Back To The Drawing Board

I had high hopes of presenting you with a wonderful gluten-free and dairy free eclair recipe today. As I scraped it all into the garbage in a very expensive heap…I cringed.

Mentally doing the count.

Two vanilla beans, a dozen organic eggs, three cans of full fat coconut milk, two and a half bars of high quality dark chocolate…


Not to mention the un-gawdly mess I made while trying to bring everything all together at once.

Do any of you dislike cleaning piping bags as much as I do?


Here’s what went wrong:

I made the filling first so it could chill. Nice and thick, right?


And full of those gorgeous and very expensive vanilla bean seeds.


I put it in the fridge while I made the pastry dough.

My first clue that something was wrong with the pastry dough was when I added the flour to the hot mixture, it completely seized. To the point that my arm was not strong enough to beat it with a wooden spoon. Hmmm…I worried the dough would be too dry and airy when cooked because it didn’t seem like it had enough moisture to even mix it properly. It’s a similar recipe to my Scandinavian Kringler recipe, but didn’t react the same at all. But, I put it in the mixer and added the eggs one at a time and things calmed down. They even looked gorgeous after being piped onto the cookie sheet.


I piped them and then did an egg wash. Popped them in the oven and watched them carefully.


Hmm…a bit deformed. I quickly realized I should have piped them higher and watched the build up on the ends. I ate one plain and knew immediately they were not going to work well. Eclairs are supposed to be airy (think cream puffs) but these were too airy and the egg wash had given them a weird texture on top. I also thought, why did I even use an egg wash? They’re going to be dipped in chocolate anyway.

I made the chocolate ganache while I waited for them to cool…which also seized almost immediately, but I was able to save it with a bit of warmed coconut milk. Then I poked holes in the eclairs and took the filling out of the fridge.


The filling had completely liquefied. Remember how thick it was?  The only thing I can think that happened to change things was the stirring in of the butter after it was thickened. So I did a complete no-no and put it back on the heat and thickened it again. Cooled it on ice, and then filled another dreaded piping bag.

I already knew the recipe was a fail but I had to see it through.


Looks edible. And I could have fibbed and told everyone they were delicious.

But you KNOW I would never do that to you. 

We’re in this together.


They were not good.

The ganache was too thick and the chocolate I used was too dark. The pastry itself was too crisp and too airy in the middle. Kind of reminded me of a popover. There really wasn’t much to it. And the filling, that was the worst. Too much vanilla, and too thick and gelatinous.

So I did a bit of research and came to the realization that I think I had the word eclair stuck in my head, but what I was really hoping for was something more like a Boston cream doughnut.

Or at least something in between.

(photo courtesy of


So there you have it. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

A lot of work goes into changing recipes to gluten-free and dairy free. A lot of trial and error, and sometimes, most of the time, those recipe failures can be quite pricey.

I’ll revisit the chocolate eclair recipe trial again someday.

But for now, I’m going to clean the eclair bomb that went off in my kitchen and drown my sorrows with a homemade pizza and my last gluten-free beer I brought with me from Washington state.

17 Comments on “Back To The Drawing Board

  1. Oh, no! I feel your pain. Must have been a bad day for baking experiments today. I was trying new granola recipes. Let’s just say the squirrels have some very expensive treats now.
    For what it’s worth, your eclairs are indeed picture perfect.
    And FYI, Just finished a Trader Joes GF pizza….they did good. And 1/2 price of the other tasty one from VT. Goes great with an Omission beer. Cheers!


    • I’ve never tried TJ’s pizzas. I always make ours because it’s hard to find a gluten-free pre made pizza that is also dairy free. We do have a local pizza place that makes a great gluten free pizza though. 🙂


      • TJs already has sauce and cheese on theirs. I’m actually going to write and ask if they would sell crust-only. I’m horrible at baking, but I prefer my own sauce and toppings 🙂


  2. You are so brave to share your failures. I think your eclairs look really good, especially the vanilla bean custard – that looks amazing. I can imagine how heartbreaking this must have been for you after all the time and the expense. I do hope you are brave enough to make them again xx


    • It was more frustrating than anything. I wouldn’t call it bravery…ha! I am somewhat of a perfectionist though and I would certainly have preferred to post a perfect eclair. 😉


  3. I gave this one five stars because of your honesty! I’ve had a few failures lately myself and it does make you want to cry when you throw it out. It seems to happen more often with Gluten-free because of the chemistry of things.. I think there should be a pastry class that teaches this for us.. even online it would help. I’m so sorry that you couldn’t eat these, because they do look spectacular, April! I hope you try again! xx


    • Thanks, Barb. I will try, but not for a while! ha Tony bought me an amazing gluten free cookbook when he went skiing in Utah recently. I can’t wait to start experimenting! 🙂


  4. I’m so sorry that this happened. It’s happened to me more times than I can remember. It is expensive and not a little down-heartening because of the very nature of what we’re doing. Keep going though – I know the next one will come right!
    Claire 🙂


  5. I just have to say that if this is what your failures look like, set me a place at your breakfast bar and I’ll be happy to make sure that your creations are good enough to eat — or not. 🙂


  6. I feel your pain, April. Most of us have been in similar situations and I doubt if none but a very few have tried to take recipes and convert them to be GF and DF. I’ve told you before that I admire your skills but I guess an occasional failure is to be expected. Knowing that doesn’t make it any less frustrating, though. For what it’s worth, those eclairs sure did look good!


    • It kinda stinks to have a failure, but I’ve had many! 😉 It’s kind of an necessary evil when you change the science of a recipe. But that’s OK, it helps me learn and then I can pass that knowledge on to other people.


  7. Oh my gosh I feel for you. I get so disappointed when something turns out like this especially when it involves fancy ingredients like VANILLA BEANS, UGH!! I feel like at least once every two weeks I waste a fortune in nuts. I love nutty cakes, but so many of the recipes out there are dry or just mediocre. You’d think I’d stop trying all of them but I can’t help it. I need to start a nut fund on kickstarter so people (i.e. just my mom, if I’m even that lucky) can bail me out of the financial nut hole I’m in.

    Here’s to better results in the next endeavor, right? xo Katherine


  8. I have a feeling my eclairs might run the same course at school this week – so nerve wracking! Of course, a Boston cream doughnut would do a lot to make one feel better…


    • Take pictures so I can see how they are REALLY supposed to be piped! I think I can still make them gluten free and dairy free but the moisture in the eclairs will have to be higher or something so they won’t be quite so airy. There’s really no way around the filling though. I used full fat canned coconut milk but I think it was the non-dairy Tbsp. of butter at the end that made it liquefy in the fridge while cooling. I don’t like to use corn starch so I used potato starch for thickening and maybe that was an issue too…who knows. Next time I’ll try arrow root powder for thickening. Right now I hate eclairs so it will be a while before I try it again. 😉


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