Francophile or not, you probably know that France is the pastry capital of the world, with independent pâtisseries on virtually every block, selling all the classics like croissants aux amandes, madeleines, éclairs, and more. Before your next trip to France, study up on the classic French pastries, and make sure you’ve tasted them all before you get back on that plane home. Or, try making them yourself at home — some of them aren’t as hard as they look (others definitely are.)
Best French pastries you should keep on your radar
We’re starting here because we have to — it doesn’t get more iconic than the flaky, buttery breakfast staple. You’ll find almost every boulangerie worth its weight in butter has a fantastic one on offer.
Pain au Chocolat
The yeast-leavened laminated dough used to make croissants is also deployed in the classic pain au chocolat, a chocolate-stuffed version that is sweet pastry heaven. The warmer, the better here — the semisweet baton of chocolate in the middle should be melty heaven.
Croissant aux Amandes
Another hall-of-Famer in the laminated dough category is the gorgeous almond croissant, topped with sliced almonds and filled with a sweet almond custard called frangipane.
This festive, fancy little treat is a fixture at French patisseries for a reason: it doesn’t get more satisfying than this. Two round choux pastries are filled with crème pâtissière — usually chocolate — and encased in a ganache of the same flavour. The iconic dessert has been around since the 19th century.
Had Proust not immortalised these soft little cakes in Remembrance of Things Past, they still would have gone down in history: they are just that excellent. The simplicity is the point here.
There is no dessert quite as pretty as the macaron, a delicate, meringue-based sandwich cookie that can be made in all sorts of flavours, from passion fruit to rose. This crisp exterior has a tendency to shatter when you bite in, giving way to a sweet, creamy filling. We can’t think of a better gift to bring back from a trip to France than this delicious French pastries.
This classic cream puff, otherwise known as chou à la crème, can be filled with custard, pastry cream, simple whipped cream, or even ice cream, but we don’t discriminate. We like these treats drizzled in chocolate, though caramel and powdered sugar also do quite nicely.
We can’t think of a more classic, more satisfying French dessert than the quintessential Tarte Tatin, made with Lucious, perfectly sweet apples. The whole thing is baked upside down, so the apples get marvellously caramelised in butter and sugar. (Don’t forget to top it with chantilly.)
Literally named “a thousand leaves,” this beautiful dessert of puff pastry layered with pastry cream is one of the most heavenly confections in France. You’ll find it layered with berries, chocolate, and sometimes even savoury versions with smoked salmon.
Perfect logs of pâte à chou are filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate glaze. If you can’t make it to France to try one, this recipe from Joanne Chang comes pretty close.
This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com.
(Hero and featured image credit: Cedric Grolet)
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