What combination is more perfect than chocolate, fluffy pastry, and a creme or custard filling? The word eclair in French actually means “lightning”, supposedly because of the glistening flash of chocolate covering the top. It may not make a lot of sense but who cares?
The chocolate in an eclair can be dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or even white chocolate. It sits on top of the “Chouk” (French for dough). The fondant icing is rich and gooey but subject to freezing if left in the freezer (duh, what doesn’t freeze in a freezer). The dough is normally a light, flaky pastry which is stuffed with a creamy custard. Oh, and to make it a little more special, add some whipped cream.
French Chef Antonin Careme is credited with the invention, called “pain a la duchesse” in French. Careme lived from 1784 to 1833 so though no date is actually given for his invention, it had to appear sometime in his lifetime.
In 1884, the Eclair first appeared in a cook book in the US. Mrs. D.A. Lincoln included the recipe, along with others used in her cooking classes, and was the first English version ever in print. I wonder if she ever thought about adding strawberries as in the photo below.
Long Johns are a type of eclair in the United States but they are actually a doughnut covered in chocolate with a custard or creme filling. There are even eclair cakes made today, though they seem very similar to what we refer to as a Boston Cream Pie.
How to celebrate: Have an eclair. Make your own eclair (the eclair in blue at the beginning of this blog links to several examples). Go to a doughtnut shop and enjoy a Long John.