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History of the eclairs

The food history encyclopedias (including the Larousse Gastronomique) and reference books all describe eclairs but provide little if any details regarding their origin. This probably means the eclair is a product of food evolution. There is some conjecture that perhaps Antonin Careme (1784-1833), a famous pastry chef for French royalty might have created something akin to eclairs. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the term eclair in the English language to 1861 Vanity Fair [magazine]2 Feb 50/1 A Waiter, whereon, stood..a plate of macaroons, eclairs and sponge cake. In French, the word eclair means a flash of lightning.

Eclair. The primary meaning of eclair in French is lightning', and one (not very convincing) explanation advanced for its application to these cream-filled choux-pastry temptations is that it was suggested by the light gleaming from their coating of fondant icing.

---An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2003 (p. 117)