Home-style hot chocolate: I need your tips

Now the weather is starting to warm up (earlier this year which will cut hot chocolate season short), I will feel less inclined to zip around every café I see for hot chocolate 😦 So, I thought this would be a good time of year (thinking of the cool spring nights) to ‘test drive’ some hot chocolate that can be made at home 🙂

So, what is your favourite hot chocolate to drink at home?

I have good supply of Mörk 85% Even Darker at home (the only place I have found that stock this in Hobart is Norman & Dann). Mörk also make 70% Original Dark, 65% Dark Milk & River Salt and 50% Junior Dark (I am pretty sure you can get all of these at Norman & Dann).

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Recently, I picked up some Coal River Farm dark hot chocolate and have started experimenting at home with this. I plan to try this with some ginger to hopefully achieve a nice ginger hot chocolate (once I get the balance right).

Coal River

So, rather than try out just these two so I can provide a comparison across taste and price ranges, send me some tips on which brands/styles of hot chocolate you make at home or want me to have a go at creating 🙂 I will happily share all (successful) recipes.

Clever Cristel of Cafe de Paris

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A few weeks ago, my friend Samantha’s sister, Cristel, set up a mini patisserie at the Glebe Market in Sydney, Cafe de Paris. I am very envious of Cristel. She is a smart cookie (or macaron perhaps…!), and makes amazing éclairs. And the macarons look good too.

There is only one thing wrong with Cristel, and that is she now lives in Sydney but really should move back to Hobart and open a patisserie. Goodness knows it is needed and there is definitely a gap in the market!

To prove how clever she is, I have posted some pictures of Cristel and her lovely French treats, which were taken at the Glebe market.

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Hayley the pâtissier…c’est possible?

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Who needs a local pâtisserie (which we don’t have), when I am around?! Last weekend I attempted for only the second time, to make éclairs. Armed with all the ingredients, a spare afternoon and a slightly unreliable oven, I set out to improve on my last effort which were slightly overdone and contained crème pâtissière which was a bit too thick. The first tray of éclairs into the oven were interesting shapes. It took a while to get used to using the piping bag again, but by the second tray, I had it down pat. Éclairs cooked, it was time to move onto the vanilla crème pâtissière and for wait for that to cool before I could squeeze it into the pastry. Waiting, waiting, waiting…and then it was ready 🙂

Once the cr̬me p̢tissi̬re was in and the ̩clairs were nicely puffed up with the filling, I made chocolate ganache to top them off. The 70% dark chocolate was a nice bitter accompaniment to the sweet filling Рand also a sticky mess!

Since I made these éclairs, and had spent most of the afternoon in and out of the kitchen, my thoughts on how good they were may be biased. But they were pretty good. The pastry was much lighter than my first attempt, the crème pâtissière was a good consistency and tasted great, and the chocolate helped balance out the sweetness. I actually went as far to claim to my sister that the pastry might have been better than Jean-Pascal’s…at which point she told me not to get too excited (I still think it was).

The only downfall was that I forgot to double the crème pâtissière recipe, so I ran out. I filled the good éclairs (batches 2 and 3) and left the others (batch 1) unfilled.

Since I am quite quick to critique other éclairs on this blog, I thought it only fair that I seek an independent review. I took three éclairs to work with me for three ‘testers’ to try. The feedback was good. Tester 1, Ben, claimed they were better than La Maison de L’Éclair in Sydney (thank you Ben), Toni said she could have eaten another one (thank you Toni), and Tegan provided me with a written review…so here is what she thought:

1. Looks proper. Good weight. Smells like chocolatey goodness!
2. First taste. Soft pastry with perfect choux. Even though it’s been refrigerated the chocolate is still melting onto fingers which is a good sign.
3. Two bites in. Deargodvanillabeancustardi’minheaven.
4. Three bites in: I am having trouble typing because my eyes are rolling back in my head from pure bliss.
5. Five bites in. It’s nearly over and I’m getting a little upset….
6. It’s finished. I’m coming to eat Ben’s.

Overall: Utterly delicious. The best part was that it wasn’t too sweet, the chocolate had a good level of bitterness which complimented to silky smooth custard perfectly. Even straight from the fridge it was very flavourful (I was too impatient to wait for it to warm up).

Well done Hayley! Consider me your future guinea pig for all treats!

Here is a photographic journey of my afternoon…

Step 1: Get all the bits ready
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Step 2: Stand back and marvel at all the odd sizes and vow to get better next time
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Step 3: Make crème pâtissière and hope it works
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Step 4: Get ganache on the go and wonder if this all took so long last time
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Step 5: Decide against waiting for ganache to set and bite into éclair. Consider career change…
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Winter is coming…

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…or so they say multiple times an episode in Game of Thrones! But it really is coming soon and I need to start getting ready so I am adequately prepared for both winter and hot chocolates. I found this ‘lovely’ jumper online…are there any knitters out there (hello, Karen!) who would like a project to take on? I cannot knit straight lines to save myself, but imagine how fantastic I would look in this?! Now, if it had a hood…

The éclair revolution: taking over one Tasmanian kitchen at a time

The éclair revolution continues, with my friend Deb (and her friend Vicki), recently hitting the kitchen to whip up their very own éclairs which they dubbed, ‘Éclair Rustique’! Sounds like it was a fun afternoon…check out the full breakdown on Deb’s blog Living Life Large

La Cuisine Paris share home cook pastry creations…including mine!

In the lead up to Bastille Day, La Cuisine have uploaded a number of their graduates home cooking snaps to their Facebook page. The éclairs I made a few weeks ago are included, alongside some very strong competition!

Here I was thinking my éclairs looked OK (of course with room for improvement), but compared to some of the other creations, they look a little drab. Macarons seem to be the most popular ‘re-create at home’ choice. I will stick with my éclairs.

Check out the La Cuisine Facebook page via the link below…it should open with my éclairs (as a baseline for all the other yummy treats)

La Cuisine Paris

Winner! First solo eclair attempt a success

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The scene was set.  Tension was building.  The ingredients were all ready to mingle.  Enter me.  Novice éclair chef with with so much hope and enthusiasm to make this a success.  Absolutely no chances were taken on this mission.  Ingredients were measured to the millilitre and gram, utensils and trays were prepared.  The KitchenAid (cheating a bit to save my already muscular arms!) was ready to purr into action.  And most importantly, the oven was preheated (it’s surprising how often I overlook this step!).

The National Éclair Day bake off began.  After some initial concern over the consistency of the choux in the mixer, it all of a sudden pulled itself together and formed into a beautiful golden ball.  Just like it was supposed to.  Then there was a dilemma of whether to add the fifth egg.  But I remembered my (2 hour not so intensive) training in Paris to do the claw test with the choux.  Scoop a little bit out with your finger (with the mixer off of course!) and the top should fall back slowly and form a ‘claw’.  That looked great so I knew the choux was good.

Then for the piping.  I did not want to make my éclairs too big in case I ended up with a tray full of éclairs stuck together.  Not ideal.  So I went for shorter, and somehow, fatter éclairs (maybe it was a sign?!).  I popped them into the oven and waited.  I was told in my cooking class that they should look browner than you think they need to be – well I certainly achieved that!  None were burnt, but all ovens vary, so I am thinking 3 minutes less in the future would be perfect. Éclairs were cooled and crème patissiere made.  Too easy.  And because it was so easy, it only made me wonder more about the craze with whipped cream.  Bizarre.

The ganache was the only hiccup of the day, with it requiring some time in the fridge to thicken slightly.  But it is so good!  The other tricky part (and I now realise I need to make more crème patissiere next time and get a longer piping attachment) was filling the éclairs.  Come hell or high water I was not cutting them in half for the ‘salad roll’ look, but with the help of previously disgraced sister, we got there.

Now for the important part – the taste test.  I can see areas for improvement (more crème patissiere and 3 minutes less cooking time).  But they are very good if I do say so myself. My fellow testers (sister and brother-in-law, so completely impartial) said they were ‘good’ but neither of them are big on words!  They did concur with me that I need more crème patissiere.  Noted. Now for me to inflict them on my colleagues in the office tomorrow…they will love them I hope!

The scene is set...

The scene is set…


In the raw!

In the raw!