What is an Éclair?
Enter any patisserie or boulangerie in Paris, and you will find éclairs. An éclair is a sweet French pastry – an elongated choux (puff) pastry topped with glacé icing, such as chocolate, coffee, or caramel, sliced in the middle and filled with whipped vanilla cream.
Before 1850, the éclair used to be called pain à la duchesse or petite duchesse – Duchess pastry or Little Duchess.
The term “éclair” means flash of lightning, presumably because it could be eaten quickly – à la vitesse de l’éclair (at lightning speed) or rapide comme l’éclair (lightning fast). They were originally smaller than they are now – like profiteroles.
Some people, like blogger Mwncïod in 2015, conjecture that Victor Baptistin Sénès (1857-1915) was a French naval officer and admiral who in 1891 took command of the French torpedo boat called L’Éclair. The éclair looks like a torpedo. Perhaps Victor also ate these Little Duchesses so much that they were re-named after the torpedo boat.
Or, as some say, it looks like a cigar.
In any case, its creation is known as un éclair de genie– a flash of genius!