France is renowned worldwide for its famous baguettes and croissants, but there is much more to get from a French bakery… There is “pâtisserie” too! More than a food tradition, it’s a real art. Here we introduce you to 6 traditional French pastries that will make you want to take the next plane to France.
Many bakeries in France are called “boulangerie-pâtisserie” as they also have pastries for sale. There, you can find three categories of delicious items: bread and baguettes, pastries, and ‘viennoiseries’. Viennoiseries include croissants and pains au chocolat, and are not considered as pastry.
Almost every French village has its own boulangerie-pâtisserie, with a crowd of colourful and delicious looking pastries, and each region, and each pastry, has its own specialties. Pastry is a real art in France, and you will find many different pieces, from elaborate combinations of fruit mousse, puff pastry and chocolate, to simple fruit tarts. The following are the classic you can be sure every pastry shop has.
Pastries are eaten either for dessert for dinner parties, or for a gourmet 4pm snack (“goûter”)
This is the classic of French pastry. It is an oblong, hollow choux dough filled with pastry cream (‘crème pâtissière’) and topped with icing. The cream and icing of éclairs are traditionally either chocolate-, coffee- or vanilla-flavoured, although many pastry chefs decline it to many other flavours.
Religieuses (literally meaning religious women) are éclairs’ big sister. They consist in two hollow balls of dough choux one of top of the other, the top one being slightly smaller, filled with cream, topped with chocolate and stuck together with whipped cream. They are also found in restaurants for dessert.
Mille-feuille literally means “thousand leaves”, a name that is easily understood as it is made of alternating layers of puff pastry and vanilla cream. It is topped with a white and brown striped icing, which makes it stand out from the crowd.
This pastry is named after a cycle race between the cities of Brest and Paris, and its circle shape represents a bike wheel. It’s made of two circular layers of puff pastry, with praline cream in between and almonds on top.
Opéra cake is made with layers of almond sponge cake with a coffee and chocolate filling and icing. As it is quite elaborate, it is a bit more chic.
Tarte au citron
Tarte au citron (lemon tart) is a classic of French pastry, and is made as well by families than pastry chefs for their shops. It consists in a pastry case filled with lemon curd. Most often than not, it is topped with meringue and is then called “tarte au citron méringuée”.
These pastries are the unmissable and traditional, but all the rest is excellent too, so follow your heart… and your stomach!
Pâtisserie = pastry and pastry shop
Crème pâtissière = pastry cream
Pâte à choux = choux dough
Glaçage = icing
Crème fouettée = whipped cream
Bon appétit !