Eclairs! Is there anyone who doesn’t love a good eclair? Given the choice in a bakery I will more often than not choose eclairs over other pastries. They bring a little of everything to the party. Love them as I do, I was very excited to learn our August challenge was to make eclairs.
I’ve done cream puffs before with varying end results. Sometimes they puff, sometimes not so much. Since I love both cream puffs and eclairs, I was really hoping to master pate a choux once and for all.
The recipe provided gave both a chocolate pastry cream and a chocolate glaze. One of the two elements needed to remain chocolate, but we were free to experiment with the other. This was difficult. I love the standard eclair with vanilla pastry cream and chocolate, but the chocolate pastry cream also sounded really good. But I wanted to push my boundaries a bit so I decided to do three pastry creams. I made a vanilla and then flavored one third with coffee, one third with hazelnut praline paste (leftover from last month) and left one third vanilla. In the end, the hazelnut praline was definitely the winner. Also, I will definitely use this pastry cream recipe again. It had only 3T of corn starch in it instead of the 4T my normal recipe has and I liked the consistency much better. Winner!
I should probably state here that my eclairs didn’t rise. Why? We’ll examine that.
On to the dough. I think my dough came together rather well, but other Daring Bakers noted that the consistency of the dough made a difference in how well they rose.
I piped them out using a disposable pastry bag. Was my piping an issue? I think it may have been. I felt like I piped them “flat” instead of giving them a little fluff.
As you can see, not many rose. I read many a comment on this issue. In the past I’ve thought that opening the oven door was an issue on how well my cream puffs rose, but this recipe specifically called for opening the oven door partyway through the baking so that can’t be it. Some people put a dish of water in the bottom of the oven, which is a trick I would like to try. Others let them cool in the oven which is also something I would try next time.
I had committed to bringing these to a picnic so I had to find a way to rescue them. I thought if I used a sharp knife I could cut them in half still, but many had pockets of air on the bottom so it wasn’t doable. Instead I declared half of them bottoms and half tops and went with it. It worked as well as it could. Some were piped with only one pastry cream, others were duos.
The end result was quite lovely! The chocolate glaze held up well and the eclairs tasted very good.