If you love pastry, this is a book you will want to add to your bookshelf. Éclairs are one of my favorite pastries—what's not to love? Light, delicate choux (an egg-based pastry also used in cream puffs) baked in tubular form and filled with an array of fabulous creams and various types of other wonderful flavored insides.
Before reading this book, I viewed éclairs as the simple vanilla cream-filled choux topped with chocolate icing. Adam points out that there is much much more possible, and that it is possible to create this amazing variety of deliciousness in our own kitchens.
He very carefully lays out everything that is needed in your pantry in the way of equipment, and ingredients. Do not skip the kitchen scale. It's listed as the number one item and that is for a reason. Baking is a precise operation and weighing materials is the best way to ensure that you are putting together your éclairs or other items.
His choux pastry is not much different than the one I have been using since high school for cream puffs. Choux is choux after all. Beating the eggs in one at a time is key to the success of this batter---the tricky parts come when piping the dough into the elongated bar shape of an éclair---and in "pouring" in the filling.
Adams instructional pictures are a joy—very well done—and a temptation. The variety of delectable éclairs is wonderful. The photos of these creations are so skillfully presented that I am sure I gained weight just flipping through the book. He makes caramel peanut éclairs, toppings with hazelnut streusel, and almond past hearts. He shows us how to make fig éclairs—how healthy is THAT? There are recipes for pistachio paste and pistachio ganache. So much more than the vanilla cream I love.
With each new flavor, he presents the entire assembly process in detail to ensure your creation will look as lovely as his as well as taste fantastic. There are 500 step-by-step photos in the book.
While his instructional photos are fine for putting in the filling and fine for most people for piping the dough onto a cookie sheet, they were not enough for me. I panic at the sight of a pastry bag, and quake at the thought of the plastic bag option. (I can never figure out how big a hole to cut.) So, my problem with making éclairs at home, the pastry itself and the book (other than the obvious one of wanting to eat everything in it) is no amount of pictures, no matter how details, and not even the three internet YOU-Tube videos on how to use a piping bag to make the elongated shape that is the éclair.
The three I used are:
and this one for using a plastic bag instead of the traditional pastry bag to pipe out the choux:
Sure, I can make cream puffs—after the careful measuring and mixing, getting the right shape is easy. It's a mere lobbing of the dough onto the pan and then baking it. I have a fear of the filling bag—plain and simple. Although I love his filling recipes and the creativity, I will probably use the fillings in the less artful cream puff form of choux where spooning the dough onto a pan is give you the imperfect form that characterizes the puff and adding the filing is merely a matter of cutting off the top and spooning filing into each one. Much less artful, but still delicious.
Although there is much to love in this book, I found it too advanced for me. His recipes are elegant and modern to be sure, but the word "easy" only applies if you are already a good baker.
If you know someone who is dedicated to baking and who can use a pastry bag, this book would make a lovely gift. As for me, I am going to stick to professional bakeries (and we have many here in the area!) to indulge my love for éclairs.
At A Glance
Title | Éclairs: Easy, Elegant & Modern Recipes
Author | Christophe Adam
Publisher | Robert Rose Publishing
Price | $24.95