It's not that they were bad, mind. They just weren't what I expected them to be. But I watched some Julia Child a couple of weeks ago and one of the things she said was (to paraphrase), "Never apologize; just because it disappoints you doesn't mean the people you're serving know that it's not the way you intended it to be." In effect, keep your mouth shut and everyone will probably think it's just fine. Well, that surely is what happened with these eclairs. My friends thought they were just dandy. Bless them.
But to bring myself to closure here, let me explain what disappointed me. I made the choux paste, and it was fine. For all the kerfluffle out there about how tricky cream puffs are, they're not. You make the batter (you can even do it in a food processor) and steam does all the work for you (which is why I picked this particular dessert for this supper club--the theme was "air" and I felt that a pastry in which the "air" technically did all the work was right in line).
So, crisp little fingers of puffy buttery dough, the creamy custardy filling. No problem, right? Wrong. The directions for these eclairs call for lightening the filling with whipping cream. Nice idea, but guess what? You can't pipe it. If you look inside a cream puff or gougere, you'll see that the steam has indeed fluffed everything up nicely, but it leaves this sort of spider webby network of dough that you have to force aside to while you're filling them. That light airy cream just didn't have enough muscle for the job.
As a result, I was forced to slit the eclairs down the side and plop the filling in. Worst thing in the world? Of course not. Actually the way the instructions described the filling process? Why, yes. Not in line with my personal expectations? Ah, no, and this is where we come to the crux of the problem, and the aforementioned haunting.
It's not that they turned out badly, or even that they turned out differently than the recipe described, it's that they did not meet my expectations, and because I let myself down, I labeled them a flop. Of course I didn't stop cooking after this, I just stopped talking about it here. I was too mortified by my own perceived failure to come back and discuss it.
So now I am back, and I have discussed it. I didn't mention that the chocolate glaze let me down too, in part because I waited too late to make it and it didn't harden up the way it was supposed to until the next day. Again, my fault. If I'd made the chocolate in the morning, it would probably have been fine by 5 p.m. or so, when I needed to use it.
Well, live and learn. I think I have some pictures of this mortifying experience somewhere.
Right, you see? Fine. They're fine. The picture is a little heavy on glare for my taste, but I didn't edit it at all, just dropped it in here.
Now that we're past that, I'll start working on some other things that won't disappoint. I'm not even going to bother giving you the recipe for the eclairs, I'm so annoyed at how I let them ruin my life for three months. They are dead to me. Let's move on!