Worst Best Pâte à Choux Ever

How do you go from cursing your pâte à choux to adoring it in 60 seconds flat? Here are the steps I used (YMMV):

  1. Be delighted and excited about the challenge Meeta (What’s For Lunch Honey?) and Tony (Tony Tahhan) have chosen for the August Daring Bakers challenge: Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs.
  2. Plan to make the éclairs to take to work, where you are sure to have enough chocoholics around to summarily devour them.
  3. Make the chocolate pastry cream and chocolate sauce for the glaze the night before, without incident. Plan to make the éclair shells that night also, but be too exhausted to do so safely.
  4. Get up at 5AM. Make coffee.
  5. Mix and pipe out the pâte à choux, still without incident. Get caught up in doing this so you forget to drink your coffee. Note that the piped dough fingers bear an uncanny resemblance to naked mole rats (sorry) lined up on the baking sheets.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven. Fail to notice that it takes considerably less time than it should to tell you it’s reached 375F.
  7. Pop the baking sheets in the oven. As instructed by the recipe, rotate them at 7 minutes and crack the oven door at 12 minutes. Note, but fail to be awake enough (remember, no coffee yet) to be concerned, that you still have mole rats.
  8. Drink a few sips of that coffee. Check on the pâte à choux at about 18 minutes and see that the dough has not puffed at all. It is sweating and the tops are cracked a tiny bit, but no puff. Recall that when you made profiteroles (very successfully) three years ago you do not remember it taking this long. Begin to sweat a little yourself.
  9. At 20 minutes, when the éclair shells are supposed to be fully baked, see that nothing has changed; something is wrong. Of course, the recipe must be bad. Bad bad bad pâte à choux! Worst pâte à choux ever! Swear and stomp your feet. Frantically look for the recipe you used for those profiteroles.
  10. Reach in the oven to pull out the baking sheets and notice that something feels… off.  Hmm, shouldn’t the oven be… what’s the word you’re looking for… it’s coming to you, the coffee is starting to kick in… that’s it, shouldn’t the oven be, uh, hot?
  11. Remember that you lack a functioning oven thermometer. Turn the oven off, and on again. This resets the oven into preheat mode, and displays the actual temperature as it’s heating up. 247. This explains a lot.
  12. Be fairly certain that all is lost for today; the oven is broken and anyway the pâte à choux is probably too dried out now to do anything but remain forever mole rats. But you have nothing to lose by giving both of them another shot. Leave the baking sheets in the oven while the oven continues to preheat.
  13. Within one minute, see that the pâte à choux is puffing. Not a little, a lot, before your very eyes. Good bye mole rats, hello éclairs! Good good good pâte à choux! The little pâte à choux that could! Best pâte à choux ever!
  14. Carry on without incident.
  15. Take the éclairs to work, where, as predicted, they are a hit.

As always, my Daring Baker compatriots have done some incredible takes on these éclairs. Go now.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    Haha, I love the train of thought there. So many times, I realize that I shouldn’t bake in the early morning for just this reason. I’m glad they came through for you though – they look fantastic!

  2. says

    Congratulations on the transformation of your naked mole rats to yummy pâte à choux!
    I also had an exciting adventure once where I anxiously wondered why there was no oven spring to my dough. Did I let it overrise by accident? Did something happen to the yeast? Half an hour later, I realized I forgot to preheat the oven.

  3. says

    OMG! That was hilarious! I too have tried to make things in a hurry in the morning before work and it usually turns out the same way :) That coffee can really affect the outcome of baking :)

  4. says

    What kind of coffee is that you’re drinking?
    What kind of magic wand do you have hidden behind your back?
    That is one heck of a trick girl! You got really puffy beautiful pâte à choux!
    Now, really how did you do that. You know you can’t just put them back in half baked . . .

  5. says

    And there it is again. Eclairs WANT to be eclairs!

    Way to go, Susan. I’m so relieved to hear that your eclairs turned out well. Maybe you should always make them that way… My cousin said that her best pie was made when she forgot she had been broiling and put the pie in the hot oven only to have it burn to a crisp on top. In a fury, she peeled off the top layer, made another layer of pastry, stuck it to the still completely uncooked bottom layer of pie, reset the oven to NOTbroil and proceeded as usual. (Even though it was her best pie, she’s never had the nerve to repeat this process.)

  6. says

    What stress at 5am! You must have been really tired to not have noticed HEAT. Ha ha. I’m happy for you that they ended up being perfect because getting up so early for a failure would have ruined the day.
    I’ll have to check out the recipe. I love making pâte à choux and then filling them with cinnamon ice cream, chocolate sauce on top. Deadly dessert. I OD’d on éclairs when I first moved to France and haven’t had one in years.

  7. says

    These are the little choux that could! I’m really surprised that they rose so beautifully after your oven troubles.

    Beautiful eclairs, and your co-workers are very lucky indeed!

  8. says

    Your funniest post ever. My nose hurts too much still to properly laugh. Hysterical. :)

    When I think of how I have felt the last 2 weeks I am relieved I chose to take time off from the Daring Bakers. But I look forward to returning as soon as my house is built. Your pictures (where were the naked mole rats??!?) had me drooling. And I don’t even like pastry stuffed with chocolate cream!

  9. says

    BOO to mole rats & YAY to your eclairs. Glad you remembered to eventually sip the coffe Susan. Your eclairs sure look great! Very yummy indeed! Loved your post & the swinging emotions…LOL!!

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