I always loved when my parents had friends over as a kid. Because inevitably, either my parents or their friends would buy that coveted box of miniature pastries to eat over coffee and conversation. Tiny Italian and French specialties lay within that box, tied together with white and red string, delicious confections with sweet pastry crust, chocolate ganache, and creme filling–oh, the creme filling. I didn’t care at all for the grown-ups or their conversation, but I felt like a grown-up when I was invited to the table for my glass of milk and some of the pastries. My first choice was always a cannoli: the firm, tasty creme inside a pastry shell always appealed to me, and I liked, even as a kid, the green pistachio flakes instead of the more popular chocolate chips. But if those weren’t available to me, I picked the French’s next best thing: the chocolate eclair.
The French chocolate eclair is an extremely popular pastry that originated in the 19th century. Using fluffy choux pastry, the eclair is first baked until hollow, allowed to cool, and then filled with chiboust cream and topped with icing. They’re the lighter French version of a creme-filled doughnut, without the deep-frying and all of the flavor. The best eclairs, in my opinion, are the ones with just the right amount of filling–enough so you don’t feel you’re eating dry pastry, and not too much that it all squirts out of the other side of the eclair! And that creme filling’s got to be dense and rich, thickened with egg, with just the right amount of sweetness so as not to overwhelm the light pastry crust. The eclair shouldn’t just be a vessel to bring that creme to your mouth; it’s a whole pastry experience.
And hands-down, one of the best chocolate eclairs in the city belongs to Chikalicious Dessert Club in the East Village. (They’re quickly becoming my go-to pastry shop of the summer!) They make their eclairs with a few choices: vanilla pastry cream with powdered sugar, or chocolate ganache with chocolate fondant icing–a double chocolate eclair whammy! The big Chikalicious secret is adding a layer of cookie dough to the choux pastry, making their pastry shells light and crispy, not soft and chewy like some French pastries can be. Every eclair is made to order, so you know that they’re super fresh and tasty just for you–and that the crispness of the pastry shell isn’t from being stale!
If that cookie-eclair isn’t enough for you, then you’ll be delighted to know that the good people of Chikalicious are no strangers to crazy delicious decadence. They will slice your choux pastry in half before it’s filled, and then fill it–with vanilla ice cream. It’s an ice cream chocolate eclair sandwich! Talk about crazy, damn, I want to have one right now. And much like the ice cream sandwich creations at Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, you can’t possibly try to eat this like a flying saucer–the eclair and ice cream are then drenched in hot fudge, leaving a delicious, gooey mess you’re very likely to get all over yourself (and not care one bit!) It’s certainly not a “classic” chocolate eclair–I bet the pastry chefs in Paris would swoon and fall over if they heard about this one–but it’s all innovative and all New York.
ChikaLicious Dessert Club
204 E 10th St (between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
“They call them cookie eclairs ($3.25 each) because of that little extra crunch in the shell, akin to the double-layered shell method of Beard Papa’s. The eclairs are piped to order, and chocolate is the superior of the two, filled with a lush, thick pudding—so rich, so lovely in the mouth. The top half is drenched in dark chocolate, so eat quick, lest the crisp exterior grow soft.”–Serious Eats
“It’s true, there’s not a lot of competition. Éclairs aren’t cupcakes. But after tasting one of Chika Tillman’s, you begin to wonder why. Light and airy and addictive as any drug, they come in two flavors: a fragrant vanilla-pastry-cream-filled version dusted with powdered sugar, or a fiendish chocolate-cream-and-chocolate-ganache concoction, with chocolate-fondant icing. And unlike the soggy-shelled variety you may be accustomed to, these éclairs possess a delicate, almost Kit-Kat-like crunch that takes you by surprise. The secret to this mysterious crackle, admits Tillman, is a layer of cookie dough baked onto the top of the choux-pastry shell—a vast structural and textural improvement on classic pastry design.”–New York Magazine
“That’s right, the decadent folks at Chikalicious take one of their éclairs, cut it in half, put a generous layer of soft serve inside, then drench the top with chocolate sauce. It is absolutely fantastic. The éclair is almost like a shortbread (hence the “cookie” in the name) and one tester picked up a slight hint of feta cheese.”–Scoop On Cones
“The chocolate and vanilla éclairs that ChikaLicious turns out aren’t just any éclairs, but cookie éclairs—so named because of that little extra crunch over the shell surface, like the double-layered shell method of Beard Papa’s. With the ice cream sandwich, that same choux pastry shell is sliced open horizontally, filled with vanilla bean soft serve , and then topped off with hot fudge. Fork and knife required. Messy, but wonderful, with the soft-serve and dark, smooth fudge melting into hollows of the choux pastry.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I never tried eclairs for a reason. They did not inspire me, so I found it hard to believe this smell was coming from that. But he swore that it was. He recommended a few things because I was a hard sell on the eclair. Like the cookies and the banana pudding, however I ended up going with his recommendation of how ethereal this eclair was at my mother’s encouragement and that dynamic smell that was KILLING me inside. And I tried it while walking out the door…..and nearly ran back. If I wasn’t smiling so hard and so amazed at what I tasted, I would have run to the man, jumped over the counter and bit him for good luck.. BOY THAT ECLAIR WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! People were looking at me on the street like what is she raving about?”–Kenda T.
“The first dessert we ordered was the chocolate eclair ice cream sandwich. A little crispy on the outside, chewy eclair halved and filled with vanilla bean ice cream and then drenched in chocolate sauce – I think it was hot fudge. By the end, we were fighting for the last bites. We debated between this and the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich which also looked to die for.”–S. R.
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