Pate a choux revisited


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I’m overdue to host, having said I would hold the next luncheon for my group of friends in April and May. So I’m trying to get a menu together.

Thought something with pate a choux would be nice, so I thought I’d better test my recipe.

That test turned into 8! Pate a choux is beyond fickleo_O But I think I finally tamed the beast enough that I’ll be able to pull off both a savory Appetizer and a dessert using the pa appetizer and a dessert using the pate a choux.

I’m thinking of a salmon mousse or crab salad puff appetizer and a classic eclair for dessert.

Craquelin topped puff
11A1A154-1313-4ECD-9DE4-05E6B3FA6AC0.jpeg



75DEF1B8-5EA9-4A69-8B86-CDE0B44919FA.jpeg
 
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Ooh they look great! I've still never attempted to make choux pastry, I'm kinda in a catch-22 with it - it seems like a lot of effort to go to for just us, but I wouldn't want to attempt it before we've got people round in case it goes wrong :rolleyes:

Probably should just quick over thinking it and just have a go one day!
 
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Lol yes gotta keep the company out when we experiment! Although it seems complicated, The process is pretty fast. What’s frustrating is getting the right texture. That elusive crispy exterior and hollow center. Most recipes call for a combination of milk and water. The added fat in milk makes for a softer baked choux. I’m finding I prefer water. But I’m going to experiment with skim milk and water.
 
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Ah ok, that's interesting to know. I enjoy crisp, light choux pastry - probably because I view it as a vessel for the filling :D

Hope your experiements go well :)
 
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I’m overdue to host, having said I would hold the next luncheon for my group of friends in April and May. So I’m trying to get a menu together.

Thought something with pate a choux would be nice, so I thought I’d better test my recipe.

That test turned into 8! Pate a choux is beyond fickleo_O But I think I finally tamed the beast enough that I’ll be able to pull off both a savory Appetizer and a dessert using the pa appetizer and a dessert using the pate a choux.

I’m thinking of a salmon mousse or crab salad puff appetizer and a classic eclair for dessert.

Craquelin topped puff
View attachment 1650


View attachment 1651

Hi Norcal,
I'm a retired baker, they look great but one thing i noticed is they're only lightly baked.
Its safe to let them bake longer.
I'd skip the milk, its not needed.
Water, butter, flour and eggs.
Some bakeries like to make a softer shell, so they use veg oil instead of butter or marg.

Stuffing them with crab is a good idea for apps, in which case make swans .
Or... add 50% by volume grated gruyer to the choux paste, and use a small scoop to portion out.
Bake same as eclairs , split and fill. they're called gougere.
 
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I personally preferred all water, no milk since in my opinion, the point of pate a choux is the contrast of the crispy shell with the creamy filling. The use of vegetable oil for a softer shell is interesting though, I've never heard of that before. Dusting with powdered sugar is also very helpful for browning. Traditionally people say to brush with egg wash, but then you risk the egg dripping onto the pan, which would coagulate in the oven and inhibit the choux's rise.

I experimented with pate a choux a couple months back to try to get the perfect éclair shell - no cracks, even oblong shape, and hollow - and after almost a dozen batches I actually found the ratio of 150% water/egg and 75% butter to give me the best results. This is really less liquid than most recipes I've seen call for. Usually people also call for a variable amount of eggs added to get to the right consistency, but I had good results just cooking the panade to 170°F, then adding a constant amount of eggs (150% of the flour). The two tests I've seen most commonly used for when you have the right hydration are the inverted V when dipping a spatula into the paste, or a trough when running a finger through the paste with a peak of dough when it's lifted. My ratios give a bit drier paste that doesn't pass those tests as well, but I found that with higher hydration, the shells had more cracks.

Also the traditional method is to start with a high temperature get the pate a choux to rise, then lower it to cook them through thoroughly, but I had best results baking at a constant 350°F. Similarly with the hydration, I think (at least for my oven and ratios) that the higher temperatures cause too much rise in the choux, resulting in cracks.

I really want to make a couple more batches just to ensure that I can get my éclairs shell consistent, but I got pretty sick of eating and making éclairs. I froze most of the batches that I made, and I just managed to bake off and finish the last shells this past week! It's really interesting just how finicky choux paste is - I had to do so much experimenting with ratio of ingredients and temperatures to get the results I wanted.

An unanswered question I have is about the technique of having additional steam in the oven. Some people put water in a pan on the bottom rack to create steam, which is what leavens the pastry, so it supposedly gives the éclairs a higher rise. However, I also know that injecting steam in ovens is a technique when baking bread to delay the formation of a crust. I'm wondering, how does steam created outside of the pastries help leaven them? Also, from my experiments I actually cut down on factors that increased the rise of the shells (hydration/higher temperature) since they lead to more cracks, presumably from the pate a choux expanding too much and too quickly. But if steam also delays the formation of a crust, does it circumvent this issue, allowing the choux to expand more in the early stages of baking, while also preventing a crust from setting which would lead to cracks when the choux is still trying to expand?
 
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I would say the eggs play a big role in blowing up eclair shells.
I've made them with rice flour too and they came out perfect.
I only recall baking in convection, I worked with conventional ovens in florida but don't recall any difference,
either way we never used steam.
With convection its important to let them sit without the blower fan for 10 minutes, then crank the fan up.
I wouldn't bother dusting with powder sugar unless I wanted the pearl effect like lady fingers.
 
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I personally preferred all water, no milk since in my opinion, the point of pate a choux is the contrast of the crispy shell with the creamy filling. The use of vegetable oil for a softer shell is interesting though, I've never heard of that before. Dusting with powdered sugar is also very helpful for browning. Traditionally people say to brush with egg wash, but then you risk the egg dripping onto the pan, which would coagulate in the oven and inhibit the choux's rise.

I experimented with pate a choux a couple months back to try to get the perfect éclair shell - no cracks, even oblong shape, and hollow - and after almost a dozen batches I actually found the ratio of 150% water/egg and 75% butter to give me the best results. This is really less liquid than most recipes I've seen call for. Usually people also call for a variable amount of eggs added to get to the right consistency, but I had good results just cooking the panade to 170°F, then adding a constant amount of eggs (150% of the flour). The two tests I've seen most commonly used for when you have the right hydration are the inverted V when dipping a spatula into the paste, or a trough when running a finger through the paste with a peak of dough when it's lifted. My ratios give a bit drier paste that doesn't pass those tests as well, but I found that with higher hydration, the shells had more cracks.

Also the traditional method is to start with a high temperature get the pate a choux to rise, then lower it to cook them through thoroughly, but I had best results baking at a constant 350°F. Similarly with the hydration, I think (at least for my oven and ratios) that the higher temperatures cause too much rise in the choux, resulting in cracks.

I really want to make a couple more batches just to ensure that I can get my éclairs shell consistent, but I got pretty sick of eating and making éclairs. I froze most of the batches that I made, and I just managed to bake off and finish the last shells this past week! It's really interesting just how finicky choux paste is - I had to do so much experimenting with ratio of ingredients and temperatures to get the results I wanted.

An unanswered question I have is about the technique of having additional steam in the oven. Some people put water in a pan on the bottom rack to create steam, which is what leavens the pastry, so it supposedly gives the éclairs a higher rise. However, I also know that injecting steam in ovens is a technique when baking bread to delay the formation of a crust. I'm wondering, how does steam created outside of the pastries help leaven them? Also, from my experiments I actually cut down on factors that increased the rise of the shells (hydration/higher temperature) since they lead to more cracks, presumably from the pate a choux expanding too much and too quickly. But if steam also delays the formation of a crust, does it circumvent this issue, allowing the choux to expand more in the early stages of baking, while also preventing a crust from setting which would lead to cracks when the choux is still trying to expand?

The starch molecules are formed in a uniform structure that is referred to as a crystallinity. When water is mixed with the flour, and then heat is added, the starch molecules will bind with the water molecules. As the starch and water is subjected to more heat, more water molecules bind to the starch molecules. Eventually so many molecules bind and the structure expands to the point that it loses its crystallinity (uniform structure) and become amorphous (shapeless). It begins at about 140°F in wheat flour. This process is called starch gelatinization.

As the leavening expands the dough, the heat evaporates the water in the dough, starch gelatinization provides the viscosity and sets the dough and the gluten matrix provides the strength.

The steam in the oven delays the drying out of the dough, delaying the last part of the starch gelatinization. If the dough sets too soon, that causes cracking. It’s a balance of letting all the leavening to occur, then letting the starch gelatinization to finish.

With pate a choux the leavening is the steam in the dough. So the dough needs to baking out the moisture on the inside to rise. But the trick is to keep the exterior from drying out and setting too soon. Once the outside is dry, if the interior is still moist and rising, it will crack the top.

There’s a blog called Devil’s Food Kitchen. The pastry chef Scott Green has a pretty reliable choux. Take a look at his recipe and video. Also the mesh mat he uses. I prefer that mat as well. I one tip I picked up from him for eclairs was piping full lengths of choux, then freezing them. Then cutting them frozen.
 
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The starch molecules are formed in a uniform structure that is referred to as a crystallinity. When water is mixed with the flour, and then heat is added, the starch molecules will bind with the water molecules. As the starch and water is subjected to more heat, more water molecules bind to the starch molecules. Eventually so many molecules bind and the structure expands to the point that it loses its crystallinity (uniform structure) and become amorphous (shapeless). It begins at about 140°F in wheat flour. This process is called starch gelatinization.

As the leavening expands the dough, the heat evaporates the water in the dough, starch gelatinization provides the viscosity and sets the dough and the gluten matrix provides the strength.

The steam in the oven delays the drying out of the dough, delaying the last part of the starch gelatinization. If the dough sets too soon, that causes cracking. It’s a balance of letting all the leavening to occur, then letting the starch gelatinization to finish.

With pate a choux the leavening is the steam in the dough. So the dough needs to baking out the moisture on the inside to rise. But the trick is to keep the exterior from drying out and setting too soon. Once the outside is dry, if the interior is still moist and rising, it will crack the top.

There’s a blog called Devil’s Food Kitchen. The pastry chef Scott Green has a pretty reliable choux. Take a look at his recipe and video. Also the mesh mat he uses. I prefer that mat as well. I one tip I picked up from him for eclairs was piping full lengths of choux, then freezing them. Then cutting them frozen.
Funny you mention Devil's Food Kitchen, since that was actually where I originally got the idea of having steam in the oven! It's interesting how the Silpain mat produced so much noticeably better results than the Silpat mat, but I couldn't justify the costs in buying one (I don't even own any Silpat mats, just using parchment paper right now). I do want to give the technique of freezing the full-lengths of unbaked choux a try, since the biggest problem with mine, even after finding the formula that worked for me, was that my piping left lots to be desired, with many of them being bone-shaped. Unfortunately, my half-sheet pans literally don't fit in my freezer, plus freezer space in our house is very limited in the first place, but I'm pretty sure jelly roll pans fit at least. And it's hard to argue with the results he had, with how uniform all the eclair shells were!
 
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Funny you mention Devil's Food Kitchen, since that was actually where I originally got the idea of having steam in the oven! It's interesting how the Silpain mat produced so much noticeably better results than the Silpat mat, but I couldn't justify the costs in buying one (I don't even own any Silpat mats, just using parchment paper right now). I do want to give the technique of freezing the full-lengths of unbaked choux a try, since the biggest problem with mine, even after finding the formula that worked for me, was that my piping left lots to be desired, with many of them being bone-shaped. Unfortunately, my half-sheet pans literally don't fit in my freezer, plus freezer space in our house is very limited in the first place, but I'm pretty sure jelly roll pans fit at least. And it's hard to argue with the results he had, with how uniform all the eclair shells were!


I don’t think mats are really necessary. I have quite a few of them, but I’m very selective about their use because the smooth non stick surface (or as you saw with the perforated mat) affects the texture of baked goods.

One of the things I like about Scott Green’s work is he doesn’t take shortcuts. His recipes can seem a bit cumbersome because of it, but method is important.

Yeah I don’t have much freezer space to spare either. And I just re-organized everything and filled it up with a two month supply of meat due to the coronavirus. The thing is is I’m not a big meat eater, so it’s gonna take me a long time to plow through that meat.
 
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I made another batch of eclair shells today, and got some quite interesting results. Just used the same recipe and techniques that I did before, nothing new. In the first picture below, on one side of the shells, the top row (left column) was virtually crack-free, while the bottom row (right column) developed some small cracks. However in the second picture that shows the opposite side of the shells, there were large cracks present in all the shells, but more pronounced in the top row than the bottom row. The third picture is just there to provide a better angle of the shapes of the shells - you can clearly see that the bottom row shells are both smaller and more unevenly shaped. That can be explained by piping at the wrong angle (starting at the side of the pan and ending in the middle, causing me to run into the already-piped eclairs on the top row) and running low on the choux paste at the end. I'm not exactly sure what caused the uneveness in how the cracks developed, but it probably has to due with uneven heat distribution in my oven.

IMG_20200329_161847[1].jpg
IMG_20200329_162009[1].jpg
IMG_20200329_161710[1].jpg


Now to correct the cracks, there are a few ideas I have in mind. First, make sure water is boiling before adding flour, there are no flour lumps in the panade, and mix the panade until most of the moisture is gone before adding the eggs - I may have gotten lazy with those steps, and lumps of flour can of course cause cracks. However, since there's a clear pattern in the cracks, I'm not sure if that happened to be the case here.

One thing that jumps to mind is letting the oven preheat. I forgot to turn it on until fairly late, and so it had only reached the set temperature of 350F about 10 or less minutes before I put the pan in the oven. I know that having a long and complete preheat is important, especially for home ovens, and with how the cracks all happened in a pattern, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a big contributing factor.

Finally, I've seen people suggest monitoring the choux closely during early baking, and opening the door/spritzing water on them if the outsides set too soon. I guess this is similar to the idea of having a pan of water in the oven, but more controlled. It's an interesting idea, and I may try it next time.

Of course, once I'm happy with my eclair shells using the traditional individually-piped method, I still want to try the technique of freezing them, then cutting them to length before baking. Would cover up many of my mistakes in piping!
 
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Hi Norcal,
I'm a retired baker, they look great but one thing i noticed is they're only lightly baked.
Its safe to let them bake longer.
I'd skip the milk, its not needed.
Water, butter, flour and eggs.
Some bakeries like to make a softer shell, so they use veg oil instead of butter or marg.

Stuffing them with crab is a good idea for apps, in which case make swans .
Or... add 50% by volume grated gruyer to the choux paste, and use a small scoop to portion out.
Bake same as eclairs , split and fill. they're called gougere.


@retired baker the baking is a cultural thing. Americans are notorious for under baking—except cake. Hahaha, they always over bake cake. We call it a hard bake or a French Bake when we bake things as they should be. But Americans always think its burnt and won’t eat it. I baked some chocolate chip cookies last month for a large group of son’s friends. They were in cellophane packages and they were examining them very suspiciously. I had to explain to everyone that they were not burnt, but had what’s called a French Bake on them. My son’s girl friend finally opened her bag and took a bite of one and announced to all that the cookies were indeed delicious. Americans seem to it has to “light golden brown“ otherwise its burnt.

I made swans once. A lot of work, but very very lovely.
 
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Yerh its typical to see underbaked croissant, if they look like danish (yellow) they will taste like soap ,
or brioche that appear golden yellow, in France the heads are black and have a distinct caramel flavor.
 
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@Cahoot

I was going to respond last night, then I realized it was late and the response would take a while to type out. So I thought I would wait til morning.

Pate a choux is a outlier in the world of pastry in that it is cooked twice and has a lot of gluten development. When I was going through the process I broke down the “why“ of first cooking. Understanding by I was cooking the dough in the first place helped me troubleshoot my problems.

Reasons for the first stovetop cooking:
  1. Trigger gluten
    • Flour has no gluten. There are two proteins, glutenin and gliadin that must bind with water in order for gluten to form. So until water and agitation happens, there is no gluten in flour.
  2. Trigger starch gelatinization
    • Dough needs to be at least 140°F (60°C)
    • Dough should not exceed 194°F (90°C)
    • Desired Dough Temperature (DDT) temperature 160°F (70°C) - this is just my target that i came up with
  3. Adds moisture
    • Required for gluten and starch gelatinization
    • Required for mechanical leavening
  4. Evaporate some water
    • Prepare dough to absorb egg
    • Too much water in dough
      • a) prevent the dough from absorbing the needed egg
      • b) cause the shells to crack and/or collapse
  5. Develop gluten
    • Mixing with paddle/wood spoon develops gluten
    • Beating to cool develops gluten
    • Beating in egg develops gluten

From trial and error and tips from other bakers, this is what I’ve learned

Ingredients

  1. Use 10% - 11% protein flour: all purpose flour, Central Millings unbleached Beehive (also the same as Whole Foods organic 365 and Safeway O Organic all purpose). Higher protein flours can cause cracks and distortions in shapes during baking as the choux has a lot of gluten development. Higher protein flour absorbs more liquid, so simply swapping higher protein flour in a recipe throws the ratios off.
  2. Adding a bit of sugar helps with browning. We Americans really under bake/brown most baked goods. It seems cake is the one thing we consistently over bake. Hahaha But Americans will still want an under baked choux
  3. Fresh eggs, the protein denaturation adds to the strength of the dough; yolk adds fat, and whites add moisture in the form of water.

Mixing

  1. Dissolve salt and sugar (if using) in water before you boil it. This will ensure no undissolved crystals are in the flour.
  2. Still mineral water: Pierre Herme often uses still mineral water in his recipes because the magnesium and calcium can strengthen the dough by creating tighter gluten bonds. This is a better approach than using a stronger flour in pastry. A stronger flour can make pastry tough. In pate a choux it also cause cracking as it requires more hydration; if a recipe is not formulated specifically for the higher protein content, the drier dough will crack during baking.
  3. Sift the flour to ensure there are no clumps in it
  4. Cube the butter to ensure it melts before the water boils
  5. Stir the butter after it’s melted to ensue the fat is distributed throughout the water before adding the flour
  6. Remove the pot of boiling water from the burner before adding flour
  7. After adding flour and mixing thoroughly, return to the heat and cook to trigger starch gelatinization
  8. Check the temperature: Stop at about 160°F (70°C). Starch gelatinization does not begin until the dough reaches 140°F (60°C) then maxes out at 194°F (90°C). Do not over cook the dough. Cooking the dough also evaporates the excess moisture out of the dough. This is very important. Too much moisture in the dough can cause shells to crack.
  9. Cool the panade before adding the egg. Remember the denaturalization of proteins is triggered by heat. Once the process starts, there’s no reversing it—you cannot un-cook egg. So cool the panade to just below 140°F (160°C) before adding egg. The mixing also allows steam to escape, which is moisture. So this helps to dry out the dough as well.
  10. Add egg in 3 or 4 additions
  11. Add last addition of egg in small increments and check to see if dough is absorbing it. Only add as much egg as the dough can absorb. You may not use all the egg that the formula calls for on a given batch because the water evaporation will vary by batch.
  12. Check gluten development. Perform the string test; dough should stretch more than 1” between thumb and index fingers. If using a stand mixer, check to see if the dough makes a “V” formation on the end of the paddle. The dough should hang a few inches on the end of the paddle and edges should be somewhat translucent on the edges
  13. Dough should be glossy, not matte


Baking

  1. Piping eclairs: Ateco #868 aka French Star. A round tip (nozzle) or tip with teeth that are too wide produce a less stable log. There’s something about the narrower striations that keeps the dough from distorting while baking. The eclair in my picture is a wider tip. I do not use that tip any more.
  2. Do not open the oven during baking. Both heat and steam will escape. It’s best to steam the oven before the bake begins by adding a shallow pan of boiling water on the lower rack
  3. Silat mat: some baker’s swear parchment paper cause the splitting on bottom. I can tell you in my own experience that the puffy round tube shape is due to the parchment paper. When I started using my mats, the eclairs started baking less puffy and more of the classic eclair shape.

Hope this helps
 
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@Cahoot

I was going to respond last night, then I realized it was late and the response would take a while to type out. So I thought I would wait til morning.

Pate a choux is a outlier in the world of pastry in that it is cooked twice and has a lot of gluten development. When I was going through the process I broke down the “why“ of first cooking. Understanding by I was cooking the dough in the first place helped me troubleshoot my problems.

Reasons for the first stovetop cooking:
  1. Trigger gluten
    • Flour has no gluten. There are two proteins, glutenin and gliadin that must bind with water in order for gluten to form. So until water and agitation happens, there is no gluten in flour.
  2. Trigger starch gelatinization
    • Dough needs to be at least 140°F (60°C)
    • Dough should not exceed 194°F (90°C)
    • Desired Dough Temperature (DDT) temperature 160°F (70°C) - this is just my target that i came up with
  3. Adds moisture
    • Required for gluten and starch gelatinization
    • Required for mechanical leavening
  4. Evaporate some water
    • Prepare dough to absorb egg
    • Too much water in dough
      • a) prevent the dough from absorbing the needed egg
      • b) cause the shells to crack and/or collapse
  5. Develop gluten
    • Mixing with paddle/wood spoon develops gluten
    • Beating to cool develops gluten
    • Beating in egg develops gluten

From trial and error and tips from other bakers, this is what I’ve learned

Ingredients

  1. Use 10% - 11% protein flour: all purpose flour, Central Millings unbleached Beehive (also the same as Whole Foods organic 365 and Safeway O Organic all purpose). Higher protein flours can cause cracks and distortions in shapes during baking as the choux has a lot of gluten development. Higher protein flour absorbs more liquid, so simply swapping higher protein flour in a recipe throws the ratios off.
  2. Adding a bit of sugar helps with browning. We Americans really under bake/brown most baked goods. It seems cake is the one thing we consistently over bake. Hahaha But Americans will still want an under baked choux
  3. Fresh eggs, the protein denaturation adds to the strength of the dough; yolk adds fat, and whites add moisture in the form of water.

Mixing

  1. Dissolve salt and sugar (if using) in water before you boil it. This will ensure no undissolved crystals are in the flour.
  2. Still mineral water: Pierre Herme often uses still mineral water in his recipes because the magnesium and calcium can strengthen the dough by creating tighter gluten bonds. This is a better approach than using a stronger flour in pastry. A stronger flour can make pastry tough. In pate a choux it also cause cracking as it requires more hydration; if a recipe is not formulated specifically for the higher protein content, the drier dough will crack during baking.
  3. Sift the flour to ensure there are no clumps in it
  4. Cube the butter to ensure it melts before the water boils
  5. Stir the butter after it’s melted to ensue the fat is distributed throughout the water before adding the flour
  6. Remove the pot of boiling water from the burner before adding flour
  7. After adding flour and mixing thoroughly, return to the heat and cook to trigger starch gelatinization
  8. Check the temperature: Stop at about 160°F (70°C). Starch gelatinization does not begin until the dough reaches 140°F (60°C) then maxes out at 194°F (90°C). Do not over cook the dough. Cooking the dough also evaporates the excess moisture out of the dough. This is very important. Too much moisture in the dough can cause shells to crack.
  9. Cool the panade before adding the egg. Remember the denaturalization of proteins is triggered by heat. Once the process starts, there’s no reversing it—you cannot un-cook egg. So cool the panade to just below 140°F (160°C) before adding egg. The mixing also allows steam to escape, which is moisture. So this helps to dry out the dough as well.
  10. Add egg in 3 or 4 additions
  11. Add last addition of egg in small increments and check to see if dough is absorbing it. Only add as much egg as the dough can absorb. You may not use all the egg that the formula calls for on a given batch because the water evaporation will vary by batch.
  12. Check gluten development. Perform the string test; dough should stretch more than 1” between thumb and index fingers. If using a stand mixer, check to see if the dough makes a “V” formation on the end of the paddle. The dough should hang a few inches on the end of the paddle and edges should be somewhat translucent on the edges
  13. Dough should be glossy, not matte


Baking

  1. Piping eclairs: Ateco #868 aka French Star. A round tip (nozzle) or tip with teeth that are too wide produce a less stable log. There’s something about the narrower striations that keeps the dough from distorting while baking. The eclair in my picture is a wider tip. I do not use that tip any more.
  2. Do not open the oven during baking. Both heat and steam will escape. It’s best to steam the oven before the bake begins by adding a shallow pan of boiling water on the lower rack
  3. Silat mat: some baker’s swear parchment paper cause the splitting on bottom. I can tell you in my own experience that the puffy round tube shape is due to the parchment paper. When I started using my mats, the eclairs started baking less puffy and more of the classic eclair shape.

Hope this helps
That was a very helpful write-up, thank you! I actually follow most of the points you've outlined, but I'll highlight what I do differently.

Ingredients
1. Interesting enough, I've been using higher protein flour, since the main recipe that I've adapted along with other sources I've read recommend doing so. To add on to your next point about the mineral water, the recipe that I've used my main reference (here if you're interested) is also on the low end of hydration, using 150% water/eggs, so it's odd to me that formula still works well for him. It makes sense that a drier dough cracks more. My choux paste is indeed drier than others that I've seen, but I did that purposely to avoid adding more moisture that would lead to more expansion, and hence cracking in the oven. I live in Canada, so our flours here are a bit different. Our AP flour is around 13% protein, and we have another product called "Cake & Pastry Flour" that's around 7-8% protein and is chlorinated (essentially American cake flour). Next batch I make, I'll try a blend, like I've been doing with most pastry doughs, to achieve a lower protein content.

Mixing
8. I've been cooking the panade to 170°F, but I'll admit it sometimes gets over as it takes my thermometer some time to get the correct reading.

12/13. As I've mentioned above, my paste is a bit drier, so it's not very glossy and doesn't make as much of a "V" when hanging off a spatula. Using a lower protein flour blend should make it pass those tests better without necessarily having to increase the hydration.

Baking
1. I like that you mentioned the Ateco #868 tip, since I actually bought that tip specifically for eclairs! I concur that it produces better results, as there was a noticeable difference between using it and even a regular open-star tip.

2. I'll include tests using a pan of water on the bottom rack in the future too, but don't want to change too many variables at a single time.

3. I've seen others recommend Silpat mats for eclairs (and of course there was the Chef Scott Green video showcasing Silpat vs. Silpain), but also as you've said previously in this thread, they are a bit niche in their uses. However as I get more and more into baking, it may be an investment that I'll make in the future.

And also reviewing my pictures, I'll admit that the shells could have been darker. I baked at 350°F for 40 minutes, but next time I'll try 45 minutes or even longer.
 
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That was a very helpful write-up, thank you! I actually follow most of the points you've outlined, but I'll highlight what I do differently.

Ingredients
1. Interesting enough, I've been using higher protein flour, since the main recipe that I've adapted along with other sources I've read recommend doing so. To add on to your next point about the mineral water, the recipe that I've used my main reference (here if you're interested) is also on the low end of hydration, using 150% water/eggs, so it's odd to me that formula still works well for him. It makes sense that a drier dough cracks more. My choux paste is indeed drier than others that I've seen, but I did that purposely to avoid adding more moisture that would lead to more expansion, and hence cracking in the oven. I live in Canada, so our flours here are a bit different. Our AP flour is around 13% protein, and we have another product called "Cake & Pastry Flour" that's around 7-8% protein and is chlorinated (essentially American cake flour). Next batch I make, I'll try a blend, like I've been doing with most pastry doughs, to achieve a lower protein content.

Mixing
8. I've been cooking the panade to 170°F, but I'll admit it sometimes gets over as it takes my thermometer some time to get the correct reading.

12/13. As I've mentioned above, my paste is a bit drier, so it's not very glossy and doesn't make as much of a "V" when hanging off a spatula. Using a lower protein flour blend should make it pass those tests better without necessarily having to increase the hydration.

Baking
1. I like that you mentioned the Ateco #868 tip, since I actually bought that tip specifically for eclairs! I concur that it produces better results, as there was a noticeable difference between using it and even a regular open-star tip.

2. I'll include tests using a pan of water on the bottom rack in the future too, but don't want to change too many variables at a single time.

3. I've seen others recommend Silpat mats for eclairs (and of course there was the Chef Scott Green video showcasing Silpat vs. Silpain), but also as you've said previously in this thread, they are a bit niche in their uses. However as I get more and more into baking, it may be an investment that I'll make in the future.

And also reviewing my pictures, I'll admit that the shells could have been darker. I baked at 350°F for 40 minutes, but next time I'll try 45 minutes or even longer.


I like the Iron Whisk blog. But although I agree with his use of pastry chef Eddy Van Damme as a source, but big eye roll with Alton Brown. Brown has a degree in media. He is not a food scientist or a baker. He plays a food scientist on television just like Patrick Stewart plays Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of the starship USS Enterprise. Alton Brown doesn’t even know the proper temperature to cream butter and sugar. But Eddy Van Damme is a good pastry chef.

I think you mentioned you were Canadian already, and I just forgot. Yes, your all purpose flour is very high in protein. But the problem with reducing the protein content in the flour is you throw the hydration off in your recipe since it was formulated for Canadian flour. what is the protein content in your pastry flour there?
 
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I like the Iron Whisk blog. But although I agree with his use of pastry chef Eddy Van Damme as a source, but big eye roll with Alton Brown. Brown has a degree in media. He is not a food scientist or a baker. He plays a food scientist on television just like Patrick Stewart plays Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of the starship USS Enterprise. Alton Brown doesn’t even know the proper temperature to cream butter and sugar. But Eddy Van Damme is a good pastry chef.

I think you mentioned you were Canadian already, and I just forgot. Yes, your all purpose flour is very high in protein. But the problem with reducing the protein content in the flour is you throw the hydration off in your recipe since it was formulated for Canadian flour. what is the protein content in your pastry flour there?
The thing with flours up here is that the all-purpose flour is kind of the catch-all flour for home bakers; other white flours aren't used nearly as often, especially compared to the U.S. which makes a distinction between cake flour, pastry flour, AP flour, and bread flour. There isn't actually a "pastry flour" that's commonly sold in grocery stores here. This website that compares Canadian, US, and UK flours just has the "Cake & Pastry flour" that I mentioned before listed as the equivalent. However since the C&P flour is chlorinated and a bit lower protein than standard American pastry flour, I'm gonna guess that it's not a perfect substitute.

That's not to say that pastry flour is a completely non-existent product here, just that it's not commonly found for residential use. The main national bulk food retailer here has a product called "Soft Unbleached Pastry Flour", which appears to be around 9% protein looking at the nutritional facts chart. I've also found a mention of a local miller that produces an unbleached pastry flour, and their website states it has 9-10% protein. But we don't have access to flours at a 10-11% protein range like some AP flours found in the US, so while not ideal for reasons you've mentioned, I think my best option is still to experiment with blending the flours I have to achieve a lower protein content. Besides, the hydration from my past batches of choux was probably too dry anyway, so I've hopes that it will still produce better results.
 
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Eclair paste was originally made with boiled potatoes no flour, baked to a small cauliflour shape, hence the name chou.
It was refined by Avice (?) by substituting white roux 1760.

flour used is typically bread in America... cake flour in France, if softer flour is used it will need sifting due to clumping.
French flour is weaker than Canadien , its a safe assumption there was no hard winter wheat from Canada in the 18th century.
I've never sifted flour nor will I. The AP flour I buy is full of lumps, bread flour is never lumpy.
Commercial General Mills AP was never lumpy.

If the liquid is at a rolling boil and the roux is beaten vigorously there won't be lumps with bread flour.
Eggs are as variable as er... eggs.
Its easier to get a big batch right than a little batch, 2 eggs might be too dry but 3 eggs too wet.

Streak a finger tip through the paste, if the streak follows your finger its good .

In France they usually don't bake on parchment, greased trays makes better eclairs but ... no thanks.
Blowouts can be due to excessive aeration of the batter, streaking the tops with a wet fork can help but its better not to beat the air into it in the first place. Too much moisture during the latter part of the bake can cause side blowouts, start with vents closed then open vents once they inflate.

Bagging is an acquired skill, if the paste is right they can be cut off by snapping/cutting the tip upward, if its troublesome some bakers cut the end off by snapping the tip downward but that is a slower process.
 
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The thing with flours up here is that the all-purpose flour is kind of the catch-all flour for home bakers; other white flours aren't used nearly as often, especially compared to the U.S. which makes a distinction between cake flour, pastry flour, AP flour, and bread flour. There isn't actually a "pastry flour" that's commonly sold in grocery stores here. This website that compares Canadian, US, and UK flours just has the "Cake & Pastry flour" that I mentioned before listed as the equivalent. However since the C&P flour is chlorinated and a bit lower protein than standard American pastry flour, I'm gonna guess that it's not a perfect substitute.

That's not to say that pastry flour is a completely non-existent product here, just that it's not commonly found for residential use. The main national bulk food retailer here has a product called "Soft Unbleached Pastry Flour", which appears to be around 9% protein looking at the nutritional facts chart. I've also found a mention of a local miller that produces an unbleached pastry flour, and their website states it has 9-10% protein. But we don't have access to flours at a 10-11% protein range like some AP flours found in the US, so while not ideal for reasons you've mentioned, I think my best option is still to experiment with blending the flours I have to achieve a lower protein content. Besides, the hydration from my past batches of choux was probably too dry anyway, so I've hopes that it will still produce better results.


Oh wow, I guess I should stop complaining about the flour situation here. I have access to a lot of flours, yet I still complain that its not enough. I’m such an ingrate.

I agree that given your limited access to flour, it may be blend flours. And maybe increase your hydration a bit. I have a recipe that is pretty close to your ratios, just slightly higher. It’s not mine, but developed by a professional baker. I made some minor changes to the mixing, nothing major. If you like I can pass it on to you. Let me know.


That article was odd...its factually wrong on so many points.
 

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