World's Best Éclairs

Jean-Paul Hévin
Photo: Courtesy Jean-Paul Hévin

From luscious chocolate éclairs to savory éclairs made with foie gras and fig jam, here are the world's best éclairs.—Maisie Wilhelm

01 of 19

L'Éclair de Génie; Paris; Tokyo; Yokohama, Japan

L'Éclair de Génie
Courtesy L'Éclair de Génie

The chef most responsible for spearheading the resurgent popularity of éclairs in recent years is Christophe Adam. His boutique is a veritable ode to éclairs, showcasing a multitude of flavors in exquisitely wrought, miniature works of beautiful, edible art. L'Éclair de Génie features a range of seasonally changing éclairs (vanilla-pecan, nougat, dark chocolate with white truffle), many of which feature a detailed painting in glaçage, the shiny icing on top. Take home a tasting box of 10 flavors or special delicacies unique to his shop, like the Epiphany éclair that incorporates the traditional frangipane of a king cake and hidden porcelain "bean"—here, in the clever shape of an éclair. For summertime, watch for Adam's new treat: éclair glacé, an éclair-ice cream hybrid in a push-pop format. leclairdegenie.com

02 of 19

L'Atelier de L'Éclair; Paris

L’Atelier de L’Éclair
Courtesy L’Atelier de L’Éclair

This shop sells exclusively éclairs. Not to miss is the lemon meringue, topped with torched meringue rather than icing. They also claim to have invented the savory éclair and created a sandwich from the choux dough. Try one with foie gras and fig jam or smoked salmon and dill. At Christmastime, you'll find a giant, foot-long bûche de Noël (Yule log) éclair flavored with red berries and chocolate. latelierdeleclair.fr

03 of 19

Épicerie Boulud; New York City

Épicerie Boulud
Courtesy Épicerie Boulud

Chef Daniel Boulud is a huge fan of a well-done coffee éclair, so you can bet his classic flavors will be executed to perfection. For those hoping to sample something a bit more unusual, his pastry chefs Eric Bertoia and Mymi Eberhardt also create seasonal specialties that bring a special flair to the classic pastry. The fig-and-lemon éclair features a delicate, lemony pastry cream filling and, atop the pâte à choux casing, a vibrant figgy icing and dried fig pieces as decoration. epicerieboulud.com

04 of 19

Brunetti; Melbourne, Australia

Brunetti
Courtesy Brunetti

Classic éclair flavors of chocolate, vanilla and coffee are available year-round in this long-running pasticceria in Melbourne, Australia, where many Italian immigrants made a home post-World War II. In spring and summer you'll find coconut, pistachio and salted caramel flavors and—because this is an Italian institution—zabaglione. In summer, fruit flavors such as peach, apricot and green apple appear on the menu, and other favorites have been white coffee, basil-mascarpone, Earl Grey tea and Black Forest. Brunetti executive pastry chef Gerald Achille explains, "There's been an increasing demand for éclairs, and to bring some variety to the range of flavors," they keep developing new creations. brunetti.com.au

05 of 19

Café Grazia; Bogotá, Colombia

Café Grazia
Courtesy Café Grazia

Pastry chef Raphaël Haasz studied the art of French pastry with Daniel Boulud's restaurant group before opening his own café/restaurant with wife Claudia Oyuela, another Boulud alum. Haasz says, "I wanted to work with the most famous ingredients of Colombia in a different way," so he incorporated the flavors of coffee and tonka bean (a major national export) in his Café Liégeois éclair. Colombian coffee roasted by Bogotá's own Catación Pública infuses the cream filling in the éclair. It's then topped with a Speculoos crunch, then covered with Madagascar vanilla whipped cream and tonka beans, whose nutty taste evoke milk chocolate and help add that je ne sais quoi to the éclair.

06 of 19

Le Méridien; Multiple cities

Le Méridien
Courtesy Le Meridien

Dessert chef Johnny Iuzzini learned his stuff in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten before going out on his own. Iuzzini teamed up with Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts to create in July 2014 the Éclair Diaries, a video series in which Iuzzini motorcycles among various Le Méridien hotels and then creates eight new éclair recipes inspired by his travels to those regions. After stopping in San Francisco, he unveiled the Caramelized Corn and Blueberry Éclair with Raw Honey and Almonds. Next up is New Orleans, with more to come in 2015. lemeridieneclair.com

07 of 19

La Maison de L'Éclair; Sydney

La Maison de L’Éclair
Courtesy La Maison de L’Éclair

Pastry chefs and co-owners Laurence and Frederic Caillon decided to open La Maison de L'Éclair in 2014 and offer 22 sweet flavors and a range of six savory éclairs as well. While salted caramel is the crowd favorite, the Bounty Coconut éclair and their monthly flavors such as lime-coconut are also popular. "The éclair is so versatile that there is no limit to what we can do," Laurence says, "and I am really passionate about them, so it works out for the best!" Gluten-free customers can enjoy their savory collection, which is made of buckwheat flour. "Who would think of having an éclair for breakfast with poached egg, hollandaise sauce and salmon or chorizo, or one for lunch with duck confit, Gorgonzola and walnuts and then finish with a sweet éclair? The experience is completely unique!" lamaisondeleclair.com.au

08 of 19

Tartine; San Francisco

Tartine
Courtesy Tartine Bakery & Café

Tartine's straightforward, vanilla custard éclair with chocolate glaze has been a "never-can-take-off" menu item since co-owner and pastry chef Liz Prueitt developed it in 2002, when the bakery first opened. Her pâte à choux is classic, but "the glaze is much richer in chocolate than the normal chocolate-sugar glaze, which is usually a thin confectioner's sugar glaze with only a little chocolate added. Ours is deeply chocolatey," she said. "Most fillings are on the thick and starchy side, but ours is velvety-smooth. When biting into one of our éclairs, the custard might ooze a bit, like all good food treats." tartinebakery.com

09 of 19

Patisserie 46; Minneapolis

Patisserie 46
Courtesy Patisserie46

Chef John Kraus likes to stick to the basics in this Midwestern pastry shop that is well loved by locals who appreciate French classics. They always feature year-round a Tahitian Vanilla Bean Custard éclair (made with vanilla from fellow Midwest company Nielsen-Massey Vanillas) and rotate in other flavors, including chocolate, salted caramel, raspberry, strawberry-basil, lemon and more. "We use classic pâte à choux ingredients: flour, water, milk, sugar, butter, eggs and a salt from Brittany, France," Kraus says. "We start our éclairs in a really hot oven and turn it down as soon as they start to rise, then let the radiant heat continue to bake them." This yields a very light, airy shell with the perfect texture. patisserie46.com

10 of 19

Dominique Ansel Bakery; New York City

Dominique Ansel Bakery
Photo © Thomas Schauer

If they're sold out of Cronuts by the time you arrive at this cult pastry shop, try one of Dominique Ansel's classic éclairs. The dark 66% Caraibe Chocolate éclair and Maldon Salted Caramel éclair are perfectly executed by this James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef. Also known for his inventive pastry creations, Ansel created a Black and Tan éclair with Guinness for St. Patrick's Day and features a delicate cherry blossom flavor in the spring. If you're lucky, you may also nab a Snickers-flavored one with nougatine, peanut butter and chocolate. Dominiqueansel.com

11 of 19

Pain de Sucre; Paris

Pain de Sucre
Courtesy Pain de Sucre

Former pastry chefs Nathalie Robert and Didier Mathray opened this shop in Paris, where they play around with more unusual flavors such as orange blossom, mint, wild plum liqueur, pineapple and extra dark 75% chocolate. "Our éclairs are only lightly sweetened," says Robert, "and never iced." Instead, they prefer to top their éclair with a crunchy croustillant rather than the sugary glaze often seen on the classic pastry. patisseriepaindesucre.com

12 of 19

Pierre Hermé; Multiple Locations

Pierre Hermé
Courtesy Pierre Hermé

Pierre Hermé's Infinitely Chocolate éclair doesn't try to distract you with unusual flavors, fussy textural décor or wildly fanciful construction. His éclair is simple and straightforward, which allows you to focus on the various textures of the chocolate custard and glaze, set off by a lightly salted pâte à choux. He calls his filling "unctuous," and the icing is made of pure Venezuelan Araguani Grand Cru chocolate, made from rare beans and used by many top chefs for its quality chocolates. pierreherme.com

13 of 19

Rech; Paris

Rech
Photo © Pierre Monetta

Rech, a seafood-focused restaurant, has served Parisians since 1925 (and is now run by chef Alain Ducasse's group). But it has more recently made waves with their famous Giant Éclair. Measuring 30 centimeters long—just shy of 12 inches—it came only in classic chocolate until very recently. Now Rech also offers a vanilla version, and keep an eye on the horizon, when salted butter caramel should make an appearance in 2015. Chocolate aficionados will enjoy noting that the chocolate used is made by Ducasse's chocolate factory in Paris. restaurant-rech.fr/en

14 of 19

Sketch Parlour; London

Sketch Parlour
Photo © Tim Winter/Courtesy Sketch Parlour

Located in London's Mayfair Hotel, Sketch and its art galleries and restaurants by famed chef Pierre Gagnaire are a destination for lovers of art, design and food alike. Gagnaire oversees the menu at Sketch Parlour and makes sure that no matter what flavor of éclair is on the menu (be it blueberry, lemon or strawberry, to name a few), it is always simple and elegant. Sketch describes their éclair as having "a light sweetness that can only be accomplished through the classic method to achieve perfectly balanced flavor [that] is neither overpowering or sickly sweet yet still bursting with flavor." sketch.london

15 of 19

Sucré; New Orleans

Sucré
Photo © HannaFoto

Sucré chef Tariq Hanna solidified his mastery of the French pastry when he dedicated an entire month to it in 2015 and unveiled 13 variations of the éclair in flavors paying homage to classic Americana. His inventive creations included apple pie, featuring braised Granny Smiths and cinnamon pastry cream; a red velvet éclair with a cream cheese mousse filling; and a bruléed s'mores éclair with graham cracker cream. Despite his creative boundary-pushing, when it comes to classics, Hanna says, "I've always maintained that an éclair is the cornerstone to any pastry shop. It is the first thing I ever order. If you do that well, then I'll try other stuff." Important techniques to nail are the texture of the dough—when baked it should be neither too crisp nor soggy—and making sure the glaze has a shine. shopsucre.com

16 of 19

Sadaharu Aoki; Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukoka, Japan; Paris; Taipe

Sadaharu Aoki
Courtesy Sadaharu Aoki

Tokyo-born chef Sadaharu Aoki opened his first pastry shop in Paris after learning classic technique in Paris and Switzerland. The minimalism of his all-white boutiques calls to mind a serene Japanese temple, and the flavors of his cult-favorite éclair matcha and éclair au sesame noir, which incorporate the flavors of green tea and black sesame into the classic French pastry, provide mesmerizing results. sadaharuaoki.com

17 of 19

Sebastien Bouillet; Lyon, France

Sebastien Bouillet
Photo © Nicolas Villion

Legend has it that the éclair was invented in Lyon, a powerful gastronomical center in France, but that doesn't stop chef Bouillet from experimenting with the classic recipe. Bouillet, whose parents preceded him in pastry and chocolate, makes éclairs that are unique in that they never feature the shiny icing, or glaçage on top—rather, he uses a crispy, crunchy topping called croustillant. Look for seasonal flavors like the sour cherry-pistachio for a refreshing take in summer, the crispy hazelnut praline éclair in winter or chef Bouillet's subtle differences, like chunks of chocolate he puts in the pastry cream. "I don't use special ingredients; I play with textures. It's subtle but so great." chocolatier-bouillet.com

18 of 19

La Maison du Chocolat; Multiple Location

La Maison du Chocolat
Courtesy La Maison du Chocolat

With only three year-round flavors, La Maison du Chocolat has created mild hysteria with their coffee, caramel and dark chocolate éclairs. The chocolate éclair, filled with chocolate pastry cream and topped with silky-smooth chocolate icing, is one of the top five sellers in the boutiques, according to a spokesperson. Seasonal flavors, like chestnut in winter, appear throughout the year, but what makes these éclairs stand out are the original recipes and artisanal method they use to achieve the perfect pastry. Go early—they usually sell out after lunch. lamaisonduchocolat.com

19 of 19

Jean-Paul Hévin; Paris, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan

Jean-Paul Hévin
Courtesy Jean-Paul Hévin

If you are a chocolate lover, then the hallowed name of chef Jean-Paul Hévin might make your knees weak. Hévin has dedicated his career to the humble exploration of chocolate in all its forms and sees little need to pay any other ingredient as much attention in his shops. Simplicity is his chocolate éclair, perfect and plain, but plan accordingly—this elusive pastry is only available Thursday through Saturday. jeanpaulhevin.com/en

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