A couple weeks ago I got the Bouchon Bakery book. I kept seeing it everywhere and was drawn to it (possibly because it was covered in plastic and I was oh so curious about what magical baking photos and recipes were inside). So I decided to just go ahead and order it through Amazon and boy was I excited when it arrived!
The first night I literally could not put the book down. I even read through all the beginning sections about how to measure ingredients and calibrate your oven (just in case).
For anyone not familiar with the book, it is a collaboration of several chefs and bakers who run the Bouchon bakeries in the US. Keller apprenticed in France so I think it’s fair to say a lot of the recipes have both a French and American influence. I love that the recipes they share are the same recipes they use in the bakeries. They also list exactly what brands of products they use so you can recreate the professional product at home. Having said that, a lot of the ingredients are fairly specialized, making them somewhat difficult to track down for the at-home baker.
Feeling ambitious, I had planned to make my first recipe from the Bouchon book on Sunday (this was before I realized how much wine would be consumed at the CA ball on Saturday night and how less than ideal I would feel on Sunday morning). But, since I spent a lot of time the week before tracking down exactly the right ingredients (70% cocoa Valrhona chocolate, neutral glaze…), I figured there was no sense in postponing the baking! So on Sunday, I made my first ever batch of eclairs!
Eclairs are made of pâte à choux (choux pastry) which is a high-moisture dough that releases steam when it bakes which makes the dough rise and puff out. Essentially, the inside should be mostly hollow, allowing you to fill them with cream (or other filling of your choice). I followed the Bouchon recipe to a T and filled mine with chocolate pastry cream and topped with shiny chocolate glaze.
For a first attempt at choux pastry, I think I did pretty good! In the end, the eclairs tasted great – a perfect, decadent chocolate flavour. However, I did run into a few difficulties along the way. To be honest, the first batch was somewhat disastrous. Despite adding exactly the right amount of egg (measured to the gram!), the batter was way too runny and the baked pastries were a flat failure. I immediately tried a second batch, adding less egg. This time the consistency of the batter was much thicker and held its shape when piped.
The pastry rose quite a bit this time.
However, I would still have liked the pastry to puff out more, leaving more hollow space inside for filling it with delicious chocolately goodness! I also noticed that some eclairs on each tray rose more than others so maybe the issue had to do with uneven heating in my oven. Since making the eclairs, I’ve gotten some tips that I wanted to pass along to you guys:
- removing the eclairs from the oven early will cause them to collapse, ruining the hollowed out portion inside
- the amount of egg to be added will vary depending on many factors (type of flour used, how long the dough is cooked before adding the eggs, etc.) so it is essential to add eggs based on the consistency of the dough and not purely based on the volume of eggs called for
The glaze and the pastry cream were flawless though. To make the glaze extra shiny, I followed Keller’s suggestion of using neutral glaze. Sadly, I could not find the neutral glaze in a volume smaller than 5kg, so I basically have a lifetime supply of glaze in my basement now. I’m willing to share should anyone want some
Overall, for a first attempt, I was very pleased with the outcome and can’t wait to try it again. I will share the recipe once it’s been perfected. Have you guys tried making choux pastry or are you thinking of trying it? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?