He has spent the last 20 years of his brilliant professional career with an éclair on his hands and on his head. He has created more than 500 varieties, silk-screened, colored, plain, decorated, of all imaginable flavors and also of different sizes. He confesses to having fun like a child in the yard, playing with a product that has brought him international fame and recognition. His latest prank is the XXL collection. ‘Walking in Paris, you will easily find a bakery making éclairs. However, making giant eclairs to share is something new’, he says.
In so good #26 pages, we ask Christophe Adam about this and other questions, such as his possible typecasting, or the characteristics of his perfect éclair. And he gives us some answers that show off the name of his establishments ‘L’éclair de Gênie’. For example, his golden rule on the relationship between content and container, flavors and presentations: ‘when I create a very stylish look, I bet on a classic taste and vice versa when the perfume is original, then the decoration is rather classic.’ We complete this walk through the kingdom of the world’s most famous éclairs by sharing the recipe for one of the most emblematic one – the chocolate éclair, in its XXL version, of course.
Enjoy now the whole interview and don’t miss in our #26 issue the recipes of one of this XXL signature éclairs.
When you created the first colorful éclairs in Fauchon 20 years ago, were you aware of what would happen so many years later?
Absolutely not! At the beginning, I wanted to create an orange éclair tasting like orange, which broke the aesthetic codes at the time. In my opinion, éclairs are like jewels. It is an incredible creative playground! I love this pastry because it can be declined to infinity and allows me to express my creative side. I easily imagine myself as a painter with a paintbrush when I bake éclairs.
‘I have a golden rule that I always apply. When I create a very stylish look, I bet on a classic taste and vice versa when the perfume is original, then the decoration is rather classic.’
What did the éclair Joconde mean in this ‘revolution’?
Back in 2008, this éclair was created as the main piece of Fauchon Christmas collection. The éclair Joconde was a nod to the Theme ‘Paris’ at that time (as the painting is exhibited at Le Louvre). This was also the first transfer of a design on chocolate to bake a printed pastry. For me, the Joconde was the perfect image!
Why do you think the éclair is so popular with everyone? What is the most special thing that an éclair has to offer?
I would say the aesthetic and taste are key. You first taste with your eyes before you eat a pastry. Then, you bring it to your mouth and let the magic happen. I have a golden rule that I always apply. When I create a very stylish look, I bet on a classic taste and vice versa when the perfume is original, then the decoration is rather classic.
At the beginning, I mainly declined éclairs around colors and aesthetics. My trip to Japan in 2000 reinforced this idea of minimalism and purity. Then, I started playing with tastes and textures by incorporating fruit purées and fresh fruits into my recipes. I also like to revisit the great classics of pastry as éclair tiramisu, éclair tarte tatin… So many éclairs attributes to offer to a customer looking for a surprise!
Why did you create the XL and XXL ranges?
I always try to bring something new when it comes to pastry. I developed XL and XXL ranges in that way. My goal was to bring originality and freshness to my products. Walking in Paris, you will easily find a bakery making éclairs. However, making giant éclairs to share is something new. It has been ages since I wanted to create a huge éclair! We now have a complete range in stores. This size is particularly suitable for events such as birthdays, family gathering, Christmas, and so on. Making bigger pastries such as XXL éclairs also allows you to fully express your creative side. As the surface you are working on is bigger, decorations and details can be easier to made compared to classic size éclairs which sometimes can be challenging to work on.
How would you define the perfect éclair?
As I said, the perfect éclair is the perfect combination between aesthetic and taste. When you want to offer something different, you always have to keep in mind that your product must be adopted by your target consumer. This is the same principle with éclairs. The difficulty here is to offer something never seen before visually speaking and to match it with the perfect taste and texture. This is not an easy task, but I like challenges!
What is the most delicate phase in the process of making éclairs?
Every piece and éclair has its own challenges. However, cooking the dough is a difficult part. The fact is that you have to make sure the choux pastry is well done. To have the right texture, it must be very smooth, without any lumps or visual asperities. To do so, the dough must not be too airy. Making the cream is also a critical moment. It has to be creamy and smooth but not too liquid. I always keep in mind that our éclairs are not always eaten the day they are bought. This means the cream must have the perfect aspect for 24 to 48 hours when the customer will eat the pastry. If those two steps turn out well, your éclair will be a success!
‘Éclairs are a whole, which means you cannot distinguish one part from another. Especially when you taste the pastry. You won’t have a piece of the choux pastry and then a piece of the filling. You try both at the same time.’
What is more important, the pâte à choux or the filling?
As I said, there is not one crucial element to be careful with. Éclairs are a whole, which means you cannot distinguish one part from another. Especially when you taste the pastry. You won’t have a piece of the choux pastry and then a piece of the filling. You try both at the same time. Therefore, the difficult task is to find the perfect equilibrium between the choux pastry and the filling.
Have you made vegan or gluten-free éclairs? Are your clients asking for them?
Not for now. These specific éclairs have not been requested from our customers. This would be a challenging part as the choux pastry require eggs. Maybe one day I will create a gluten-free or vegan éclair, but this should not compromise the taste of the new pastry. However, we do have a complete range of gluten-free cookies which are greatly appreciated by our customers!
Having created more than 500 éclairs what is your favorite? And what is the best seller?
This is the question everybody asks! I do not have an ultimate favorite. My tastes evolve as the time goes on. My current favorite is Vanilla pecan nut éclair. I am in a ‘pecan nut’ kind of phase. I also love the Salted Butter Caramel one, my Breton touch always available in store!
Aren’t you afraid that the public could typecast you as a single-product chef?
Not at all! The fact you started with éclairs and a single pastry does not mean you cannot evolve and try something new. For example, after working on éclair for a long time, I invented the perfect combination between the tart and the éclair by creating the ‘barlette’, a combination of shortbread dough, ganache cream and fresh fruit. You just have to get out of your comfort zone. Easier said than done but trusting your instinct is the best weapon. Two years ago, I launched a new chocolate range. This was a huge success at the beginning and we know have nearly 15 chocolate tablets! I think I am no longer a single-product chef.
Have you already thought about the next collection of éclairs?
Of course! You must be months ahead if you want to survive in the field. I like to change our éclairs collection quite often in stores. We try to bring new products to the collection every month.