June 22: National Chocolate Eclair Day

Okay, this is a bit late because I’ve been procrastinating all week but yes, today is National Chocolate Eclair Day. I’ve been looking for the image of a fancy eclair I saved but I can’t find it so thanks to Tumbler’s Food Masterpost, I give you  the classic chocolate eclair. I was considering making eclairs today since it is also my birthday but my husband already both an ice cream cake and a chiffon cake so I had to table that idea. Besides, I have never made choux pastry before so maybe it was better not to experiment on my birthday since ruined baked goods are apt to ruin my mood as well.

When I was young, my dad always bought pastries from local bakeries and one of the staples is the chocolate eclair. I didn’t like choux pastry (and puff pastry) when I was a kid so when the eclair was the only pastry left, all I did was lick the ganache off the top. I didn’t even like the pastry cream, which is really weird because now I love them all.

The word éclair is French for “lightning” or “flash of lighting.” Speculation as to why the pastry is named after lighting includes: it can be eaten in a flash or possibly because of the lightness of the pastry and filling. But according to Gouffé’s Le Livre de Patisserie,  the éclair was originally called pain à la duchesse or “petite duchess” until 1850. It first made an appearance in English in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book which was published in 1884.

The chocolate covered éclair  is the most recognizable of éclairs and there are so many iterations out there. Toppings and fillings have lit the imagination of many pastry chefs. Traditionally, the filling is made of a custard flavored with vanilla, coffee, or chocolate or whipped cream or chiboust cream. Chiboust cream is pastry cream lightened with stiffly beaten egg whites and can be flavored with vanilla, orange zest or other liqueurs.

fancy eclairLe Beaulieu – TripAdvisor

In the United States, many donut shops sell Long John donuts but call them eclairs. The two are not the same. Long Johns are made with yeasted dough, just like its round counterparts while éclairs are made with choux pastry dough which is puffed by steam. So caveat emptor. If you want a real éclair , buy it from a pastry shop.

There are so many adaptations of the beloved chocolate éclair and I applaud the valiant attempts to capture its essence in the form of cakes and such. But tsk, tsk to some of the abominations out there. Substituting graham crackers does not do the éclair  justice. If you want to make the classic eclair, here are great step-by-step instructions from Food Noveau: How to Make Éclairs 




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