This month totally got away from me. Earlier this week, someone at work made a comment about plans for Labor Day weekend, and my reaction was "What?! Wait, that's this weekend, isn't it?" This week was particularly challenging, since it was Brianna's first week of kindergarten. It was very apparent by Tuesday evening that they don't nap in kindergarten (it's all day). Ugh. There was lots of crying. Brianna crying, Gillian crying, me crying... But I'm sure it'll get better as we get more into our new routine. Of course, that'll be just in time for us to go to Pennsylvania for a week for my sister Kate's wedding. =) I think Brianna really is enjoying school, but it's a lot of change all at once (new teacher, missing her friends from daycare, having to get up earlier, etc.).
Long about Thursday, I was thinking that I was just going to end up passing on this month's Daring Bakers challenge. This month's selection is Chocolate Éclairs from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, chosen by Tony Tahhan and Meeta K. I should have started earlier in the month, but I had other baking to do and didn't really have a good occasion to make these for. I did actually make the chocolate sauce needed for the glaze last weekend, but that's as far as I got.
Last night, I started thinking. How hard could it be? I've made cream puffs before and the same dough is used for éclairs. I've made pastry cream, though not chocolate. The glaze shouldn't be a big deal. Half a recipe of everything wouldn't make too much. What the heck, I'll give it a try. Of course I was too tired to do any of it last night, after working all day.
So this morning, I got up around 7am (that's sleeping in, for me). Because my kiddos were so exhausted from the past week, they actually slept until almost 8am, which gave me some much-needed peace and quiet to tackle the mess that had piled up in the kitchen. Hard to use the stand mixer to make pâte à choux when you can't get to it... =) The dough was pretty straightforward. I piped out éclair shapes, but I think I overdid it, because I only got 6. That was my first mistake. I baked them as instructed, but after 20 minutes they didn't seem done. I left them in for another 5-6 minutes, then took them out. Mistake number 2. It quickly became apparent that they weren't done, as the tops sank. I thought that maybe I could salvage some, so I went on with making the pastry cream. I changed my mind after I caught Gillian grabbing one off the rack. She took one bite and spit it out. Part of me wanted to yell at her, since she shouldn't have been doing that to begin with. The rest of me was laughing, realizing that even my not-quite-2-year-old could figure out that these were no good.
So I made another batch. This time, I piped 11 of them (half the recipe, remember). I baked them for 10 minutes before propping the oven door open, then baked them for 30 minutes more. Much, much better!
The pastry cream was no problem, and it gave me a chance to use up some more of the chocolate in my pantry. The glaze was pretty easy, too. I did find it a bit odd that you have to make chocolate sauce as one of the ingredients in the glaze. The chocolate sauce itself was okay, but definitely not my favorite. We'll manage to use it up somehow, though. It makes pretty decent hot chocolate when mixed with hot milk (and a bit more sugar if it's for the kiddos).
The verdict? Pretty darn tasty. I usually pass on éclairs, since I'm not very fond of vanilla pastry cream. I much prefer the chocolate. It's yummy enough to just eat with a spoon. Everyone enjoyed the éclair that I put together for pictures--we each had a bite--and is looking forward to more for dessert. Be sure to check out the blogroll for lots of other scrumptious eclairs. You can find the recipe at Meeta's blog, here.