Daring Bakers Challenge - Gluten Free Chocolate Eclairs

I was so excited to see that this month's challenge was chocolate eclairs.  Eclairs are one of my favorite desserts, and I've made the glutinous version many times.  It has been almost 3 years since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and started a gluten free diet and it was well past time for me to make a gluten free version of this delectable treat.  The recipe we used comes from the book Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme.  The pate a choux recipe was easily made gluten free by substituting the flour with a gluten free flour mix and adding 1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum.  The pastry puffed up nicely.  The thing that really set these eclairs apart was the chocolate pastry cream.  I usually fill my eclairs with vanilla pastry cream and was anxious to see how they'd taste with chocolate filling.  I was not disappointed.  The chocolate pastry cream was silky smooth and delicious.  I used a combination of Ghiradelli milk and dark chocolate (my husband doesn't care for bittersweet chocolate) I also reduced the sugar by 1/3 since I was using sweeter chocolate.  The flavor is divine!  These little morsels of heaven reminded us of the chocolate pastry "religiouse" that we had in Paris.  I think a dollop of whipped cream on top will make these perfection!

Here's the recipe:
Pate a Choux (gluten free)
(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)gluten free flour mix plus 1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum • 5 large eggs, at room temperature

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

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 wo
oden 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
hand-mixer 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 or cream puffs.

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees 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.

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 Velrhona 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 heavybottomed 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 h
eat).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 icewater 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 icewater bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the icewater bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is n
ow ready to use or store in the fridge.

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

 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.

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 tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.
Top with your favorite chocolate glaze if desired.

Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

Our garden is bursting with tomatoes and we so love it! I spent the morning making freezer spaghetti sauce from a recipe found in the slow cooker cookbook Fix it and Forget it. My slow cooker was filled to overflowing, and I ended up with several bottles of spaghetti sauce to stock my freezer for the winter. As is, this recipe serves about 6. I usually triple or 4 times the recipe so that I have a lot to freeze.

Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds fresh tomatoes peeled and chopped
6 oz can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons better than bouillon beef base
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker except for the cornstarch and water. Cover and cook on low 10 hours or high 5 hours. Remove bay leaf. Combine cornstarch and water. Stir into sauce. Cover and cook on high until thick and bubbly (about 25 minutes).

This sauce freezes well. Thaw and reheat over stove or in microwave. Add browned hamburger, veggies, frozen meatballs (Aidell's sun-dried tomato meatballs are gluten free but always check package before buying.) or anything you like and serve over pasta.

Fresh Tomato Risotto

This is one of our favorite ways to use the tomatoes from our garden.  It's a recipe taken from the cookbook Cucina Rustica and is naturally gluten free.  While risotto is a relatively easy dish to make, it is time intensive.  This usually takes me an hour to make start to finish.  The original recipe calls for wine, but since we don't drink alcohol I use additional broth instead. I hope your family enjoys it as much as ours!

Fresh Tomato Risotto
  • 6 cups chicken brothtablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 8 medium tomatoes - peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat the chicken broth in a medium size pot or saucepan until it's very hot. Turn off the heat but keep a lid over the broth so that it stays hot.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil in a heave 2 quart saucepan. Add the onion and cook over low heat until it is tender.  Add the garlic and when it starts to smell fragrant (about 1 minute) add the tomatoes.  Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes break down and form a sauce.  Add the rice, turn the heat to low, and cook slowly until all the tomato sauce is absorbed.
  3. Begin to add the hot chicken broth one ladleful (about 1/2 cup) at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next ladleful. Once you've added about half of the broth, add salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking risotto adding one ladleful of chicken stock at a time letting the liquid absorb before adding more. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender but still slightly chewy.
  4.  Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, and the basil. Stir vigorously until all the butter and cheese are absorbed.  Serve immediately.

Dutch Oven Blueberry Cobbler

We went blueberry picking a couple of weeks ago at Tammen Farms just south of Joliet, IL.  When compared with the price of blueberries in the store, you can't beat putting forth the effort to pick your own and paying only $1.75 per pound.  We picked 17 pounds in about 3 hours and have been enjoying the fruits of our labors ever since.  

When I  was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005 I pretty much gave up the idea of eating dutch oven cooking.  For one thing, our dutch oven was contaminated with gluten and since we don't use it very much I didn't think it warranted buying one that we could designate "gluten free".  Secondly, dutch oven cooking is laden with glutinous shortcuts (cake mixes, cream soups, refrigerator biscuits, etc...)  It wasn't worth the effort - until we picked the blueberries.

I knew that many of these blueberries were meant to be baked into a good old fashioned cobbler and I wasn't about to deny them (or me) their mouthwatering and delicious destiny! We came across a cobbler recipe that didn't involve the use of a cake mix.  From there it was a cinch to change.  After triple lining the dutch oven with foil we were all set.  I hope you love it as much as we do!

Dutch Oven Blueberry Cobbler
1/2 stick butter
cake batter:
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups gluten free four
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
Blueberry Topping:
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoons cinnamon plus more to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup water

Pouring in the cake batter

Adding the blueberry topping

Served up with some homemade raspberry ice cream. YUM!

As an additional note, I've shared this with some friends who wanted to make this in the oven.  I had them use a 9x13 cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  It turned out great!