I never gave much thought to the éclair. Sure, I’d seen it in the bakery, alongside the pastries and pies, looking a bit like a hotdog playing dress-up. But, then a friend suggested I try one. Within seconds, I realized one would never be enough.
Always up for a mission, I decided to learn more about this light and fluffy, custard-filled tube d’heaven, and search out the best in Westchester. Turns out, the county is crawling with them! And they’re hardly the new kid on the block, either—the dough, or choux (just flour, water, butter, and eggs), was invented in 1540 by the Medici’s French chef.
Here, after extensive “research,” are some of the best éclairs Westchester has to offer. (Spoiler alert: They don’t all parlez-vous Français!)
The Creamiest (photo above)
Tucked away in a little enclave of Scarsdale village is an éclair that can be best described as delightful, pure and simple. It’s produced by the skilled bakers at La Renaissance, who’ve been at it for about 35-years (two decades at this location). Naturally, the traditional éclair—oblong pastry filled with vanilla custard and topped with chocolate fondant—is there for the asking, along with a chocolate-custard filled variety, and one with coffee custard and coffee fondant on top (say no more). No matter the incarnation, the result is irresistible. The pastry is light and fluffy, as it should be, and the custard is truly the creamiest I’ve ever tasted. In any dessert. Ever. Neither the inside nor the out is overly sweet, and the whole darn thing goes down way too easily. And, with French radio playing softly in the background, the whole experience is one I’d like to répéter. As soon as possible. $4.50/éclair. 9 Harwood Court, Scarsdale
Inside the doors of a bustling Italian family bakery that’s been turning up the heat in Mamaroneck for the past 20-years resides the most eye-catching and creatively unique éclairs I encountered in my travels. Baked by the warm and super nice staff at Boiano Bakery, and decorated with brightly-colored buttercream flowers or chocolate drizzled whipped cream, these are the pastries you’ll want to present to the host who asked you to please bring dessert. A dab sweeter than some of the others I sampled, but still so light, and utterly enjoyable. Call ahead, and Boiano’s will whip up a batch with chocolate mousse in place of the custard, add fruit to the mix, or anything else your little sweet tooth desires. $3/éclair or go for the absolutely precious mini-sized ones for $10.75/dozen. 258 Mamaroneck Avenue, Mamaroneck
The éclair that has been haunting my dreams comes to life daily in a petite French bakery that seems to be humbly hiding at the back of a tiny, nondescript shopping strip in Mt. Kisco. Here, at the two-decades old L’Anjou Patisserie Francaise, named for the region where owner/baker Patrice Yvon grew up, I discovered the lightest, smoothest, most delicate éclair this side of the Seine. Chef Yvon is a kind soul with a gentle hand, and his éclairs—traditional, chocolate, or coffee—are ridiculously light, supremely fluffy, and just sweet enough to remind you that this is, indeed, a dessert and it is possible to overdo it. To say this éclair melted in my mouth would be an understatement. In fact, I’m not entirely sure I even ate it—I barely had to chew, and it was so airy I never felt it hit my stomach. That said, it will stay with me, especially the custard filling which is intensely vanilla, yet not in your face (although, I did get a lot on my face). Much like its somewhat remote locale, this is an indulgence that yearns to be noticed, yet remains quietly demure. At $4.75 each, it is the priciest éclair I inhaled, but worth every cent. 130 N. Bedford Road, Mt. Kisco
By Michelle Gillan Larkin, a mom and writer living in Northern Westchester.