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Jan 15, 2009 06:12 AM

My parchment paper burned while baking pate a choux

Ok so I went through the trouble of making pate a choux last night. I used a pastry bag to lay out small ball sized shapes onto a cookie tray lined with parchment paper.

About 10 minutes into the baking (at ~410 degrees) the parchment paper started burn, specifically the portion that extended past the edge of the tray and touched up against the inside wall of the oven.

I took out the tray and sniped it off with a scissor, and placed it back in. However a few minutes later I noticed that the underside of the pastries were now dark brown and burning, while the tops were still white. Somehow the parchment paper or the bottom of the pate a choux was burning.

The tray was on the bottom rack in the oven, and I did apply egg wash to all the pastries, perhaps a bit too much that may have dripped down the sides of each pastry and settled around its underside.

The other thing I forgot to do was add 1/2 cup of water to the batter/paste. I only used 1/2 cup of milk. I'm not sure if that means that they dried out too much, but the paste was silky when I applied it, so I would be surprised if that was the answer.

The recipe called to line the tray with either parchment paper or buttered wax paper. What is the story here? Why would parchment paper burn, and would I have better luck with wax paper? Forgive my ignorance, but wouldn't the wax melt and get all over the pastries? And wouldn't it eventually burn too?

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  1. Do you have a separate oven thermometer? I would check that your oven is actually calibrated correctly first, as the paper should not have burned so quickly.

    The wax from wax paper will get onto the pastries, but not so much that you can taste it (I've lined cake pans with wax paper numerous times).

    Using an insulated pan (or using 2 pans stacked) works well too if the bottoms of your pastries (or cookies) have a tendency to burn on the bottom while not being quite done on top.

    According to Pepin's recipe, the oven should have been at 375F, not 410F...

    7 Replies
    1. re: Caralien

      I have an oven thermometer and I believe it was below the temperature recommended by Michel Roux, one of the most famous pattisiers in Europe.

      I like the idea of double stacking, or maybe buying higher quality baking sheets that are thicker? I guess the idea is that the pan should not be cooking the pastry, the heat of the oven should?

      Maybe it was the quality of the parchment paper? I was using a "green" brand that was recycled. Maybe that was better though than burning a brand with chemicals.

      1. re: foodsmith

        On oven temps, I'd trust Pepin over Roux. Foreign chefs temps in recipes are often incorrect due to gas mark and centigrade calibrations. Pepin has been cooking in the US for decades and his recipes aren't translated for American books.

        1. re: hankstramm

          There's an LA Times article which quoted both of them, with the temp at 400F. I've seen other sites list 425F for 10 minutes, then back down to 375F.

          But I would follow Pepin's advice before anyone else's; he's one of the Deans at the French Culinary Institute, and has been cooking (and possibly teaching) longer than Roux has been alive.

          1. re: Caralien

            I dunno about that. Michel Roux was born in 1940, Torres was born 20 years later. Roux has held 3 Michelin stars at his restaurant in London for more than 15 years straight. I think Roux is considered the authority on the patisseries, at least vs. Torres, who is more known for Chocolate, no?

            Well I'm not trying to argue, just suss out what is what here. I'll try searching the LAT article. In one recipe from Torres in a new PBS series, he says 375 the entire time (someone posted this recipe in this thread I think):

            See the problem is that these chefs are not even consistent with their own advice, so comparisons between them become even more difficult. I wonder if they're just toying with us little people :)

            1. re: foodsmith

              Michel Roux Jr. was born on 23 May 1960
              Michel Roux Sr. 1941
              Jacques Pépin born December 18, 1935 (he's not well known for chocolate, as far as I've seen

              I was mixing up Rouxs Jr. & Sr.; apologies!

              Torres...I think I've only seen him on FN challenges?

              1. re: Caralien

                Yeah I don't know how I got Torres in my head. He's chocolate and nowhere near the fame of Roux or Pepin. Yeah so I guess Pepin has a few years on Roux, although in the grand scheme they are probably equals, although further some might argue that Pepin is better positioned as the authority since Roux has lived and worked most of his life in London, heh.

                As far as Roux Jr., I have no idea if he is as good as his uncle.

            2. re: Caralien

              I just realized we're talking about Pepin not Torres. My dumb. Sorry. So Peppin was born 5 years prior to Roux.

      2. Parchment paper should be able to withstand heat of at least 425F, maybe up to 450F. I believe that waxed paper begins to burn at even lower temperatures, so I just can't see how waxed paper would be preferable in this instance. If you're absolutely certain that your oven wasn't hotter than 425F (most choux recipes call for baking them at anywhere from 375 to 425), then it seems as though the paper itself must have been the culprit.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JoanN

          Well maybe on my next go around I will set the oven temp ~25 degrees lower, and double up the baking pan. I will also include the 1/2 cup of water and make sure the paper doesn't extend past the edges of the baking tray.

          Thanks for the feedback.

          1. re: JoanN

            I transfer my calzones to a 600 degree oven with a commercial pizza stone and have no problem with the parch paper burning. I pull it after 4-5 mins, and it's brittle, but it doesn't burn.

          2. I put parchment in a 500 degree oven on a preheated pizza stone and it doesn't burn (does brown, though...)

            2 Replies
            1. re: Liz K

              Agreed - I made the CI version of no-knead bread, in which the dutch oven is preheated at 500 before the parchment and dough are placed into it. The oven is still at 500 at the start of baking. The parchment hanging over the edge of the pot scorches badly but doesn't actually burn up - the stuff inside gets very brown. I'd check the oven temp and use regular parchment, not the "green" stuff, which I didn't know existed. Does it have silicone like regular parchment? Perhaps the silicone allows it to withstand higher temps. The silicone baking pan I received as a gift isn't supposed to go higher than 350 but I understand there are better silicone products that take higher heat.

              1. re: greygarious

                I don't think it has silicone. Btw, my Le Crueset silicone spatula is supposed to be able to handle up to 750 degrees F.

            2. I alos use parchment paper for pizza - at 450 on a pizza stone - and it does not burn. The exposed areas do darken. I also use the 'green' recycled brand - I find it waorsk just as well as the traditional non-green brands. I think the fact that it was touching the oven wall is the issue there.

              As for the uneven cooking of the pastries - why did you put the pan on the bottom rack? Was that an instruction in the recipe? I would think that before you try double stacking the pans you should try cooking the pastries in the middle of the oven. I do mine 2/3 sof the way up.

              10 Replies
              1. re: lupaglupa

                Well it was the 2nd to bottom, but very close to the bottom nonetheless. I guess I should try the absolute middle next, and turn the heat down a bit.

                Why is there such a variation in temperatures for pate a choux?

                Also, is it possible the egg wash that dripped off the pastries was also burning as it pooled around the bottom of each pastry?

                1. re: foodsmith

                  Egg wash could have been part of it. Sounds like we'll never know what was the exact cause!

                  I used to use the high temp/low temp method but I'm lazy so now I just do them at 375 the whole time. I also skip the step of pricking each one with a small skewer and returning them to the turned off oven to dry out a bit inside. They are a bit better that way, but not enough to motivate me to do it.

                  1. re: lupaglupa

                    Well I made them again last night and this time the paper didn't burn. I did it at 375 the whole way through, and even left one batch in the oven after 25 minutes (with the oven off) to dry out. When I took them out 20 minutes later, their bottoms had invertedly collapsed and their insides were slightly pasty and mushy, presumably because the moisture made it soggy. I through all 20 of them away.

                    So is the trick to cook them at 400 for 10 minutes, then turn it down to 375 for another 15-20 min? Also my recipes are for the little balls, not eclairs, will the cooking time be different for eclairs?

                    1. re: foodsmith

                      The insides are usually pasty, though I wouldn't say mushy. More eggy bland pastry like.

                      What is the recipe you're using?

                      1. re: lupaglupa

                        The recipe is from Michel Roux's book Eggs, and also his book "Michel Roux's Fine Desserts". Basically they are the same recipe, although one lists the temperature at 425, the other at 400. One says to open the oven after 5 minutes and let it cook for the next 15 minutes, the other doesn't mention for the oven. The ingredients are the standard that you fine in any recipe, including the quantity (equal parts milk/water, small amount of sugar/salt, stick of butter, and 4 eggs).

                        What's troubling is not the somewhat eggy pastry quality in the inner membrane of the inside lining, but the fact that it implodes from below. I've read some people say to poke holes in them to let the steam escape after they're done and then put them back in. But I've also read some people who say opening the oven after they're done can lead to collapsing.

                        There just seems to be too many suggested ways and I'm not sure which is right. The other thing I read is that the length of baking will vary by the pastry, meaning an eclair that is medium sized will differ from a round ball. All my recipes are not for the eclairs, but for the little round balls.

                        I may try using a higher heat tonight, like ~400, and then opening the door after 5 minutes. Any suggestions are very welcome :)

                        1. re: foodsmith

                          I got my recipe from the baker I worked under. I don't know where he got it. I've been using it with great sucess for over 20 years. It sounds like yours - 1 cup water, 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 tsp salt brought to a boil and removed from heat, 1 cup flour added all at once and stirred in until the mixture forms a ball, 4 eggs beaten in one at a time until the mixture is smooth and elastic. The only difference I see - I have never used milk in choux pastry.

                          My recipe calls for 15 minutes at 450, then turns the oven down to 350 "until done." I usually take them out when they are dark golden brown. I make all shapes - mini balls, large balls, eclairs, even rings (as for a Paris Brest). Yes, larger shapes take longer and/or are gummier inside.

                          I have not had a problem with the bottoms being too moist/sunken to fill. But I will say that the pastry when done is often less than 'perfect'. It seems to vary each time and some batches are more crisp than others. ALL are good when filled and covered in homemade chocolate sauce!

                          1. re: lupaglupa

                            Do you use egg wash to brush them with before baking? When you say dark golden brown, do you mean the parts that have egg wash or the parts that don't?

                            Thx for your suggestions. 450 I believe is too high for parchment paper, 425 is the max.

                            1. re: foodsmith

                              I never egg wash choux pastry. Since I always put something on top I don't care if they're glossy.

                              I use silpats for choux but in the past I used parchment at that tep and never had a problem.

                              I'm gonna post in your other thread too - I've decided we need to appeal to a higher authority! I've e-mailed Harold McGee to ask his advice.

                              1. re: lupaglupa

                                Who is Harold McGee? I'm new around here :) And thanks for the hand.

                                1. re: foodsmith

                                  Harold McGee is a food writer who looks at the science behind cooking. He writes books and articles, in the New Yorks Times among other places. He gets into what chemical reactions are taking place with the ingredients and how doing X makes Y happen and how doing Z will result in better results etc. It's very interesting! He has a website - where you can read some of his articles.

              2. My firs tquestion is did the paper actually *burn* - flames & smoke; or did it just seriously brown? I use parment pan l;iners on a daily basis, and have never had them "burn" even at 450 - 500. I baked crackers @ 450 the other day - 15 minutes; used each sheet of parchment twice and all it got was brown.