Paris Pastry Chase: Eclair de Genie in the 4th

All of Paris has been talking about pâte à choux, the pastry at the base of éclairs and cream puffs. I set out to sample pastries at two popular Paris bakeries in the Marais, to find out if they were worth the publicity they’ve been getting.

You can read about my first stop, Popelini, here. Now onto the second!

The specialty at Eclair de Genie is eclairs, and the selection is dizzying. Rows of brightly colored miniature eclairs in cases at the front of the shop range from classical flavors (chocolate, raspberry, lemon) to exotic combinations: vanilla-rose, pistachio-orange, noisette-praliné (hazelnut with bits of toasted, sugared almonds).

I settled on three flavors — chocolate, pecan, and pistachio-orange. They cost more than twice as much as the Popelini cream puffs, and I treated them with the same care: into the frigo soon after I bought them, and out a few minutes before eating them. At dinner that night, my sampling partner and I were eager to dig in.

The eclairs were beautiful, nestled in white paper, with lacquer-shiny green frosting; chocolate decorated with tiny squares of dark chocolate and edible gold leaf; and white icing dusted with chopped, toasted pecans. Wonderful presentation.

Biting into them, we found the outside soft and on the heavy side, rather than crisp and light. It was as if the filling had begun to soak into the cake.

The fillings were creamy and full of flavor, so this wasn’t a bad thing taste-wise. But it was disappointing from a textural point of view. Pâte à choux should be airy, not sodden. The toppings added another surprising textural note, as they were almost chewy. Across the board, we found the eclairs good, but not revelatory.

On a scale of 1 to 5, Popelini’s cream puffs were a 4.5. Each was an elegant mix of tradition and innovation.

The eclairs were sophisticated at first glance, but the pastry didn’t measure up, making the experience uneven, rather than original. (And to be honest, their flavor combinations seemed a bit fussy.) I give them a 3.5.