The Eclairium: A Behind the Scenes Peek of Where the Magic Happens
EW’s Lizan got to visit the Eclairium and learn how eclairs are made. Here’s what happened!
12 February 2018
Last weekend, I got up bright and early to visit the Eclairium in JLT and (excuse the pun…) what a treat it was! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, Eclair is probably one of Dubai’s best-kept secrets.
The restaurant is located in City Walk Boulevard where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with a freshly baked eclair that will melt in your mouth. An eclair is an individual cake of choux pastry that is filled with cream and then topped with icing. They are available in two sizes: mini and regular.
The Eclairium is tucked away in Cluster Y of JLT and this is the shop where all the magic happens. All the pastries are prepared in the ‘laboratory’ (kitchen) of the Eclairium. Walking into the Eclairium, I was greeted by the driver, Daryl, and shortly thereafter, the manager Manlio.
Manlio gave me a brief tour of the facilities and then left me in the very capable hands of Pauline, the Assistant Pastry Chef and Delailah, the Commis Chef. Both Pauline and Delailah were planning to do something else, but both ended being hand-picked by Eclair employees who saw a hidden talent in them.
Pauline is one of the founding employees at Eclair and has been working there for almost four years. Delailah is still busy with her training and has been working there for one year.
Introductions: The brand, the recipe and the ingredients
Before we started with the process, Pauline showed me around the laboratory (kitchen) and explained the process and machines to me in greater detail. Here are some interesting facts that I learnt while I was there:
- The three ladies who work at the Eclairium produces around 800 hand-made eclairs per day. This number increases significantly during special holidays such as Eid, Christmas and Easter.
- All the eclairs are made fresh every day with a strict policy not to leave any unbaked batter overnight.
- All their ingredients used for the eclairs are imported directly from France to keep the final product as close as possible to the original.
- Eclair only uses Valrhona chocolate which is rated as the best quality baking chocolate available in the world.
- Except for piping the eclairs and mixing the batter, everything is prepared by hand. That's right, every eclair is stuffed and decorated by hand.
- Eclairs are baked at a hotter temperature from the top than from the bottom. The top element is set to 180 degrees Celsius and the bottom one at only 160 degrees Celsius.
- The Eclair Au Chocolat Noir and Eclair Gianduja are topped with 35 karat gold sprinkles.
- Eclair cakes are available on special order
Not as simple as it seems: The choux
An eclair consists of three components: the choux, the filling and the icing. Each is relatively easy to make, but have their own elements that make them tricky to prepare. Pauline is, however, so experienced in making pastries that it comes as second nature to her!
The choux is made with mixing water, milk powder, sugar and salt. Butter is added and the mixture is slightly heated until the butter and sugar melted. More water is then added to the batter along with flour and then everything is mixed together and left to cool. (Yes – it does make a difference adding water twice to the mix) After it has cooled down, the eggs are mixed into the batter and ta-da! The mixture is ready for piping.
The batter is then placed inside a machine that pipes it into the different sizes on trays. Once everything has been piped, the trays are left to dry for approximately an hour and baked for 38 minutes.
The yummy part: The filling
The ladies work very efficiently starting with the next item while waiting for something to finish. While we were waiting for the batter to cool down in order to add the eggs, we started with the filling. The filling is made with cream, milk, pasteurized egg yolk, sugar, gelatine and the necessary chocolate and/or other ingredients that are needed for the flavouring.
The ingredients, except for the gelatine is mixed together and pasteurised while the gelatine is mixed and left to set. Everything is mixed together after the pasteurisation process is complete and then set in the fridge to set.
Preparing the final touch: The icing
With the choux and the filling almost ready, the only thing that was left to prepare was the icing. The icing is prepared with cream, chocolate and absolu cristal-nappage natural glaze to give it the shiny finish. Other ingredients are added as needed for the specific flavour that is being prepared.
Let the fun begin: Stuffing & decorations
With the different components ready, we finally started putting everything together. Pauline prepped four eclairs for each of us to stuff and decorate. Then she completed one to show me what to do and we were off. First, the filling is piped into the choux until the eclair is the ideal weight and equally balanced.
Next, the eclair is dipped into the icing and gently scraped on the side. The ideal eclair is dipped approximately half-way into the icing and equally spread over the top. Lastly, the final touches are added as required by each of the different flavours.
The first eclair that I decorated was a bit of a mess but I quickly got the hang of it thereafter (thanks to my good instructor). It takes a lot of patience to decorate each of the eclairs so eloquently.
After the eclairs were finished, I was treated to a cup of coffee to enjoy with the freshly made eclairs while asking Pauline a last couple of questions.
All for savoury éclairs – the trip to City Walk
After my great experience at the Eclairium, I became curious and wanted to try the savoury éclairs as well. I decided to drive to City Walk and pick-up one of each filling. The restaurant is very easy to find being located on the street side in between the two round-about’s in Al Mustaqbal Street. Inside, I was greeted by two friendly faces who quickly assisted me to collect my order. I didn’t check the prices before calling to place the order and was honestly surprised at how expensive it was. Considering that I ordered two of each savoury item, it came up to nearly AED 350 for the eight eclairs!
Don’t let this scare you away – they were worth every bit of the price. All four fillings of the savoury eclairs are really delicious but the Smoked Salmon and Chive Cream as well as the Mediterranean ones really stood out to me.
This is a company who is passionate about what they do, and passionate about their people. Because they care about their people, their employees care about what they are creating. Yes, Eclair might, according to some people, be a bit expensive but you can taste the quality that goes into each and every eclair. Not even to mention the passion and dedication.
This is definitely the place that I am going to call every time I want to spoil someone or just in the mood for something heavenly!