Thursday, January 30, 2014

Andrew's Gougeres and Chocolate Eclairs from Joanne Chang's "Flour"

Mark Bittman
Recently Mark Bittman used his Sunday NY Times Food pages to extoll the virtues and utter simplicity of making Pate a Choux. This dough is the basis for both Gougeres, bite sized cheese puffs that melt in your mouth and Chocolate Eclairs, my absolute favorite French pastry growing up.  Now Gougeres could not be all that hard to make because my Mother, challenged as she sometimes was in the kitchen, made them with some frequency.  But perhaps because the Eclairs of my memory involved a trip across town to a Montreal Patisserie, it was inconceivable to me that these could possibly be made at home.   So after Andrew had stuffed us all with Gougeres at Christmas Dinner, I was taken aback when he told me he was making Eclairs for New Year’s Eve Dinner.  Not only were they better than any éclair I have ever eaten, he pronounced them a cinch to make.  Frankly, I never quite believe him when he says something is easy but I’ll take his word for it.  Especially after it was seconded by Mr. Bittman.  These two pastries are so impressive they will dazzle anyone so if you want to sweeten your Super Bowl party or dazzle your Valentine, you've got it made.   As long as you don’t let on how easy they were to make. 
Andrew mans the Piping bag
Pate au Choux, the basis for both of these creations, is made from just four ingredients: Butter, Water, Flour and Eggs.  The beating of these ingredients is the only real labor involved and takes all of three minutes.  And even there you can put it all in the hands of your electric mixer until you have a smooth batter.  If you’re making gougeres, you add cheese to the mixture.  If you’re making Eclairs, you’re done.  You can let the dough rest at that point but you don’t even have to do that.  Both Gougeres and Eclairs are best put into a piping bag, a cone-shaped contraption that allows you to form the pastry into exactly the shapes you want.  These can be had for 4.95 on  Or you can spring for one with a 23 piece set for all of 19.09.  And if your find yourself piping bagless, you can substitute a plastic freezer bag with one corner cut off.  Like magic, your piped pastry will double in
size in the oven leaving a gap in the center that just made for filling with ice cream (think Profiteroles) or pastry cream (think Eclairs).  Once you get the hang of it, you can invent your own fillings –savory or sweet.  Because once you’ve knocked Pate a Choux, you’ve pretty much got it made.  And why were Andrew's Eclairs better than any I've ever tasted.  We owe their charms to none other than Joanne Chang, the force behind Boston's Flour Cafe's and Bakeries. Andrew is practically a disciple of Ms. Chang at this point.  The difference in her eclairs? The filling!  The traditional custard-like filling here is ambrosial.  The secret: The last minute addition of whipped cream. It elevates the whole pastry to a new level, one that's considerably lighter than ever I'd tasted before.  Here are the recipes:

Recipe for Gougeres:
Makes 30 -40 Gougeres. Takes 30 minutes tops.

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups (about 7 ounces) all-purpose flour

3 eggs

1 cup freshly grated Emmenthal, Gruyère, Cantal or Cheddar cheese

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese.
Lightly grease two baking sheets and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, combine one cup water, butter and salt. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until butter melts. Add flour all at once and cook, stirring constantly, until dough holds together in a ball, 5 minutes or less. Dough will get stiffer as you stir; keep stirring until dough is smooth. Transfer batter to a large mixing bowl or the workbowl of a standing mixer.
Add eggs one at a time, beating hard after each addition (this is a little bit of work; a hand mixer will probably not be powerful enough). Stop beating when mixture is glossy. Stir in the cheeses.

Pipe onto baking sheet and bake until puffed and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Recipe for Chocolate Eclairs from Joanne Chang of Flour 
Makes 2 – 4 dozen depending on size.  Takes 60 minutes to make.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus a little more for greasing the baking sheet
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Heat oven to 400 and grease a baking sheet with butter. Put the butter and a pinch of salt in a saucepan over high heat; add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and add all the flour at once; stir constantly until the mixture pulls away from the pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time; use an electric mixer if you like, and beat until the mixture is smooth. (At this point, you can cover the dough and refrigerate it for up to two days.)

Scoop the dough into a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip, or a plastic freezer bag with a corner cut off. Pipe the pastry onto the baking sheet. Eclairs should be 3-to-4-inch fingers, about 1 inch wide.

Bake until the pastries are golden brown, nicely puffed up and sound hollow when you tap on them, about 40 minutes for éclairs. Use a skewer to prick one or two holes in each one to allow the steam to escape; transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature.
To fill the pastries using a pastry bag, poke a hole into the pastry and pipe the filling into it, or cut off the top caps of each pastry, spoon in the filling, and close it up like a sandwich. Serve as is, or dip in chocolate glaze. Recipe for Filling and Glaze follows.

Recipe for Pastry Cream Filling for Eclairs

2 cups whole milk
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons cake flour
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, vanilla bean and seeds just to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the sugar with the cake flour and salt. Whisk in the egg and egg yolks. Slowly add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly. Continue to boil the pastry cream, whisking constantly, until thick, about 30 seconds longer. Immediately strain the pastry cream through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until cool.
In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Whisk the pastry cream, then fold in the whipped cream until blended.

Recipe for Chocolate Glaze from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

In a medium bowl, melt the chocolate in a microwave oven. Whisk in the butter until smooth.


  1. Game on!!! Thank you Monte and Andrew, this is perfect!

    1. Thanks Ana! Do you think your SeaHawks fan will approve?

  2. Can't wait to try this recipe. Experienced Flour in the Back Bay a few weeks ago. I visited twice in the same day, coffe and a cookie (the best cookie of my life) and then back for a terrific beet soup. Thanks for this post.

  3. Linda O, thanks so much for writing. Boy, did you come to the right blog. Joanne Chang is a huge favorite of ours! We have no less than 6 posts featuring her phenomenal baked goods. Her life story is fascinating as you'll read in our HomeMade Oreos post. But the ultimate Joanne Chang treat has to be this...
    Take a look and do try these!