Food

Our 10 Best French Desserts So You Can Feast Like A Parisian

By SAVEUR Editors - May 07, 2019
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A decadent custard batter is studded with juicy, ripe cherries in this elegant and satisfying treat. Get the recipe for Cherry Clafoutis »

Todd Coleman

For all of France’s fine dishes—everything from cassoulets to coq au vin—it can be argued that the crown jewel of French cuisine is dessert. From pâte choux to pâte brisée to crème patissière, many of the world’s most beloved and influential sweets employ techniques and basics that are French in origin. The list is endless, but we’ve compiled our best French desserts into a list of essentials.

 

The list runs of the gamut of occasions: master the art of the tart for a treat-yourself weekday dinner, or pull out all the stops for a fancy dinner party with a towering croquembouche that will surprise and delight guests. From crème brûlée to canelés, our best French dessert recipes should be essentials on your list.

Gâteau Basque

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The signature dessert of the region, gâteau basque is made by sandwiching a layer of jam or sweet pastry cream between two shortbread-like rounds. Cherry preserves are a classic filling—choosing a good-quality jam makes all the difference—and the dough itself resembles a cookie dough, with additional eggs lending a cakier texture. It can also be baked in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; just be sure to grease the sides with butter before assembling. Get the recipe for Cherry Gateau Basque

Beth Galton

Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin

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Juicy cherry or grape tomatoes are coated in a light caramel to make the “topping” for this tart, but the whole thing is baked upside down in a skillet. Do most of the steps to prepare it in advance—make the zucchini paste and defrost the puff pastry a few hours or up to two days ahead—but be sure to serve the tart just after baking, turning it out from the pan in front of guests. It tastes best while the caramel is still runny and the warm, topmost layer of dough has a custardy consistency. Get the recipe for Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin

Michelle Heimerman

Sablé Breton

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This recipe comes from Tariq Hanna of Sucré in New Orleans. Originating in Brittany, a region known for it’s salt-forward cuisine, this crust contains a hefty pinch of the flaky stuff – be sure to use a good brand as the delicate flavor will be noticeable here. It’s a crust that requires no rolling and very little fuss, making it an exceptional choice for a summer fruit tart. Get the recipe for Sablé Breton

Matt Taylor-Gross

Strawberry Rhubarb Pâte de Fruit

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Instead of coating his pâte de fruit with plain sugar, William Werner of San Francisco’s Craftsman and Wolves flavors Demerara sugar with Clément Créole Shrubb, a spiced liqueur made of aged and white Agricole rums and bitter orange peels. It adds a clean, bright flavor to the glittering topping. Get the recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pâte de Fruit

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Meringue Floating in Crème Anglaise

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Sprinkled on top of these delicate meringues—which float in a vanilla custard—are praline roses, caramel-coated almonds dyed a bright pink. The color’s a bit shocking, but they’re a staple of Lyonnaise pâtisseries and lend a nice crunch and color to this white-on-white backdrop. Get the recipe for Meringue Floating in Crème Anglaise

Matt Taylor-Gross

Marquise au Chocolat

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This dessert—a fudgy, frozen or semi-frozen chocolate mousse that’s sometimes coated in ganache, then sliced—likely came from the 17th or 18th century, when royal pastry chefs lived large. I like to crumble in Speculoos cookies, like Biscoff brand, before freezing, to add crunch and pretty golden flecks, but anything that works with chocolate—from candied ginger to rum-soaked raisins—is fair game. It’s at its best when semifrozen or thawed but still chilly. Get the recipe for Frozen Chocolate Mousse (Marquise au Chocolat)

Christina Holmes

Frangipane

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Frangipane, an almond-based pastry filling, has a nutty fragrance and a consistency between buttery pound cake and airy sponge cake. In French-style fruit tarts, this classic filling is often studded with poached or fresh fruits. In summer, you can swap out the cranberries in this tart for halved pitted apricots, fresh pitted cherries, or sliced plums. Syrup-poached apples or pears, halved ripe figs, or quince would be delicious in cooler months. Get the recipe for Almond Frangipane Tart with Cranberries and Honeyed Pistachios

Ryan Liebe

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Sea Salt and Espresso Beans

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A touch of egg is the simple, secret ingredient in this luscious tart’s filling. Just a little gives the combination of chocolate and cream a sliceable, fudgy consistency. The crumbly cocoa-laced crust can be pressed right into a fluted pan, no rolling pin required. Swap out espresso beans for toasted nuts, chopped brittle, granola, or crushed peppermint candy. Just don’t eliminate the sea salt; it adds a bright, irreplaceable contrast to the decadent filling. Get the recipe for Chocolate Ganache Tart with Sea Salt and Espresso Beans

Ryan Liebe

Créme Brûlée

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Beating egg yolks with sugar until pale and fluffy is the key to the smooth texture in this rich, classic French dessert, as made by Dennis Wist, father of Saveur Art Associate Allie Wist. Get the recipe for Créme Brûlée

Farideh Sadeghin

Canelés de Bordeaux

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Pastry expert Niko Triantafillou of Dessert Buzz has made creating the perfect canelé one of his life quests. His recipe is the real deal: crunchy and caramelized to a deep mahogany brown on the outside, moist and custardy within, and deeply perfumed with dark rum and vanilla bean. Get the recipe for Canelés de Bordeaux

Niko Triantafillou