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I need help figuring out my baking failures


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I was planning on making eclairs for Mother’s Day.  This is how they turned out:

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They all turned out flat like this.  I had two baking sheets of them.  On one they were a little too close together and didn’t puff up as much as they should have.  The other sheet puffed up beautifully, but when I opened the oven and turned off the heat, they all went flat.  The recipe that I used was Pichet Ong's Pate Choux

 

Obviously, eclairs were off the menu.  Mr. Kim suggested making a pound cake and just macerating some strawberries.  He baked the Michael Ruhlman Ratio pound cake which I’ve made before.  This was the result of that bake:

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It was horrible.  Mr. Kim tested the oven temperature yesterday with his BBQ thermometer.  When the oven was preheated to 375F it fluctuated between 360F and 388F.  From my reading, this shouldn’t cause a problem. 

 

So, I don’t know where the problem is.  Me?  My oven?  I have confidence in both recipes, so I’m guessing the problem is a bit closer to home.  Any ideas?  Thank you!

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1 hour ago, Kim Shook said:

Any ideas? 

I know you have tested the oven temperature but when I was having issues not too different from yours I discovered it was not so much the temperature but the signal that the oven is actually preheated to that temperature that was amiss. So the oven signalled that it had  reached 350°F but in fact it was still closer to 300°. Just a thought. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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3 hours ago, Anna N said:

I know you have tested the oven temperature but when I was having issues not too different from yours I discovered it was not so much the temperature but the signal that the oven is actually preheated to that temperature that was amiss. So the oven signalled that it had  reached 350°F but in fact it was still closer to 300°. Just a thought. 

We thought of that and didn't put the thermometer in the oven until after it said it was preheated.  It immediately registered around 375F.  

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from: Great British Bake Off

 

Common problems: Failure to rise

There are two common problems encountered when making choux pastry. Firstly, if you add the eggs to your hot water and flour mixture before it has cooled, the eggs will cook in the paste and refuse to rise in the oven. I transfer my hot paste to a cool mixing bowl, stirring from time to time until it feels just warm to the touch. Then I add the eggs.

A second common problem is adding too much egg. Add the beaten egg a little at a time until the consistency described above is reached. Often less egg is required than stated in a recipe.

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The eclairs are underbaked. The color on the collapsed side is too light. If they puffed up regularly then you were on the right track, but you had to keep baking them for longer. After puffing they need the consolidating of their structure (starch gelification), so if you stop baking them before they reach that stage then they are going to collapse.

 

The cake seems a mix of troubles. It's really pale, too few browning. You are using a recipe with citrus juice, acids tend to prevent maillard reactions, but it's still too pale.

The crumb is really dense, which means it was over mixed. I would not call it "over creamed". The creaming stage is when you beat/whip the butter with sugar, to get it light and fluffy. When you add eggs you are not creaming it anymore, it's already creamed. When you add flour you are mixing it, not creaming. It's better to add flour by hand, not in the mixer. If you run it in the mixer then it's really easy to over mix it, develop too much gluten and collapsing the air bubbles you created during the creaming stage. After you added the eggs (doing it carefully to not break the emulsion) it's better to stop the machine and add the flour (sifted few minutes before) by hand, mixing slowlyand carefully with a rubber spatula: you add about 1/3 sifted flour, mix gently until it starts dissolving but before getting a homogeneous batter, add the second 1/3/, mix again lightly not reaching the homogeneous stage, add the last third and mix until homogeneous.

I would add some chemical leavener (baking soda or similar) to the recipe, just to be sure.

 

About your oven, it's better to buy an oven thermometer and leave it inside, so you always have under your eyes the real temperature. They cost around $10, not a big expense and they help a lot (just avoiding a single ruined recipe will pay for the expense). Having said that, all ovens are different. The temperature in a single spot is just one of many features. Temperature will vary from one zone to another, there's no hope with home ovens. Temperature will fluctuate widely. Plus there are all the other factors, mainly the radiating heat. There's no general rule for using an oven, you need to adapt to each one of them. Which means that most probably you need to change temperatures and times from the recipes you want to use.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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i agree with everything @teonzo said. i went through a period of bad choux earlier this year and after fixing a couple of small problems the biggest part really came down to not removing them before they were fully baked.

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