What happened to my eclair shells?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by gayda, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. gayda

    gayda

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    Hi. I have been trying to master pate a choux. I have used alton brown, pierre herme and pichet ong's recipe but I still get the same massive cracking along the length (on the sides -sometimes both) of my eclair shells. I cook my panade for at least four minutes on the stove. I have cooled the dough a little before beating in the eggs. I have also beat the eggs in while the dough was hot. I have used both round and star tips.. I make sure that the dough is piped at least 2" apart.I piped correctly and put the choux in the oven asap. I put one tray at a time in the oven. The rest of the piped choux in the 2nd pan I park in the freezer until the 1st pan of eclairs are done to prevent a skin from forming. I have glazed my choux to no avail. I think I have the right consistency for the dough. I have used the initial 425F blast of heat for 10 then reducing the heat at 350F..I tried 375F all the way through. I did purchase an oven themometer to make sure I have my temps right. I have tried different rack levels (middle rack and the rack immediately underneath it). I have used parchment and silpat.  I have used bread and all purpose flour. 

     When I make cream puffs (large or mini), they come out perfectly. Not for the eclairs though. What am I doing wrong?
     
  2. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    You're doing everything right to correct the problem, at least as far as I know. Your eclairs are cracking because the inside's expanding more and more quickly than the outside can stretch to hold it.

    Make sure to use a looooooooooooong preheat, so the heat is distributed very evenly throughout the oven, then turn the pan halfway through the bake. No matter how the turn works for you with this problem, always use a long preheat for baking. Twenty minutes is not enough.

    If the longer preheat and turn don't fix it, try baking with a water pan in the bottom rack. The additional humidity may (or may not) help. Possibly not the answer, but worth a try.

    BDL
     
  3. durangojo

    durangojo

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    not being a professional baker i don't know the science behind why your shells split, but i do make choux puffs and eclair shells for cocktail parties quite a lot..i always put a small cup of water(s/s) on the bottom of the oven.... i am at high altitude so anything fragile or with eggs can be problematic and the water just seems to be a solution.... oh, if you don't have sherry yard's book, get it..she rocks....easy, funny, personable and explains very well different flour usages and pretty much everything else you need to know....almost makes me want to be a pastry chef!(not), but she gives you her knowledge and expertise to make exquisite things.

    joey

    sherry yard's book is 'the secrets of baking'....get it!
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2011
  4. chefedb

    chefedb

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    You seem to being doing everything in an acceped manner. I have one question. Are you using a standard or convection oven? There is a marked difference. Sometime using a pan of water will hurt instead of help. Possibly when making cream puff more batter is extruded in a more confined space therefore weight on top and  keepin the puff from splitting,where as eclairs are thinner with less weight on top over a longer area.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2011
  5. panini

    panini

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    try thinning your wash. make sure

    jeez, like having cancer. Jump in and everybody bolts.LOL  cancer  LOL
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2011
  6. gayda

    gayda

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    soooo. I tried another batch of pate a choux today using Sherry Yard's recipe. The eclair shells CRACKED even with eggwash, pan with hot water  on the bottom rack,  mixed the panade for 5 minutes till my elbows creaked, added one egg at a time. BTW, I do weigh my ingredients. I cup of apf is equivalent to 125g of flour right? I used apf because I've used bread flour in the past and have encountered the same problem. 

    I have  a cheapo electric conventional oven. Is it my oven? I would like to blame my oven because I am really getting frustrated. When I tried to make macarons (yes, those finicky cookies), the cookies looked perfect on the outside but always ended up with a big air pocket right underneath the dome. I have played with oven temps, etc. I made these cookies using my friend's home conventional oven and they turned out perfectly. 

    Any more insights? I might try my friend's oven again for the eclairs this time...

    P.S. For some reason, I could not upload my pics from my experiments[​IMG]  today so I will post an older picture from a batch that I've made a while ago. This is the gayda's-classic-eclair-CRACK! The top of the shell normally looks smooth. The walls (i.e. cracks) are thin and fragile. 
     
  7. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Gayda, when I was very young I used to help in a bakery where they made a lot of éclairs, but I never made them myself, just filled a lot of them and covered with chocolate. I do think the cracking you mention is very common.

    Anyway, here's 2 videos of making A. éclairs (1st video) and making B. small choux (2nd video). They show a really great dessert specialist at work.

    Based on the first video he uses 100 g butter, 100 g milk, 100g water, 150 g flour for pâtisserie, 6 eggs + 1 for egg wash and fleur de sel.

    The videos are in dutch, but you're a cook, shouldn't be a problem to follow. Some of his remarks are interesting to know;

    - he uses 50/50 water and milk; makes the result feeling less dryer in the mouth

    - always make sure the liquid is boiling first before adding the flour!

    - make quite a dry mixture before adding the eggs. A dry mixture allows to add more eggs which will "souffler"(blow-up) the result better.

    - when baking, watch the trick with the kitchen towel at the end of the baking process to release all excess of steam that built up while baking.

    Eclairs video;

    http://www.njam.tv/recepten/eclairs-gevuld-met-banketbakkersroom

    Choux video;

    http://www.njam.tv/recepten/soesjes-met-chocolade  
     
  8. gayda

    gayda

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  9. panini

    panini

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    OMGosh.

    Putting way to much into these. The logs you posted were to fast. Turned the temp down to late.

    It's all about drying these out.

    Use a hard flour, not an APF. This is the most inconsistant variable in you recipe.

    Nix, the silpat. Don't wash you logs to the paper. They need to expand there.

    When piping, don't move forward or push down. Pipe them as laying the log down out of the tube.

    If you can't achieve the first push around the bottom, then wash and use the back of a fork to make ridges.

    This will allow the log to expand.

    Go to the source. Chef Lenotre, Thuries, etc.

    Pan

    You need to look into your method and proceedure.
     
  10. chefedb

    chefedb

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    A lot of commercial and home eclairs come out looking like the ones you show. Try bagging them with a star tube(which makes ridges automatically.
     
  11. gayda

    gayda

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    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Ok. I am finally able to post the pics from my experiment. I made one batch of choux dough and piped in 3 different pans. I used a star tip to pipe.

    1st pan (upper left. bottom view) with no glaze but had a pan of hot water on the bottom rack. 425F for 10 minutes then reduced to 350. Early on, the shells were cracking horribly (the worst cracks I've ever seen) I ate the rest of it that's why I only had 1 example. The shells also deflated  when I rotated the pans after initial 10 min of baking. 

    2nd (bottom left. top and side view )  pan 425F for 10 minutes then reduced to 350. I glazed with thinned room temp eggwash. Was careful not to glaze sides and also intentionally slathered some of the sides of the dough. No difference.

    3rd pan both top and side view  (upper right) 375F all the way through. Glazed.

                                                  (lower right)  375F all the way through. Unglazed. I did notice that these are smaller than the glazed dough. The crack was on top for once

    [​IMG][​IMG]oo
     
  12. gayda

    gayda

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     Maybe I should lower the temp at 6 or 7 minutes instead of 10 minutes which most recipes recommend BEFORE the shells split. Great idea! This means I will start at 375 then reduce to 350F? It makes me think that maybe my thermometer is giving me a wrong reading...
     
  13. panini

    panini

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    Gayda,

      Your there or very close. Are you adding eggs according to recipe? The amount of eggs you use will

    usually not be the same each time.y ou really need to mix by eye. Do you know how to test the mix  for consistency?

    You Gage it by running something solid like the handle of wooden spoon through the mix. You test by measuring

    when the trough closes behind the spoon. Make sense? The trough should close about an inch or two behind. If the trench doesn't close it needs more egg.

    Are you using silpats?

    To me your paste looks a little dry. Spending too much time on the pan before or after wash. or can use more egg. Cover your mix

    in the bowl as you prep. No added moisture in the oven. If they are not building steam you're probably to dry. It's not like a dough. To much moisture

    and is will collect in areas instead of evaporating. Might make your bottoms soft.
     
  14. fr8rain

    fr8rain

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    I have a convection/microwave and was looking for an eclair recipe.  Ran across this info:

    Try this....400 for 15 min,...375 for 15 min, 350 for 15 min and another 15 at 300....then let them cool completely before filling
    or freezing for later use...never fails for me.
    I do however use a convection oven....I would also caution against opening the oven during the first 30 min of baking...
    no hole poking necessary with this method. I also prefer to top them with a melted semi-sweet chocolate as opposed to ganache...
    it's a little simpler and the pure chocolate acts to complement the other ingredients instead of overriding as the ganache can.
    For an added dimension...scrape the seeds of one whole vanilla bean into the pastry creme...One other tip...
    for piping in the filling...place two small holes in the bottom...pipe gently until sides bulge...
    switch to the other hole and pipe until it comes out the other side...then wipe the bottom clean...
    the filling should be firm enough not to ooze and will form a little skin in a matter of minutes.
     
  15. pollopicu

    pollopicu

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    I will only use a recipe I got from from keikos. If you do a search you'll be able to see the pics I posted, and the link to the recipe. I made them after having not made them in over 10 years and I was very satisfied with the way they turned out. They also have an instructional video that was very helpful, but you have to register to obtain it.

    http://master-pastry.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/make_cream_puff.pdf
     
  16. mscatarina

    mscatarina

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    Hi!

       Not quite sure if you ever got your answer, but the one thing I see you doing that might be the cause of the problem is immediately putting the eclairs in the oven. I'm almost done with my first year of culinary school for baking and pastry arts, and I've had to make a ton of these little guys! My chefs have told me to let them sit  for at least five minutes before putting it in the oven. It's to develop a skin around them, which typically prevents cracking on the tops of the shells and encourages the expanding to happen on the sides of the pastry. I hope this helps!!
     
  17. chrisvt

    chrisvt

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    Never use a high temperature. Stick to 180 degrees Celsius. If you make it thinner drop the temp even lower. Try and bake as many trays at once. Make sure to add a little more salt to the mixture.

    This will help with the cracks
     
  18. panini

    panini

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    Just my own thoughts, that's all. Only produced eclairs in the 100s of thousand and in a few countries, and in competition.
    I'll give this chef the benefit of the doubt that is oven thermometer is off. or he has baking powder in the formula. If not either of those two, has produced less that a gross in a lifetime or is positioned at some crazy altitude.
    Only a few important things to remember about choux. Kick, moist elastic skin, and the dry out process. This item has been overthought here in the states for decades. They're not something difficult of have a built in % of error.
    Method and procedure is standard, minus some tweaking if purchasing unbranded , or different brands flour, mixed in huge batches.
    Not trying to be condescending at all, but when there is so much chatter and input on a formula that an unprofessional or professional who doesn't
    produce them regularly will interpret will view them as difficult.
    This is a peasant item, they need to be taught by making and observing the product from start to finish. This is a process with product, or recipe secondary. Understand the process and one can make these in a home oven, a solar oven, a beach oven or anywhere.
    Mothers and grandmother made these in the home for centuries. The ingredients did not have to be the same but the process and basking had to be observed and possiblay tweaked.