French pastries: A Guide To The 18 Best French Desserts (You Must Try)

Feb 24, 2022

French cuisine is celebrated worldwide for its bread, cheese, wine, and of course, the baguette, but what about French pastries? Where do they come from? What are they called? And how do you pronounce them?

But why is French pastry so famous in France and around the world? What makes it so good? Skilled Artisans produce French pastry.

  • The most common answer to these questions is that skilled bakers and artisans make the French pastry.
  • These are people who have trained for years to master their craft, know precisely how to make their pastries both tasty and visually appealing, and generally use high-quality ingredients to make them.

The popularity of pastries in France

When it comes to desserts, the French are second to none. But it's not just the French who have a sweet tooth and a love of decadence! France offers a vast array of pastries and cakes, from the most mouth-watering tarts to luscious galettes and crunchy biscuits.

These divine delicacies are enjoyed throughout the year – for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, baptisms, or simply as a mid-morning snack!

With so many different kinds of sweet treats to choose from, it can be challenging to know what's what. So we've put together this guide to French pastries, helping you on your way towards mastering the art of all things sweet in France!

What is a pastry?

The pastry is essentially any dough that can be baked in an oven. It is made using flour, fat (be it butter or vegetable oil), and water in most countries.

Most French pastries are made from scratch with fresh ingredients, but you can also find frozen and pre-made versions in many grocery stores.

List of pastries famous in France

French pastry is a refined sugar confectionery that has been refined into an art form through the centuries. French pastries are some of the most delectable and delightful treats in the world. From Parisian croissants to creamy custard tarts, these are the best French pastries you have to try.

  1. Croissant

Croissant is a buttery, flaky, viennoiserie pastry of Austrian origin, named for its historical crescent shape. Croissants and other viennoiserie are made of layered yeast-leavened dough. The dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet in a technique called laminating. The process results in a layered, flaky texture, similar to a puff pastry.

Croissants are usually eaten during breakfast or lunch with coffee or tea; they can be filled with creams (chocolate, raspberry, vanilla...) or just eaten plain.

  1. Éclair

Eclairs, a classic French pastry, are a delicious and versatile dessert to make. This is the perfect recipe for first-time éclair-makers because of their simplistic preparation.

 Eclairs are made with a basic batter that can make everything from cream puffs to mini eclairs or even just the choux pastry itself. The basic batter is called "pâte à choux" in French, which translates to "cabbage paste" due to its resemblance in shape and color.

Once baked, these empty shells will be filled with a delicious cream filling and topped with rich chocolate icing.

  1. Macaron

Macarons are meringue-based cookies made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food coloring. The Macaron is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream, or jam filling sandwiched between two cookies.

The confection is characterized by a smooth squared top, a ruffled circumference, and a flat base. It is mildly moist and quickly melts in the mouth. Macarons can be found in various flavors that range from the traditional (raspberry, chocolate) to the new (foie gras).

     4. Custard Tart

Custard tarts are usually yellow, but sometimes food coloring is added to make them appear more appetizing. The filling commonly has a vanilla flavor, and it is rare to find other flavors such as chocolate or coffee. Custard tarts are a famous pastry in the UK and many former British colonies, including Hong Kong. The most common type is egg custard with a thick layer of flaky pastry on the bottom and puff pastry on top, although pure puff pastry-based versions are also available.

  1. Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is a French pastry composed of crust, apples, butter, and sugar. The pastry is covered with apple slices in a circular pattern and then baked in an oven until the apples are soft and caramelized. It is then inverted onto a serving plate so that the crust becomes the base of the tart and the caramelized juices cover it.

The name tarte Tatin comes from two sisters who ran a Hotel Tatin' in France. They are credited with creating this dessert.

  1. Vol-au-vent

Vol-au-vent is a French term for "windblown," also a light pastry. The pastry is used as a shell for savory fillings such as cheese, eggs, or meat. This pastry has many variations, but the main ingredient is still puff pastry. Often, these tops are cut off to make room for the filling and then replaced on top to resemble a cup.

  • Vol-au-vent can be sweetened with chocolate or fruit and topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
  • In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, vol-au-vent describes a small square or round case of puff pastry with a filling of diced chicken or other meat in a white sauce.
  1. Brioche

Brioche is a pastry of French origin that is similar to highly enriched bread and whose high egg and butter content gives it a rich and tender crumb. According to the proportion of butter and eggs, Chef Joel Robuchon describes it as "light and slightly puffy, more or less fine." It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust, frequently accentuated by an egg wash applied after proofing.

Brioche is often eaten as breakfast food. It can be served plain (in which case it may be called pain brioché), with fruits (such as strawberries) or sweet fillings such as jam or chocolate ganache. Brioche also makes an excellent base for a bread pudding.

  1. Profiterole

A profiterole, or choux à la crème is a filled French choux pastry ball with a typically sweet and moist filling of whipped cream, custard, pastry cream, or ice cream.

The puffs may be decorated or left plain or garnished with chocolate sauce, caramel, or a dusting of confectioner's sugar. The word profiterole has also been used as a generic term for forms of cream puff-like pastries. In contrast, in modern French, the terms choux and profiterole are primarily synonymous. In historic French cuisine, the term profiterole refers to a plain version of the pastry without filling, while the term choux refers to either filled or glazed versions.

  1. Pain au chocolat

The Pain au chocolat, which means chocolate bread in French, is a pastry consisting of a rectangular piece of flaky yeast dough base with two pieces of chocolate placed inside. The dough is lightly sweetened and contains small amounts of chocolate chips. It is baked in an oven with a golden-brown color on the outside and a soft texture.

 Chocolate croissants are usually prepared in the same manner as croissants, but with small pieces of dark, milk, or white chocolate added before the rolling process. Chocolate chips are also sometimes used. In France, chocolate croissants are often referred to as pain au chocolat.

  1. Beignets

Beignets are square-shaped French pastries served in London and throughout the United Kingdom. They are made of deep-fried dough and have a light, airy texture. They are traditionally dusted with powdered sugar, which creates a cloud of sweet white powder when they're served hot from the fryer. There are a few different types of beignets.

  • The most common type is made from yeast dough.
  • A variation on this theme uses choux pastry instead of yeasted dough.
  • Other variations include apple beignets and beignet-style pancakes.
  1. Millefeuilles

The Millefeuilles is a French pastry that has been around since at least the early 1800s. The name means "a thousand sheets" or "thousand leaves," referring to the many layers of pastry and filling.

Traditionally, Millefeuilles is made by alternating layers of puff pastry with vanilla custard (crème pâtissière). They are then topped with a layer of confectioner's glaze or fondant icing and sometimes decorated with chocolate piping.

The Millefeuille is generally made up of three layers of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée);

  • Alternating with two layers of pastry cream (crème pâtissière),
  • But sometimes whipped cream or jam is substituted. The top pastry layer is dusted with confectioner's sugar and sometimes cocoa.
  • At the same time, caramel may also be drizzled over the top or cut into a rectangular or triangular shape and served.
  1. Paris-Brest

The Paris-Brest is a French pastry made from choux pastry and praline cream. It was created in 1910 by Louis Durand, a pâtissier in Maisons-Laffitte, to commemorate the Paris–Brest–Paris bicycle race.

The Paris–Brest is shaped like a giant donut and traditionally has a diameter of 6-8 inches (15–20 cm), although larger versions are now available. It's filled with praline cream, made from caramelized hazelnuts or almonds ground into a paste, then mixed with pastry cream, whipped cream, or butter to create a smooth texture. Toasted sliced almonds are sometimes sprinkled over the top of the pastry.

  1. Chouquette

Chouquettes are a famous French pastry made from choux dough. They are small, hollow puffs filled with cream or custard and topped with chocolate sauce. They are also known as cream puffs, eclairs, and profiteroles. The ingredients for making chouquettes only need water, butter, flour, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.

Chouquette is a traditional French pastry that looks like a cream puff or éclair. It is a small ball of choux pastry covered with sugar crystals (or pearl sugar) then baked to perfection."

In France, chouquettes are generally sold by the bakeries in paper bags and eaten warm for breakfast, kids love them for snack time at school, and we also serve them in the afternoon with coffee or tea just before dinner time.

  1. Pain aux raisins

Pain aux raisins is a French pastry consisting of a cuboid-shaped yeast dough rolled, spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar, covered in a sheet of puff pastry, and baked. The finished product can be cut into individual portions, usually glazed with icing sugar.

A similar thin French pastry known as escargot is prepared with the same ingredients but rolled into a snail shape. The most common filling for pain aux raisins is raisins, but other fillings are used, such as chocolate chips, nuts, dark chocolate, and dried fruits.

 

A guide to the best French pastries

If there's one thing that can be said of the French, it's that they know how to eat. From croissants to tarts and everything in between, their food is unrivaled. France has undoubtedly been blessed with a rich culinary heritage, but it's its pastries and desserts that have put them on the map.

Croissant Pain aux raisins Tarte Tatin Macaron

 

So what are the best French pastries?

 Well, that all depends on your tastes. For example, if you're more savory than sweet, try gougères – puffed pastry balls flavored with cheese – or golden palmiers – crisp cookies made with puff pastry. Try a rich chocolate éclair or decadent Paris-Brest (a choux pastry ring filled with hazelnut praline) if chocolate is your thing. And if the fruit is more your style, we suggest a flaky tart topped with fresh apricots or cherries in season. So why not treat yourself to some indulgence? Here's where to find the best French pastries and what to eat when you get there.

  1. Macaron
  2. Petit four
  3. Eclair
  4. Croissant
  5. Mille-feuille
  6. Chocolate tart
  7. Gâteau Basque
  8. Creme Brulee
  9. Chouquette
  10. Pain aux raisins

 

So as we know that France is a country that's well known for its pastry. You can find pastry shops (boulangeries) on almost every single street in Paris and the other cities of France. Croissants, éclairs, macarons, pain au chocolat, galettes des rois (king cakes)… the list goes on and on.

 

 

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