This is an event that may very well go unnoticed. In a rather quiet and dignified manner, all over France pastry chops and chefs are putting on their thinking toques to create innovative and tempting éclairs. The two-week challenge promotes inventiveness as well as camaraderie as participating establishments focus on this well-loved dessert, sharing recipes and engaging in collegial competition. Part play and part business, half culinary delight and half proud tradition, the event is both taken seriously and lightly to perpetuate this great staple of French pâtisserie.
If you’ve never had one, the best way to describe it would be as a light and hollow pastry about the length of a finger, with a creamy filling and a glazed frosting. Legend has it that they got their name (éclair is French for lightning) from the speed at which they are devoured. Standard flavors are chocolate, vanilla and coffee but the combinations can go as far as the imagination of the chef can take them. Shop windows in bakeries all over the country will place their éclairs in a place of honor, focusing on the marriage of raspberry and peach, vanilla and crunchy caramel and almond with apple. Young chefs are creating savory éclairs which make a light snack of appetizer.
Nobody really needs convincing when it comes to éclairs, but la quinzaine des éclairs is good a reminder the a little indulgence is good for the soul. In any case, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.