Must-try French pastries to try in France

Embrace the good life, one bite at a time.

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Jnothing like that first crunch in the crispy outer layer of a freshly baked flaky croissant. Even devoured straight from a paper bag on the street, it’s a thing of beauty – and with pain au chocolat, France’s most iconic bread pastries. It’s also just the tip of the butter-soaked iceberg.

Like the cuisine of the country, French pastries are deeply regional and traditional. Flour, sugar, eggs, butter and cocoa mingle in ever more elaborate creations depending on whether one approaches Bordeaux or Brest. Discovering them all is the work of a lifetime, a delicious journey from bakery to pastry, perhaps even ending up in your own kitchen.

1. Thousand Leaves

The mille-feuille is a masterpiece. The beauty of this pastry lies in its simplicity: three layers of crispy, golden puff pastry superimposed on two layers of pastry cream. Some bakers add a marbled fondant topping; others opt for a dusting of powdered sugar.

Breaking the three layers is hard work, but it’s part of the experience. If your plate looks like a modern work of art gone wrong, you’ve done something right.

2. Paris-Brest

Forget crème brûlée and chocolate fondant. If there is one dessert that you will look for on the menu of a restaurant or in the best Parisian pastries, it is Paris-Brest.

Invented by pastry chef Louis Durand to commemorate the Paris-Brest cycling race in 1910, the wheel-shaped dessert is choux pastry perfection. It’s decadent, sweet but not overly sweet, and guaranteed to leave you in a trance-like state of satiety if you devour one yourself in one sitting.

Inside the choux pastry wheel is the praline mousseline cream (pastry cream flavored with almonds and hazelnuts). It is topped with powdered sugar and toasted slivered almonds.

3. Lemon meringue pie

Lemon meringue pie by another name, lemon meringue pie is one of must-haves (essential) of French pastry. It’s also one of the few pies that looks its best when purchased in a large size to share, rather than in individual servings.

The classic recipe couldn’t be simpler. It starts with a batter base that is loaded with a thick layer of lemon curd and then mounds of frothy Italian meringue. The higher the peaks the better, as they are torches for color and caramelization.

In Paris, the French Bastards are among the tastiest.

4. Kouign-amann

Until the 1500s, most regions of France were subject to a salt tax known as the tax, but the independent, salt-producing region of Brittany was exempt. The result? Local cuisine rich in salted butter and salted caramel.

There’s no clearer embodiment of Bretons’ enduring love for all things sweet and savory than kouign-amann. Part cake and part pastry, made with thin layers of yeast dough rolled with butter and sugar (folded and rolled over and over again), it’s crispy and caramelized on the outside but sickeningly dense on the inside .

Try to pick just one.

5. Canelés

Is Bordeaux more famous for its wine or for its canelés? Depending on who you ask, you could have a serious fight on your hands. But neither side would dispute that these rum and vanilla flavored cakes rightfully deserve a place in the pantheon of French pastry.

Canelés are still made in the same distinctive moulds, thin cylinders between two and three inches high with a small circular indent on top and grooves on the sides. The old-fashioned copper platters give them the best crispy outer shell and a moist, moist interior. Rum is added generously, but most French families happily give canelés to their children without hesitation. Connoisseurs know you can ask for them lightly, medium or well done.

Connoisseurs know you can ask for them lightly, medium or well done at local places like La Toque Cuivrée in Bordeaux.

6. Mont-Blanc

Mont-Blanc, named after the highest peak in France, appears in the windows of pastries at the beginning of autumn when the first chestnuts are harvested. Parisian teahouse Angelina claims to have invented the recipe, which sees a miniature “mountain” of meringue topped with whipped cream and a string-like veil of chestnut puree.

In the best Mont-Blancs, the chestnut puree is only slightly sweet, making them as delicious as a dessert or with a cup of black tea in the afternoon.

7. Opera

If you like your chocolate bitter and your coffee full-bodied, the elegant Oblong Opera is the French pastry for you. Each very thin layer is tasty, starting with an almond Joconde sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup before being alternated with chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream.

The last layer is always a smooth dark chocolate frosting. It never covers the sides of the opera, revealing the meticulously constructed strata and the precision of the pastry chef.

8. Rum baba

The rum baba was invented in the oldest pastry shop in Paris, Stohrerwhich opened in 1730. It is said that King Louis XV’s pastry chef and founder of Stohrer, Nicolas Stohrer, created this yeast-filled, rum-soaked cake for Stanislas Leszczynski, the former King of Poland and father of the wife of the King of France, Marie Leszczynska.

What you need to know is that rum is to baba what ice cream is to apple pie. The more you add, the better. Order a rum baba for dessert at a restaurant and you’re often free to douse it liberally with alcohol yourself.

The strawberry tartlet is a staple of the season.

9. Strawberry Tartlet

The arrival of summer in France is heralded by the first strawberries of the season. First the early gariguettes at the beginning of May, then other varieties such as the cleri. You know the season is really in full swing when cute little strawberry pies start decorating bakery windows and picnic blankets.

There is no standardized recipe for a strawberry tartlet, but purists stick to a shortbread base, pastry cream filling and fresh strawberry filling. The secret to making the strawberries shine at the end is to brush them with a little melted jam.

For more unusual versions, you can always count on the Parisian pastry shop Boulangerie Utopie, which can add an elderflower cream or a vegetable coal (black charcoal) base.

10. King Cake

You’ll need to visit France around the Catholic feast of Epiphany on January 6 for the chance to try a galette des rois or king’s cake. These puff pastry pies with frangipane are traditionally baked to mark the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus.

The bakeries top each galette with a golden paper crown. Hidden inside is a lucky charm, known as bean. If you find it in your slice, you become king (or queen) for the day and the crown is yours.

11. Brioche with pink pralines

Aside from croissants, brioche is the only staple that appears on almost every French breakfast table. It comes in many forms: bouncy buns, round buns, even baguette-like baguettes sprinkled with chocolate chips. Generous amounts of egg and butter give the dough its characteristic richness.

Perhaps the best and most distinctive of all its forms is the pink praline brioche, a Lyon specialty. Barbie pink pralines, crunchy sugar-coated almond candies, are added directly to the mix and hide like nuggets of gold amidst the fluffy layers of the brioche.

You’ll find some of the best in Lyon’s famous covered market, Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse.

12. Apple turnovers

As with many recipes in France, even the humble apple turnover comes with a 400-year history, which is celebrated every year at the apple turnover party in the town of Saint-Calais in Pays de la Loire.

Legend has it that during a famine, the local chatelaine (“mistress of the castle”) distributed flour and apples to the poor. This is how the first apple turnover was born. cinnamon before being enclosed in their golden puff pastry bag.

For a foolproof recipe, the classic interpretation of Poilâne is a reference throughout France. Her cookbooks are a worthwhile investment, if a weekend in Paris isn’t on your upcoming travel diary.

13. Chouquettes

If you’re invited to a morning coffee in France, don’t expect to be served beignets and an americano. You’re more likely to find yourself sipping espresso and munching on chouquettes, hollow bubbles of choux pastry topped with chunky crystals of pearl sugar that make such a satisfying crunch between your teeth.

Chouquettes are about the cheapest pastries you can buy at a bakery – often sold in packets of 10 – but by far some of the most addicting.

14. Macaroons

No list of French pastries or a picnic under the Eiffel Tower is complete without the macaron. Each candy color selection box may look the same, but not all macarons are created equal.

For the best of the best, look for those made by pastry chefs with the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, like Jean-Paul Hévin in Paris. Whatever the flavor, when you bite into the macaron, the outer shell should be thin and crispy, quickly giving way to a dense, chewy center. You can’t go wrong with the classics: pistachio, chocolate, coffee, raspberry and vanilla.

For the best of the best, look for those made by pastry chefs with the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, like Jean-Paul Hévin in Paris. Whatever the flavor, when you bite into the macaron, the outer shell should be thin and crispy, quickly giving way to a dense, chewy center. You can’t go wrong with the classics: pistachio, chocolate, coffee, raspberry and vanilla.

>> Next: Expert guide to cheese in Paris for traveling cheese lovers

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