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Jan 15, 2009 10:20 PM

Spent all night making eclairs... and they collapsed

Just when I thought I nailed this patte a choux, I turn over my eclairs to find that they deflated from the *underside*, so that I didn't even notice until I had already gone through the trouble of making the filling.

What's the trick? I have read multiple recipes with a whole variety of oven temperatures. I've seen some that say to leave the oven door open after 5 minutes, others say after 20 minutes. I can't tell if the inside of mine are under cooked after 25 minutes of cooking, or if the steam didn't get a chance to escape and therefore the dough became mushy inside.

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  1. As soon as they come out of the oven you need to make a small slit (easy with a small paring knife) or hole in each one to let out the steam. Also move them to a rack so that there is air circulation all around. As long as the shell is crisp and dry I think the problem was do to steam getting trapped rather than your cooking time, though that may need to be adjusted a bit,

    3 Replies
    1. re: Stuffed Monkey

      Should I try to make the slit while they are still in the oven (by pulling out the tray slightly)? I guess just a hole at one of the ends would suffice right, which would be needed for the filling anyway.

      I guess I don't understand how the steam inside causes them to implode and why from the bottom, is that because the top is much crisper perhaps and better structured and the bottom gives way first?

      1. re: foodsmith

        I just make the slit the moment they come out ot the oven. I think that the reason the problem was on the bottom is that the pan keeps the moisture from evaporating which the top can do. That's why you should also immediately move them to a rack.
        It will be interesting to see what Harold McGee says,

        1. re: foodsmith

          If you think about it, they "poof" because they create steam on the inside. Once you take them out of the oven, the steam cools, which causes it to (a) shrink and (b) create moisture. If you don't cut a slit to allow the air both in and out of the inside, the pastry will shrink around the cooling air. This happens from the bottom because the contact with the pan makes that area most susceptible to softening from the moisture.

          The good news is that it's an easy fix.

          And if you still have them, I'd just cut the top halves off and sandwich them together around your filling.

      2. It has been my experience that i do leave the oven door open after 5 minutes. always worked for me. keep an eye on your oven temp and calibrate it with an overn thermometer so you're getting an accurate temp.

        1 Reply
        1. re: likescrab

          What temp do you use if you don't mind me asking?

        2. Foodsmith - after reading this thread and the other one you have on the same topic I realise that we are getting into a level of technical questions where we need to ask the Big Guy on scientific cooking. Yes, I think we need Harold McGee. I looked at my old copy of On Food and Cooking and it did not address choux paste. I loooked on his website and there was nothing there. So - I have e-mailed him to ask if he has ever written about this. Who knows if we'll hear back. If we do - I'll let you know first!

          1 Reply
          1. re: lupaglupa

            Big points to Harold - he answered back right away. Here's his reply:

            "there are a number of fine points--best to get a detailed recipe from a good source, like Rose Beranbaum or Bruce Healy or Shirley Corriher. Good luck! Harold"

            I don't have a choux paste recipe from any of the three - but I'll definitely try to check one out and see what their pointers are.

          2. I made eclairs for Christmas dessert. It was somewhat helpful to watch Alton's youtube video. (I still haven't quite forgiven him for suggesting boxed vanilla pudding for a filling, though.) There are two parts to the video.

            My first batch didn't puff very much, and I think the problem was that I made them too small. The rest were really good, if not perfectly shaped.

            Hope it helps.

            Part 1:

            Part 2: