Friday, 14 August 2015

The Chocolate Eclair

It turns out that the chapter I'm at in the book I'm reading is titled "L'eclair au Chocolat" and I am not sure if it was entirely coincidental that I walked into a deli and coffee shop who are proud to promote themselves as being elected "the best chocolate eclair in Paris 2015."

In his book, titled "Eloge Politique du Chocolat" (Political Praise of Chocolate) Serge Guerin says that the chocolate eclair is the nomads best friend, it comforts he who eats on the go and after a quick insignificant sandwich it re-donne de la vie "re-gives life."  

I must admit, when I was a child, the pastry that I craved the most on trips to Paris was the eclair, and it stays true as being one of those classic French patisseries that you can't find so easily abroad.  It is in fact, France's most popular patisserie. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that it is not too messy to eat but hits the chocolate spot, is not too rich but rich enough...

Continuing on the chocolate eclair chapter, Guerin says that there is "the chocolate eclair and the chocolate eclair," meaning that you can either get a good one, or a bad one.  Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago, I had a bad eclair and I actually had to throw it away.  I can't stand throwing food away, especially pastry that is (supposedly) hand made, however this was, as the French would say sans interet - with no interest.  The pastry cream was hard and the taste of coffee was insignificant.  The only true taste was the sugar from the fondant, which created a sticky sweet layer which stuck to the roof of my mouth and left me reaching for the bottle of water in my bag. 

The chocolate eclair must be creamy yet chocolatey, the choux pastry must be well cooked and the icing must be perfectly executed.  Serge Guerin writes about how real patisserie is incarnated in the artisan, in authenticity, in passion and in love.  French pastry is known for being one of the best and French techniques are used worldwide.  Those who devote themselves to pastry and chocolate do it only because they are passionate about creating great tasting desserts.  Life is about existing for others and not just for yourself.  Le patissier, the pastry chef considers his customers real human beings who deserve the very best, who understand what tastes great and should be taken care of.  Patisserie and chocolate is not like other food- it is entirely for pleasure.  We eat to survive, but we do not eat pastries as actual food but as a sinful delicacy- and that is why the importance of the sensation you get from indulging must be at the very top.

When a chocolate eclair is delicious, there is a little oasis of serenity dans ce monde de bruits fureurs in this world of brutal fury (a very common French saying!) 

Luckily, today I discovered the best chocolate eclair in Paris at Maison Pradier.  The choux pastry was cooked to perfection and not being a pastry cream (creme patissiere) but cremeux chocolat (a chocolate cream with 70% cocoa solids) it was moussey and light.  It made sense. 

The sensation that you get from eating a patisserie that is truly good is the feeling of your taste buds coming alive, your hairs on end and a smile on your face.  That sensation is what what we're searching for.

Maison Pradier
6 rue de Bourgogne
75007 Paris