5 Tips for Successfully Baking a New Recipe

My goal recently has been to step outside of my baking comfort zone. Cupcakes, cakes, cookies and brownies are my go-to treats, but I want to challenge myself to learn new skills and techniques. Rob loves eclairs (something I just learned recently), so I decided to give them a try! I’ve never made pâte à choux (the light pastry dough used for cream puffs, profiteroles, etc.), so this was a learning experience for me. The ingredients are pretty basic and the technique isn’t too cosmic. Luckily it turned out the first time, because we all know how frustrating it can be to waste time and ingredients on a failed recipe.

It was also my first time making pastry cream and thankfully that turned out well, too. Then it was time to fill the shells! I poked a few holes in the bottom then used a piping tip to insert the pastry cream. It’s hard to tell if there’s enough (or too much), but eventually you kind of get a feel for it. Although I was very disappointed to bite into one this afternoon and not have any cream at that end :( Lastly, I dipped them in ganache. I used a 1:1 ration or semi-sweet chocolate chips and heavy cream (1/2 cup each, but I had quite a bit left over). It was the perfect consistency—not too runny and not too thick). The entire batch (about 20 eclairs) didn’t even last for 24 hours. Rob demolished them! And in fairness I did give a few to our neighbors and I might have had a few… ;)

It was fun to try something new and thankfully it was a success! It would not have been so fun if I had blobs of pastry dough stuffed with curdled pudding haha. I know we’ve all had those “Pinterest fails” before! To set you up for success when baking a new recipe here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Compare multiple recipes before settling on one. I did a lot of research before setting on this eclair recipe. And actually I ended up piecing together three separate recipes (with this recipe from Saveur as the main component). When comparing recipes, look to see if they have similar ingredients and directions. If one seems way out of line from the rest, it’s probably not going to turn out as well. Anyone can post a recipe on the Internet, so it can be tough to spot one that’s reliable.
  2. Read the comments. This kind of goes along with my first point, but read the comments on the recipe posts that you are comparing. If it consistently gets 1-star reviews, pass! You want to get the feeling that multiple people tried it and loved it! Don’t let this completely deter you from trying recipes from smaller bloggers, though. I promise my recipes are good even if they don’t have hundreds of comments and reviews ;) However, if a Martha Stewart recipe pops up with less-than-impressive reviews, maybe keep searching. Also, look at the comments for tips about the recipe. These are people who have tried the recipe already and might have other ways of altering or improving it.
  3. Read the recipe thoroughly before beginning. It’s important to know that you have all of the ingredients/supplies and understand each step before you begin. Some recipes move very quickly, so it’s important to know what’s coming. If you have to stop to read and figure out a direction, it might be too late. Try watching YouTube videos if you’re unclear! I watched several about making eclairs before attempting these.
  4. Measure out your ingredients before you start baking. As I mentioned above, some recipes require you to move quickly. It helps to measure your ingredients correctly and have them ready to go before you start mixing anything. That way nothing will overcook or over-mix while you’re pouring ingredients.
  5. Don’t make any substitutions. Since this is your first attempt just follow the recipe as is. Most bakers test their recipes multiple times, so they know what works and what doesn’t. Trust the author’s recommendation, then make tweaks based on your preferences the next time you bake it if necessary.