Burch and Purchese's lamington eclairs. Photo: Ari Hatzis (supplied)
Crazy caterpillar lamingtons, re-imagined lemon meringue pies, custard-filled test tubes – creative eclairs are popping up across the inner city. Pastry chefs are reinventing the classic 19th century pastry and pushing the boundaries with intricate decoration, gold leaf bling and innovative presentation.
Pastry chef Pierre Roelouf says the trend is "modernising eclairs without ruining them". His take on the trend? A deconstructed vanilla eclair presented in a tube.
Parisian "Eclair Genie" Christophe Adam, who is widely credited with the eclair resurgence, has shared his recipes with Brunswick's Savour Chocolate and Pastisserie School. They include a hazelnut praline version that looks like a savoury baguette.
We put some of Melbourne's new-wave eclairs to the taste test.
Lamington eclair, Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio, $9
Looking like a crazy caterpillar, this eye-catching eclair is a wacky interpretation of the classic Australian cake. At first glance, the competing elements seem over the top, but each mouthful is unmistakably lamington. The chocolate choux pastry is hollowed out like a canoe and filled with a tart raspberry jam that soaks into a layer of coconut sponge. Hidden crunchy cereal balls add texture and the choux has a good cocoa flavour. Alternating bulbous mounds of mousse-like chocolate cream and chocolate-dusted coconut cream add to the caterpillar effect. A lone pillowy marshmallow and intense raspberry jelly sphere add interest. This extravagant eclair is finished with a scattering of tangy freeze-dried raspberry flecks and two artfully placed loops of chocolate. The techniques involved take this eclair to another level. Utterly outrageous and delicious.
647 Chapel Street, South Yarra, 9827 7060, burchandpurchese.com
Caramel eclair, Noisette, $4.70
This precisely piped eclair is filled with a thick, latte-coloured salted caramel filling and dotted with droplets of citrusy melted chocolate. The rich, salty filling is balanced by the addition of a tempered dark chocolate sheet. A drizzle of salted caramel glues the chocolate to the choux and adds to the two-handed salty/sweet palate punch. Makes for a decadent treat.
84 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, 9646 9555, noisette.com.au
Chocolate eclair, Chez Dre, $9.50
Forget double choc, this eclair is more like quadruple choc. The thin choux pastry has a cracked texture like amaretti biscuits. Encased in the choux is a smooth, rich chocolate creme patissiere. A layer of melted dark chocolate sprinkled with cocoa nib and praline adds crunch. But the show-stopper is the squiggle of mousse-like chocolate creme chantilly piped directly onto the filling. A striped shard of tempered bitter chocolate and fleck of gold leaf add to the sophisticated presentation.
Rear of 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, 9690 2688, chezdre.com.au
Eclair selection, Hotel Windsor, $69 (weekday afternoon tea) or $89 (weekend afternoon tea)
As part of its 130th anniversary celebrations, the Hotel Windsor has looked to the menus of 1883 for its high tea menu, updating the dishes with a thoroughly modern twist. Five dainty eclairs feature on the tiered cake stands. The lemon meringue has a tart lemon curd filling, white chocolate glaze and a cloud-like Italian meringue. The towering lamington-inspired eclair is adorned with a vibrant red patterned transfer with a thin layer of coconut sponge sandwiched between the choux. There's also a crunchy hazelnut praline-topped salted caramel, and a strawberry incarnation which evokes a Victoria sponge. The hotel's kitchen is producing over 1000 of the miniature morsels each week.
111 Spring Street, Melbourne, 9633 6004, thehotelwindsor.com.au
Are you an eclair traditionalist or modernist? Let us know if you've discovered any other extravagant eclairs.