The humble 19th-century éclair has surpassed the macaron as the most buzzed about Parisian bonbon of the moment, in no small part thanks to a redesign.
In contrast to the rainbow-hued macaron, the éclair has long been more delicious than it was beautiful. Traditionally glazed in neutral shades of chocolate or coffee, this classic French childhood snack had an enduring charm, but it has never been a visual standout in the pastry case. Nevertheless, the finger-shaped, cream-stuffed choux pastry has always been beloved, and pastry chefs have been making it pretty much the same way since the 1800s, unmoved to fix something that wasn’t ever really broken.
But French pastry chef Christophe Adam saw the classic éclair not as a fait accompli but a point of departure. While working as a chef at Fauchon, he began experimenting with ways to modernize éclair design, producing a bright orange éclair and a memorable iteration adorned with a digital image of the Mona Lisa.
Adam has injected excitement into the traditional world of French pastry not by inventing something new but by giving an old silhouette new sex appeal. He bathes éclairs in Pop art colors and blingy high-gloss finishes made with edible powdered silver, their flavor profiles enlivened with novel ingredients like yuzu, fresh strawberries, popcorn, and salted caramel. Adam has also engineered the éclairs to be lighter in texture and reduced the sugar content of the icing.
To showcase his design-driven vision, Adam opened what he calls a “concept store,” L’éclair de Génie, less than a year ago in the Marais. With an all-glass storefront, concrete floors, exposed stone and a jewel-like pastry case, it has been thronged with customers since.