Crackle-Topped Bubble Eclairs & Things I Learnt Making Them

Crackle top éclairs -- perfectly puffed mouthfuls!

Crackle top éclairs — perfectly puffed mouthfuls!

My online bake-a-long group is making Dorie Greenspan’s Bubble Éclairs  from her Baking Chez Moi cookbook this week, and I chose to make them with a crackle topping. They were definitely tasty, and also definitely more of a learning experience than I expected, even with previous éclair-making experience.

Things I learnt while making them:

  • If the DH says that something is burning, the éclairs  are NOT burning, and in fact, are underdone.
  • One should leave the éclairs  in the oven until browner than one thinks is good (remember that ‘French bake’!) or they’ll collapse on you faster than you can say ‘souffle’. Ask me how I know. *le sigh* 
  • 1/2 the amount of crackle-top topping that Dorie recommends is just right.
  • When Dorie says to use two cookie trays, she doesn’t mean squeeze it all onto one tray. Really. Because your bubble éclairs will become one giant éclair, and then separate into mini éclairs. Missing the point of the bubble.
  • My eyes are bigger than my stomach, aka I can eat fewer éclairs than I think and I should have halved the recipe. *groans and clutches stomach*  But I also should have doubled the amount of whipped cream that I made.

I think that sums up my experience! Now let me break it down:

Éclairs are such a fancy looking dessert, but they’re really not that hard to make. You mix up the (very egg-y) batter, pipe it onto a baking tray, bake it, let it cool, and then pipe it full of something delicious, such as pastry cream, chocolate mousse, or whipped cream.

Crackle topping in process.

Crackle topping in process.

I chose to do the crackle-top éclairs, as I couldn’t find any of the coarse pearl-type sugar that Dorie talks about. I even dragged the DH to IKEA on the weekend, ostensibly to look at buying a wall unit, but in reality, to search out the sugar that Dorie says is available there. And if the DH is reading this: “Hi Honey! Hey, it was two birds with one stone, yes? Now have an éclair!” And by the way, the sugar wasn’t available at IKEA. (On the bright side, we’ve settled on a wall unit for the bedroom!)

How to make the éclairs? One makes the crackle-top dough (tastes like sugar cookie dough, btw), cuts out little circles (I used a champagne glass), and freezes them.

So far, so good. Seems adequately spaced, doesn't it?

So far, so good. Seems adequately spaced, doesn’t it?

Then you mix up the éclair batter by boiling the butter, milk, sugar, salt, and water in a  saucepan, then mixing in the flour until a paste-y sort of dough forms. Switch the batter to a mixer, and add in the eggs one at a time, until batter is shiny. Pipe it onto a silicone mat lined cookie tray, place the frozen crackle top circles on top, and pop it into the oven to bake.

As I said, éclairs really aren’t hard to make. Unless you under-bake them, and then all your hard work goes ‘poof’. Some pictorial proof.

Just a wee bit fallen. And they were so perfect when I pulled them out of the oven!

Just a wee bit fallen. And they were so perfect when I pulled them out of the oven!

When I took the éclairs out of the oven, they were perfect! All golden-domed and perfectly baked, high and proud. Admittedly, I did squeeze all the dough onto one cookie tray, and Dorie does say to use two, but I thought hey, it fits! Until it baked up and it didn’t. The tray became one giant bubble éclair. Which isn’t a problem, really, right? It’s like a croquembouche, but flat! A new dessert design! Then 5 minutes passed and the lovely golden domes went pffft, becoming crackled-topped pancakes. Ok, so not that bad, but that’s what it felt like. All my hard work, gone in one puff of air.

So. Next time. Bake until more brown than I think is right! I did bake for the minimum time that Dorie says to do, but next time I’ll go for the maximum. And possibly beyond.

My lone official "bubble éclair"!

My lone official “bubble éclair”!

Then I filled the prettiest ones with whipped cream. But ran out of whipping cream and so froze the rejects. I know that they’re best the day that they’re made, but, eh. And maybe ice cream will puff them back up to pleasing plumpness.

Speaking of plumpness, my hips will never be the same after this cookbook, I tell you. (I may have eaten an éclair or four. That crackle topping though — not only tasty, but adds this fabulous textural element to each bite!)

Next Post: Something low-cal, I think. After those deliciously rich éclairs, I’m craving some veggies!

26 thoughts on “Crackle-Topped Bubble Eclairs & Things I Learnt Making Them

  1. Margrét Jóhanna

    Well with the rejects you can just use one as top and another one as the buttom. That is what we did when the profiteroles did not puff. We used them as sandwiches. Your non recects one looks very tasty

    Reply
  2. Amy

    Your eclairs look delicious with the crackle topping. I love the things you learned and the giant tray of eclairs. (I’m sure they tasted great no matter how much they joined together.)

    Reply
  3. Cher

    I think the crackle top was fun (and pretty tasty).

    Even with separate sheets, I think the “bubble” were prone to separate, so you were just one step ahead of things (and had less baking sheets to clean up after).

    Reply
    1. Margaret Post author

      I like the way you think, Cher! I didn’t make an error, I was just one step ahead — that’s definitely it! *grin* And yes, wasn’t the crackle top fun?

      Reply
  4. Nicole

    Post-modernist croqembouche! I wanted to go look at furniture when I was at IKEA, and normally my husband goes along with it, but he insisted that on just going to the market. Boohiss. Your crackle top looks so good that I might try this next time!

    Reply
    1. Margaret Post author

      Post-modernist croquembouche! Yes! That’s the looks I was going for! Is it too late now to say it was all part of my master plan? *grin* And I do highly recommend the crackle top. Yummers!

      Reply
  5. Diane Zwang

    I read your post before I baked my eclairs. I did leave them in the oven longer and also ignored my husband who wanted to take them out. They did not burn and turned out perfect. I was also glad that you said half the crackle top recipe was ok since I forgot to double it. Also thanks for the tip that Ikea stocks pre-cut parchment paper. My role gets very curly at the end and I have trouble getting it to lay flat.

    Reply

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