Every few years, there is a new trend in the pastry world. A decade ago, it was cupcakes, whose superiority was challenged by whoopie pies. Then, French macarons popped up everywhere from elegant bakeries to local corner shops.
Now, eclairs are making their triumphant return. They’ve already swept bakeries in Paris, they’re popping up in New York, and the invasion has begun in London.
So why eclairs, and why now?
One reason for the eclair's reemergence is the explosion of high quality French bakeries in the city. Maison Kayser, Francois Payard Bakery, Epicerie Boulud, Dominique Ansel, and Mille Feuille have all added multiple locations in Manhattan in just the last two years. With more competition than ever before, the city's French pastry chefs have been forced to reimagine the eclair from a staid, old-school pastry to a blank canvas for exploring new flavors, fillings, and toppings.
Another factor in this trend is that the pressure to innovate comes not just from local competition, but also from Paris. That city's macaron trend preceded our boom by five to 10 years, and it's happening again with eclairs. Paris currently has at least four eclair-only shops, and famous names like Fauchon offer dozens of varieties that often change the seasons. Some of the eclair trends from Paris have already been adopted by New York pastry chefs, like the use of crackly-looking craquelin-style pâte a choux.
Just as eclairs have taken Paris and London and New York, they’re likely to spread quickly across the U.S. If the experience with cupcakes and macarons is any guide, it won’t take long before luxury eclairs appear at your nearby dessert place.