French Éclair. Hmmm, I actually had to stop typing and take a bite into this delicious almost hollow soft interior filled with luscious fluffy orange chantilly cream glazed with shiny decadent melted chocolate on the top. One piece is never enough for me or should I say anybody. Don’t let these delicious little pistons intimidate you, it is actually pretty easy to make and i have made these many times. These days you can get them in so many creative varieties with flavors like chocolate glazed filled with chocolate cream, pastry cream, salted butter caramel, coffee glazed with sweet coffee cream, tangy lemon cream and the likes. My personal favorite, diplomat cream. Diplomat cream is simply vanilla pastry cream mixed in with whipped cream. But today we are making Chantilly cream with Grand Marnier. I’ve used an Ateco #229 Large Bismark tip to fill a few eclairs for a clean look and cut the rest into halves so that the creamy filling peeps through the sides making you drool. Absolutely delicious and so easy to make.
I believed this popular classic French pastry deserves a bit more applause than just devouring it and then not talk about it. The chef behind this delectable éclair deserves the history to be told. Back in the centuries, it used to be called “pain à la duchesse” or “petite duchesse” prior to 1850. According to culinary historians, Marie Antonin Carême was a very well-known chef at the beginning of the 19th century. By age 14, he started working in the kitchen and cooking grew to become his passion. Carême as he is known to the culinary world earned a celebrity chefs status when he created Grande cuisine. He went on to start his own pastry shop and believed to be the creator of the French éclair. But this was only speculated by culinary historians. I would say hats off to the chef who created it.
An éclair meaning ‘flash of lightning’, is an elongated pastry made from choux paste; the same dough used for profiteroles and cream puffs. Choux paste or pâte à choux in French is unlike any other pastry dough because the flour is first cooked with water, butter and milk. But some chefs used only flour, water and butter. My mentor and Chef Professor, who is a seasoned French baker, told me using only water without milk makes the end product taste crispier. And it does. Here I have used Chantilly cream or crème Chantilly in French. (Pronounced as “shahn-tee-yee ” in France or “shan-ti-ly” in English) Instead of vanilla I have infused the crème with Grand Marnier. Grand Marnier was created in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. It is an orange flavored cognac liqueur made from a blend of Cognac brandy, distilled essence of bitter orange, and sugar. With that said, our 21st century fast paced culinary world, éclair seems to be made with more exciting flavors and trendier looking compared to the old-fashioned, dull, and heavy filling. French éclair is a classic French treat much loved by Parisians since the 19th century. For fancy eclairs do check out L’Éclair de Génie by Pastry Chef Christophe Adam or L’atelier De L’éclair. They are two of the more well known Éclair bakeries in Paris. Bon Appétit!