French Fridays with Dorie – Vanilla Eclairs

This is all my parents’ fault.


My parents made me fall in love with pastry cream at a very early age.  Legend has it that in the hospital room where I was born, there was a box of pastries that my Dad bought from a charming little bakery in Hato Rey, the Swiss Cake.  From there on, we would make at minimum a monthly pilgrimage to the Swiss Cake and us kids would get to pick our sweets.  My brother’s order was always the same: ‘mousse y piña“, shorthand for a chocolate mousse and a chocolate covered vanilla layered cake slice topped with a slice of pineapple and a cherry.  I would always get pastry creamed anything – Napoleons (my favorite to this day), small tarts with fruit, tornillos (puff pastry horns). My sister would vary her order, but would always get an éclair.  Éclairs sold in Puerto Rico are made with pastry cream and the baked choux pastry, but instead of a chocolate ganache, they usually have a hardened candied sugar topping – the sugary crunch paired with the airy dough and the dense pastry cream makes quite a satisfying bite.  The eclairs are usually filled from one of the ends with a pastry bag tip, so the presentation varies slightly from the ‘sandwich’ éclairs that showcase the filling. 

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe had me in a tizzy from the minute I read it would be in schedule.  I had never made cream puff dough before, and my pastry bag skills are/were a little limited.  I set off to the neighborhood baking supplies store and bought the largest pastry bag they had and the largest tip available (1/2″).  Having these new toys on hand somehow helped me feel more confident about piping out the pastry tubes.


The new pastry bag, however, did not stop me from being a little confused as to how to go about baking the éclairs. On one hand, in the directions for the cream puff pastry recipe, the baking times varied and the baking pans were rotated to ensure even baking.  I followed those instructions, but my pastry came out underbaked.  I made an extra half batch of choux dough, and baked one tray with the éclairs’ recipe instructions to a T.  They came out perfect! Instead of making the glace or ganache, I prepared a bit of stovetop caramel with sugar and a few drops of water and lemon juice.  I drizzled it on top of the éclairs filled with the vanilla pastry cream.  The caramel hardened, and the crunchy browned sugar made a great contrast to the intense vanilla flavor of the cream.

I also squeezed a couple of mini puffs to have fun with.  I think those were my favorite!  I made two half batches of pastry cream the night before, one vanilla and one chocolate.


It was only natural for me to ask my parents to come over for dessert after lunch on Sunday, when I made the éclairs.  They were impressed, and I couldn’t have been happier.  This is probably the FFwD recipe that has given me the biggest sense of accomplishment to date.  After baking the second batch of pastry dough, I can say this was a WIN!  Thanks, Dorie!  My copy of Around My French Table has now a smudge – its first battle scar.  If you get any part of your book wet, do not rub the paper!  Gently blot it dry.

Now what can I do with the slightly underbaked, not as puffy pastry tubes stored in a plastic bag in my freezer?

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Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

28 Responses to “French Fridays with Dorie – Vanilla Eclairs”

  1. Cher
    April 15, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Ah – those parents of ours get us while we’re young, don’t they! (Mine got me hooked pretty young too…) My book has many “scars” (even a few stuck together pages…) – glad you were able to win the battle on your pastry dough 🙂 Love the “mini” version. I don’t have any bright ideas on the leftovers, but I am interested in hearing what others come up with!

  2. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite
    April 15, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    These look great – I loved them as well (posting tomorrow as I have a conflict today) – your presentation on the strawberries is wonderful!

  3. yummychunklet
    April 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    The candied sugar topping sounds divine! Great post!

  4. Mary
    April 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I blame my parents too for introducing me and forcing me to love ice cream and cookies! Nice post. I am so glad I tried these.

  5. Kelly
    April 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Mmmm these eclairs look delish!! Great pictures too! 🙂

  6. Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen
    April 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    The crunchy caramel glazing is certainly different and has me intrigued! About those frozen undercooked pastry tubes, you can take two pieces and sandwich pastry cream and fruit in between them to make a whole eclair. That way, they’re still usable.

  7. From the Bookshelf
    April 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    These turned out so beautifully! I am such a piping chicken. I may need to bite the bullet and try these this weekend.

  8. Jill Colonna
    April 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Wow, that certainly sounds like you started eating pastry cream RIGHT from the start, then! Love the look of your eclairs, so light and with the creamy centres…. hmmm!

  9. elisabeth@foodandthriftfinds
    April 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Wow, Adriana! I admire you and the rest of the ladies for taking in on such a tedious project with Dorie. Your cream puffs look so tempting and yummy, so droolworthy.Congratulations, on making these beautiful cream puffs!!!

  10. Vicki @ WITK
    April 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Your eclairs are so pretty! Great work on this FFWD post, I have yet to attempt this type of dessert.

  11. Chef Pandita
    April 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Lovely photos, Adriana! Why don’t you try baking again your batch of undercooked éclairs?

  12. the urban baker
    April 15, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    these look yummy! love the strawberry!

  13. Kathy
    April 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Loved your post! Funny how our parents influence us! Great looking eclairs!

  14. Patty
    April 16, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    I like these puffs with vanilla and chocolate with strawberries, you did good;-)I also enjoyed reading your pastry/pastry cream story, that’s my kind of story.Take care and have a nice weekend;-)

  15. Allison
    April 16, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    So when is my flight to Puerto Rico? Those sweets sound divine! And the home made caramel on yours- ah! I’m lost in a culinary daydream!

  16. Betsy
    April 16, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Your pastry is so nicely browned. They look perfect. And that caramel topping is a great inspiration. Very nice post.

  17. kitchenarian
    April 16, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    Great story and beautiful eclairs! I felt like I had really accomplished something when I completed this recipe.

  18. Elaine
    April 16, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Such cute cream puffs! What a great idea to put caramel over the eclairs. Really enjoyed your story, Adriana.

    April 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    The pastry turned out great!! Nicely puffed!

  20. Krissy
    April 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    I love the caramel drizzle idea with the vanilla…sounds delish. And I would love to eat your little puffs right now. I’m impressed that you did so well on your 1st attempt at this type of recipe…good job!

  21. Liz
    April 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    I think my family would approve of your childhood pilgrimages for such tasty treats! Your eclairs look lovely…I really like your topping! How nice that you shared these with your parents 🙂

  22. Teresa
    April 17, 2011 at 1:47 am #

    I think you might get away with trying to bake your frozen par-baked eclairs. The topping for yours sounds wonderful and I like that you did two types of pastry cream.

  23. sanya living
    April 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Great photos! They really turned out well!I love they way this week’s recipe brought up so many childhood memories for us!

  24. Chris's Gourmet Fashion
    April 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    I love eclairs … I admit that I’ve only ever made them myself once though. Yours look really good. I love the touch of carmel you gave them.

  25. Cakelaw
    April 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    I would go for the pastry cream filled pastry every time too. I adore your toffee topping – I think it is inspired, and I must try it myself sometime.

  26. luciacara
    April 18, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Cute photo of the eclairs on the strawberries! And thanks for posting about the candied sugar topping. I’ve never come across that before – sounds delicisous & what a cool variation.

  27. Juliana
    April 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Oh! Your eclairs and puffs look delicious, so light and yet tasty. Beautiful pictures. Have a great week ahead 🙂


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    […] leavening, which results in the light texture.  Patê a choux can be piped into strips to make eclairs or just spooned into a baking sheet for a more rustic […]

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