Paris, we have a winner!
For the second American Smackdown in Paris, we (happily) got after another French classic: the crunchy, custardy chocolate éclair (or, “the macaron of the ’80s,” as Emily called it).
There was no shortage of contenders from which to select. Every neighborhood pastry shop along with the plus haut patissiers serves up éclairs. Which makes the Smackdown even more sensational. Whose pastry is the freshest? Whose filling is the most chocolaty-custardy? Whose icing is the sweetest and most complementary? There was only one way to find out. A very select tasting panel sat down to with samples from Stohrer and Jacques Genin to determine… who has the best éclair?
“Omigod, they’re just leagues apart!”
Stohrer and Jacques Genin have both received high accolades. The former is an old-school patisserie—founded by King Louis XV’s pastry chef in 1730. Refined, classic, beautiful. A Parisian landmark.
The latter is a modern chocolatier. After years of supplying the top restaurants and hotels (e.g. Crillon, Plaza Athénée and Le Meurice) with chocolates and petits fours, Genin opened his elegant Haut Marais salon de thé in late 2008. Sophisticated but rebellious.
The two are different on almost every level and evoked very strong feelings.
“Love the matte, clean look.”
“These look like doughnuts.”
“Very uniform. But is this a good or bad thing?”
“I like these. They’re very neat.”
Appearance, Jacques Genin
“Shiny is appealing, but a bit messy.”
“Flashy but trashy.”
“More straight from the kitchen imperfections, which I like.”
“Depends if you’re a matte or glossy person, really.”
“Nice form. Round, solid structure.”
“I like the lines down the side, it’s very classy.”
Pastry, Jacques Genin
“It collapses. It’s spongy and thin.”
“A bit soft.”
Ultimately, the pastry came down to Emily’s “Squeeze Test”: the consensus was Jacques Genin’s pastry was thin and flimsy, resulting in a messier experience.
“Rich, chocolaty, smooth, dee-lish. But a little flour-y.”
“Lovely round flavor. A bit too much though.”
“Very round-y kind of warm chocolate.”
Filling, Jacques Genin
“I feel like he’s challenging us.”
We agreed you could taste the purer cocoa of Jacques Genin—which can be too “bitter” when pitted against Stohrer’s sweeter, more sugary chocolate filling. But, going back to Stohrer from Genin’s chocolate could also “leave a funky aftertaste.”
Given the positive gut reaction to Stohrer and the bite-by-bite dissent over Jacques Genin, there’s a lot to be said for the melding of Stohrer’s flavors and textures and the balance of pastry to filling. It was clean, neat, sweet and delicious.
Jacques Genin looked snazzy and has the appearance and taste of high-end ingredients, but it somehow fails to please. It’s squishy, messy, and has contrasting sweet and bitter notes.
The Smackdown verdict?
“On the pure line of which I would buy again? Stohrer.”