Eclair: The Fascinating Story Behind The Rise Of This French Pastry

One of the most heavenly treats we borrowed from France is their rich and decadent delicacy, popularly known as the eclair. French cuisine takes pride in its delicious desserts, and rightly so. People in the country are pastry perfectionists, who crafted some of the best sweet dishes we know of today. France is home to a wide array of assorted pastries that are rich, delicate and complemented by an explosion of indulgent flavours during preparation. The eclair is a dainty pastry made with choux dough, filled with dripping cream and topped off with luscious icing. It is typically piped into an oblong shape with a pastry bag and baked until it turns crispy and hollow from the inside. Once cooled, the pastry is generously filled with chocolate, caramel custard or whipped cream and many more tempting fillings. 

Eclair is a French word that translates to ‘flash of lightning’. There are two major assumptions behind why it got such a name. Some believe that it has been named after the act of eating in a flash of quickly after it is made. While others are of the opinion that it could be due to the glisten of the frosting resembling lightning. Generally, éclairs are topped off with a shiny yet creamy frosting, which instantly grabs one’s attention.

The origin of éclairs can be traced back to the mid 18th century when it was called ‘pain à la Duchesse’ or ‘petite duchesse’ until 1850. The word éclair was first attested in 1860. It wasn’t until the 19th century when eclairs actually made their appearance in France. There is no legitimate evidence as to who invented this decadent French pastry. Most food historians speculate that eclairs were first made by a notable French chef named Antonin Careme, who was also one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs. A few years later, a recipe of eclairs became popular among French people. It was during the late 18th century when the first known English-language recipe for éclairs appeared in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book which was published in 1884.

Master the art of French cooking by getting your hands at making this classic French pastry at home. Here is the recipe to check out.