, is the result of my first Daring Bakers Challenge. Or, the day I broke all the rules . . . by following them.

Let me splain somthin to joo. You see, I'm one of those people, who'll shamelessly tinker with a recipe, until it is nothing like the original.
Well, today, I kicked my alter ego in the as I was saying, I decided to follow the rules.

I have (successfully) made éclairs before, but, here was a recipe by a favorite, world-renowned chef, Pierre Hermé. Whose books are neatly displayed on a shrine I built, just for him. So, of course I followed his recipe to the letter.

I began by preparing the pastry dough. From the moment I added the fifth egg called for in the recipe, I knew I was in deep merde. Au secours!
The dough turned from a viscous pudding-like consistency to thin pancake batter. Pourquoi Pierre!?

Being a glutton for punishment, I didn't toss out the runny mixture. I managed to pipe it and bake it. No. I won't repeat what I said the moment my choux frisbees came out of the oven. Instead, I'll let my Bad Dawg handle this one. Take it away pup . . .

Time to pick up the pieces of my broken ego, and prepare another batch of dough. This time, adding 4 eggs instead of 5. Et voilà! It looked and handled perfectly.

The rest of this challenge went without a hitch. But if, like me, you're a Pierre groupie, and want to follow the rules with his recipe, then make sure to trust your eye, or both eyes, if you wish, and pay close attention to the dough while in its mixing stage, and stop adding eggs the moment the dough takes on a thick, creamy consistency.

Also, if you want to make your life easier, get yourself a #230 pastry tube to fill all the Eclairs, or Cream Puffs you'll be making with this dough.

Btw, in case you were wondering, that's my husband's hand being modeled, not mine; my hands are small and delicate, unlike my mouth.

Well, quit ogling this visual confection, and try Pierre Hermé's recipe, a chef I still love, even if I'm out $9.37.

I'm posting the recipe exactly as it was presented by the DBs. And while the recipe may seem painfully-long, the process itself is simple; it will go especially quick if the pastry cream and chocolate glaze are both made in advance.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375°F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze (recipe below) should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wiggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

A big Thank You goes to Daring Bakers' hosts, Meeta and Tony


The Topnotch Tomato and Those Loco Spaniards

And to all Spaniard friends out there, please don't post any angry comments. I'll save you the trouble by reiterating that yours truly is (half) Spaniard, as well as irremediably loca en la cabeza. Olé.

You've all heard of La Tomatina, haven't you? The annual tomato fight in Valencia, Spain. Dios mío! What a waste of food that is. Don't get me wrong, I would love to find myself right in the middle of a 'mater melee, except I'd be the one holding up a big-ass catcher's mitt, rescuing every tomato being torpedoed my way. She runs, she catches. Crowd goes wild!

Yes, perhaps I was shaken a lot as a child. But few fruits are as tantalizing to me as freshly picked tomatoes.

And you know what I'd do with my tomato haul, aside from tomato sandwiches and pizza Margherita? Why, a Tomato Tart, of course.

The following has been a long-time favorite, and one which may very well become a favorite of yours.
Btw, I have (successfully) made this using both, a 9-inch round tart pan, as well as in a 14-inch rectangular tart pan.

Tomato Tart

This makes two 9-inch tart shells.

2½ cups AP flour
3 tablespoons semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons [1½ sticks] cold, unsalted butter
3 tablespoons cold solid shortening
Ice water

Preheat oven to 400°F. Put the flours and salt in food processor. Pulse a couple of times, just enough to integrate the ingredients.
Add the butter and shortening all at once and pulse until the mixture looks like moist crumbs and no chunks of butter or shortening remain.
Sprinkle ice water over the surface of the dough. Repeat with 3 more tablespoonsful. Pulse to just bring the dough together. The dough should be past crumbly, but holding together. Cut the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Press each half to form a disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out. Then roll out one disk to ¼" thick. Fit into your 9-inch tart pan, and chill 30 minutes.
Dock the bottom of the tart. Line it with parchment or foil, and weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans. Place tart shell on center rack in the oven and bake 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights from the pan. Return it to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes or until the tart is a light-golden brown. Remove from the oven and set on wire rack to cool.


12-15 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into ¼"-thick rounds *
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard **
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
2 large eggs
¼ cup light cream
1 teaspoon salt
A few turns of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Put the tomato slices in a colander and place in the sink. Let them sit for 15-20 minutes to drain off any excess liquid.
Spread the mustard evenly over the tart shell. Sprinkle the cheese over the mustard.
Working from the outside in, lay the drained tomato slices in overlapping, concentric circles, covering the crust completely.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, whisk in the cream, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Pour this custard evenly over the tomatoes until it comes to about ¼ inch from the top edge of the crust. Bake for 1 hour, to 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the custard is set.
Adapted from the book Once Upon a Tart.

* I've found 8 plum tomatoes sufficient enough to fill a 9-inch tomato tart. You may need more or less, depending on the size tomato you use.
** I sometimes spread Pesto instead of Dijon mustard on the bottom of the tart.