The time has come again to post the fruits of the loins that are my monthly challenge. No, this is not a euphemism for menstruation! It’s the August Daring Bakers Challenge! The challenge this month? Being challenged! Because our instruction was to make chocolate eclairs. Um…that’s not very hard. But lo! There was a lifting of restrictions that thickened the plot. We could deviate from the recipe as much as we liked, provided that it was an eclair that, somehow, incorporated chocolate. Like children left at home with a weak-willed babysitter, or prisoners left unsupervised in the exercise block while the guard left briefly to sexually harass the prison nurse, we did not know what to do with this level of freedom.
In last month’s challenge, we had to break fundamental laws of physics to assemble a cake so complicated that government officials declared a brief state of emergency due to the culinary brain-drain that had to take place to complete the recipe as written. In this month’s challenge we were given carte blanche to come up with whatever our little hearts desired.
Pate a choux is a cooked dough that consists of butter, eggs, and flour. It’s a somewhat disturbing shade of yellow, and after you stir the flour in, it just kind of balls up into a wad of sticky crap. But then it gets put in a pastry bag and piped into long, thick tubes (dough-wieners) on a cookie sheet. The key is to bake them at a high temperature until they just start to brown, then turn down the heat to a gentle warm for the rest of the cooking time. They get left on the low heat until they dry out, which is typically within 5 or 10 minutes of NEVER. Honestly, they hang on to their internal moisture pretty tenaciously. And I don’t have that kind of time, so I did very high heat until golden, then low for 20 minutes until I had to leave for kickboxing class, then I turned the oven off and left them in, hoping the slow heat would sufficiently dessicate them to the point that I could fill them with something highly caloric.
. I made a batch of pastry cream, which tastes like rich, hot vanilla pudding, but is the color of liposucted fat. I added in a liberal plop of almond paste and stirred it up, making a pastry cream that faintly resembled the flavor of marzipan, but was way more subtle and delicious. It is a wonder of the modern world that I did not eat 7/8 of the cream, then use a pastry brush to distribute the other 1/8 over my naked body. That’s how good it was.
In a half-hearted attempt at staying within the blurred constraints of the challenge, I dipped the tops in a Callebaut dark chocolate ganache. They were tasty in the way that you know they contain the quantity of calories normally found in the cooler of a butter factory, but you would eat a dozen of them guiltlessly on the grounds that you may not get another chance. So I gave them to the doctors, and they ate them all with rave reviews. Those guys will eat ANYTHING though, so I’m relying on my own taste-test to determine their awesomenitude.
Also, I have never been able to make a ganache that hardens into a shell. What is wrong with me? Diagnoses are welcome.