My husband is an eclair fiend. I do not exaggerate in the least when I say that, on our last trip to Paris, he averaged about two per day. One might then think that this would have been one of my first French Fridays with Dorie recipes, and if my husband had more control over my cooking schedule, it might well have been. But, for me, eclairs have too long been thought of as something best left to the professionals. I was scared of this recipe and so it became the one that kept getting put off and off, until it finally became my very last catching up recipe. Yes, you read that correctly, I am officially ALL CAUGHT UP with FFwD! From now on I just need to make one recipe per week in order to keep up with the group.
So, eclairs. When I try a new recipe for the first time, especially one as daunting as eclairs, I will often browse through my other cookbooks to gather more tips and do a little recipe comparison. Usually this exercise builds up my confidence, but this time what I found was a bit concerning. My trusty Joy of Cooking called for the eclairs to be baked a full 30 minutes longer in the oven than Dorie! What? How the heck can that be right? Or, more pertinently, which one was right? Well, Dorie’s recipe makes 20 eclairs and only 10 fit on my baking sheet, so what better time than now to do a little head to head recipe duel.
In went Dorie’s batch, and right away I saw problems, they just did not look done after the alloted time. So I left them 5 more minutes, and they looked absolutely beautiful when they came out of the oven… up until the point when they collapsed! Grr, so annoying. How the heck are you supposed to cut that in half?
All right, maybe Joy has the right idea then. In went Joy’s batch. They were definitely more browned when they came out, and they held their own without collapsing. At this point I was thinking that Joy had won this little recipe duel.
But no winners can be declared before the taste test. Since I couldn’t cut Dorie’s eclair in half, I just kind of used my knife to pry it open and loaded it up with pastry cream (which, by the way, is freakin delicious!), closed it back up again and frosted it. In the looks department, there was no question that Joy’s eclairs had won the day. But in the taste department, it was also no comparison, Dorie’s were SO much better! The Joy eclairs had simply dried out too much, almost to the point of being crunchy (a term which should never be applied to an eclair). This, of course, is why they did not collapse, but what’s the point if they don’t taste good. I ended up throwing away the Joy shells (not even worth the calories) and using Dorie’s to make 10 delicious, though not exactly photogenic, eclairs.
To wrap up, these eclairs were insanely delicious and my husband is already asking when I am going to make them again. Um, not soon honey. But I will make them again, and I will split the batch again to see if I can get the oven timing right. I’m thinking that maybe just a few minutes more would prevent them from collapsing on me.