Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Harnessing Pate a Choux


I would not be lying if I said that it has been a good seven years since I have obsessed over making the perfect eclair. It began when I first worked for Thomas Keller, who has an affinity for the pastry in question. I would have to add croissants and chocolate chunk cookies to that list, items which I also spent many nights pondering how to master them and subdue them. Croissant, done. Chocolate chunk, done. Pate a choux? Now, finally, maybe. You may think, what is the big deal? If you have seen the eclairs from Fauchon or Christophe Michalak, you will understand why they are a big deal. When you see the monstrosities you can buy at most pastry shops, giant blobs of soggy pastry filled with chunky cream and a coating of sad glaze, you will perhaps appreciate what it takes to make them the complete opposite of that. Crappy choux is easy. Perfect choux is not. It's a big deal to make something that doesn't want to look even, look even.

Every two or three months, sometimes up to six, I would re-embark on this grail-like quest. Each time a disappointment. A new idea to test out, that would end in a miserable failure.

This new piece though, is the result of adding all of those ideas I have had to make choux work, and I think it is almost there.





The glazing needs some work, but that is not even a matter of choux, it's just fondant glaze, and that will be a smaller Everest to climb.


Hooray for evenly shaped choux.




16 comments:

  1. I was shown a technique for making uniform choux by baking them at 180C instead of 220C. They're a bit thick though... What do you think?

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  2. It looks beautiful evenly shaped nice colour and very appealing. In your quest for the perfect eclair what were some of the factors you found most important to pay attention too?

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  3. All of them. Mixing the choux, piping, baking, you name it. But the most important would be the bake.

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  4. Raymond: it may work, the only concern if it will be enough heat to help expand the choux evenly, that necessary oven spring.

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  5. I agree, Francisco about not enough heat - you'd end up with a denser, thicker crusted pastry. I, too, have obsessed over pate a choux. It is such an amazing batter. Versatile.

    I believe that a well made éclair is a work of art and a labor of love. Few people understand that there exists a level of perfection to be attained in a mere éclair. First, it must be fresh. After a few hours of refrigeration, it begins to die. After a day, it is best not served. I cringe when I see displays of once-beautiful éclairs in the cases of coffee-houses after days of sitting. Condensation beading upon the dull chocolate glaze that, when fresh, gleamed with the reflection of light. The filling, once fluffy-smooth, oozes water as syneresis takes place. The pastry, having lost its crispness, is now soggy to the touch.

    An éclair, in its perfect state, must be consumed between one and four hours after it has been assembled. Even at four hours, it will have started to deteriorate.

    Chef - your eclair is lovely. I want one right now!

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  6. the shape is nice...soemtimes the more simple it looks the more complex within it ...for another example . macaron;-)...but your eclair seems great

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  7. Chef, I don't know if you have Michalaks book but i believe he freezes his shapes after piping then bakes, etc.

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  8. My hero Bo Friberg mentions the freeze/bake method....

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  9. I tried the freezing idea with macarons that Ted mentioned above last night but with macaron batter (Italian medium peak instead of stiff French). I rolled them into logs and baked. Looks almost identical to your éclair, color permitting. Also, I found that delaying airflow for two minutes in a convection oven at 450˚F then dropping to 335˚, and venting for 10 minutes comes close to your result.

    And, I assume your final recipe will not be available in any upcoming book?

    -Benrie

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  10. Chef this eclair looks absolutely amazing. I have 2 questions: 1)Were they baked free form or in a mold? and 2)Could you post a picture of a filled eclair cut in half so we may see the inside?
    Again, an amazing work of art.

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  11. Thanks. Not I did not use a mold, I wish it were that easy. I will see about posting a picture of an eclair cut in half, but I cannot make any promises.

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  12. I see no recipe..so i am curious? What type of flour?..and do you like milk, h20 , both?...a soft choux?, or a crisp choux. I would say by your pic a crisp one?.. and your shell is darker than most i have seen....It is very pretty :)

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  13. Hello everyone .... It uses over the pate choux dough before baking a sweet, very similar to Pâte sablée. So bake eclair on a regular and uniform and stays with that color that is displayed there.

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  14. "top secret"? I thought you were a instructor?

    are you using methylsellulose?

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