The French are known for their unique flavors, history and complicated techniques when it comes to food. But when you really break it down, a lot of the processes they use are the same that are used anywhere else. It comes down to the amount of care put into the baking of a dessert and the quality of ingredients. The art of pastry was basically invented in France, and there are plenty of culinary and pastry schools that primarily teach French cuisine and technique. It's no wonder that the most delicious and fancy desserts do come from France!
When you think of a traditional bakery case, it could be filled with heaping mounds of cream or frosting, but in France, the shelves are filled with small pastries and desserts that are uniform in size and shape and mesmerize you with how perfect they are. Being a baker in France isn't just a job; it's a way of life. You have to eat, breath and sleep pastry and innovation. A lot of pastry chefs take inspiration from local legends or their family history to bring old French recipes back to life. Think you can name all of the French desserts in this quiz? Take it now to find out!
Don't confuse this with a macaroon, which is a coconut cookie. A macaron is an almond-flour meringue-type cookie that can be flavored with almost anything and filled with cream, chocolate or jam.
A palmier is delicious because it's baked puff pastry rolled with cinnamon and sugar, and then rolled in that same mixture before it goes in the oven. They're sweet and crunchy and can be found in almost any bakery.
Sometimes cake can lack texture, but when the cake is a Dacquoise, that's not the case. The meringue adds a crunch, while the cream in between the layers add the creamy and soft feeling you love about cake.
This classic French dessert uses two intricate French pastry techniques. The puff pastry serves as the bottom layer, while the choux pastry (what éclairs are made out of) is piped on top of that.
This pastry uses croissant dough which is then rolled to look like a snail shell. This one in particular is rolled with raisins and pastry cream. In America, it's traditionally made with Brioche dough.
This dessert is specific to a certain region of France, and in other areas, it takes on other names and the recipe varies slightly. It's a shortcrust pastry topped with a delicious fruit jam and lattice-style pastry.
In French cooking, a Dariole is just a mold, but it's also the name of the pastry baked inside of it. Puff pastry lines the mold and is filled with an almond cream and baked until golden brown. There's even savory versions!
The origin of this dessert has been widely disputed, with one story saying it started as a mistake and another saying it was originally made for a little girl named Suzette. No matter where it comes from, this crepe with a butter-caramel sauce sure is delicious.
The two common ingredients in this dessert are listed above, with cream being a popular third ingredient. They can be filled chocolates, nuts mixed with caramel or a cookie that contains chocolate and nuts.
Peaches Melba is a dessert consisting of peaches and ice cream with a raspberry sauce. Renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier first made the dessert at the Savoy Hotel in London for the famed soprano, Nellie Melba.
Baba au rhum is a cake baked in a cupcake tin that is essentially left out to dry for a period of time so it can be doused in a simple syrup made with rum. That syrup rehydrates the cake and makes it as moist as ever.
Mille-feuille is a layered dessert. Puff pastry is baked in sheets, cut to size and layered with things like pastry cream, whipped cream and other flavorings like mousse or jam. It can have lots of layers but not quite a thousand.
A beignet sounds like a complicated dessert, but it's quite literally fried dough. It's traditional square in shape, and once it's been fried, it's liberally covered in powdered sugar. Like, a mountain of powdered sugar goes on top.
"Pain" means "bread" in French, and "au chocolate" means "chocolate," of course. This dessert is made with croissant dough, and in the middle is chocolate of some kind, whether it's chocolate chips or small strips of high-end chocolate.
Chocolate is the most common flavoring for mousse, but it can really be flavored with anything! Fruit puree is a great choice, as well as things like lavender. Since the base is cream, egg whites or gelatin, it can take on some pretty strong flavors while remaining super light in texture.
Another Auguste Escoffier creation, this pear dessert was named after the operetta, Le Belle Hélène. The pears are poached in a sugar syrup and then served with or atop vanilla ice cream.
These have a texture similar to that of marzipan but are made with a paste of candied fruit and ground almonds. The main and most popular flavoring is melon. Most of the world's supply of these treats are still made in Provence.
This layered dessert is full of flavor and texture. The main pastry is what éclairs are made of, so it's soft and crisp at the same time. Then you have the smoothness of the cream filling and the crunchy aspect of the toasted almonds on top.
The flavors are a combination of rose, lychees and raspberries in this Pierre Hermé dessert. The top and bottom layer are a red-colored macaron, and in the middle is a luscious buttercream with halved raspberries.
This smaller version of a pots de creme is great for parties or if you want just a little touch of sweetness after dinner. It's a custard-based dessert that can be flavored with almost anything and can be topped with fruit or brulèed.
To be a true Gâteau Basque, its said that only black cherries from the Basque Country should be used. The cream version is more popular and tied to the Southern Basque region of Spain.
This was another delight created by accident at the Hotel Tatin in France and then became their signature dish. Traditionally, the fruit used is apples, but it can also be made with pears and other stone fruit.
What we know as lava cake, the French know as fondant au chocolate. It's a soft chocolate sponge cake with a melted/undercooked filling that oozes out when you cut into it. It's traditionally served with vanilla ice cream.
In many other countries, "biscuit" actually refers to a cookie and not the fluffy breakfast side we have in America. If you don't know what a ladyfinger is, it's the base of the dessert tiramisu.
The signature look of this cookie is where it gets its name. It's long, thin and takes on the appearance of a cat tongue when baked. It's a sweet and crunchy cookie, as opposed to a soft and chewy one.
Made at Boulangerie Polaine, these shortbread cookies (similar to those shown here) are made on a marble slab much in the same way as pasta. Then, believe it or not, the cookies are baked in a wood-fired oven, much like a pizza is.
This is mostly a pouring custard for other cakes or desserts. The reason is tastes like melted vanilla ice cream is because that's basically what it is. It's essentially the custard that, when frozen, becomes ice cream.
Cooked vanilla custard gets covered in white sugar and then caramelized with a flame. That's the brûlée part. It's served in many restaurants, but it's also easy to make at home with the right equipment.
This French dessert is a tower of cream puffs that are stuck together with caramel. It's designed to be a pull-apart dessert and is traditionally the centerpiece of a holiday table. It's a complicated technique but so worth it if you nail it.
There's a specific mold for these cakes so that they're perfect and uniform every time. The mold resembles a bar of gold, and that's likely where the name "financier" came from. But the name could also come from its popularity in the financial district of Paris.
Black cherries are the most traditional, but now there are all kinds of versions of clafoutis. The fruit of choice gets covered in a flan-like batter that gets fluffy when baked. It can be served with powdered sugar or soft cream.
Made from a thin, sweet cookie baked on a flat griddle-like surface, the cookie is then molded while it's still soft to look like the tulip flour. It's basically the waffle-cone bowl of France.
This French dessert is very similar to the Italian dessert tiramisu. The main difference is that the French version uses almond sponge cake instead of ladyfinger cookies, and it's covered with chocolate ganache instead of cocoa or espresso powder.
Orangettes are made of candied orange peel that is then covered in chocolate. It's sweet, it's tart and it can be just a tad bitter. But the flavors somehow work together. The candying of the orange peel softens it and brings down the bitterness.
The name makes it sounds fancy, but a mendiant is a circle of chocolate studded with nuts and dried fruit. The combination can be whatever you like, but the classic is raisins, hazelnuts, figs and almonds.
The flavors of this cake are unique, but so is the design. There is a pastry crust filled with the chestnut puree and then the cream is squiggled on top to look like spaghetti.
No one knows the exact origin of the Madeleine cake, but there are several theories. All you need to know is that to make them right, you need the special fluted pan that gives them their signature seashell look.
The name implies a crust, and that's exactly what it is! It is any kind of base for things like pies or galettes. It's traditionally a puff pastry or other flaky pastry like phyllo. Croustades also can be filled with savory treats, such as shrimp and dill (shown here).
This dessert can be served hot or cold, but either way, it's a trifle of flavor and texture. There are now so many different varieties out there, but originally, it's said to originate from a word meaning "dish of custard."
Meringues are typically a cookie made from a mixture of egg whites, sugar and a stabilizer. They can be flavored and colored with pretty much anything and need to be baked low and slow to get the signature crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside mouthfeel.