Food

Our 48 Best French Desserts So You Can Feast Like A Parisian

By SAVEUR Editors - March 22, 2019

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 macarons, our best French dessert recipes should be essentials on your list.

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 »

 

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

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

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

SAVEUR

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

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When it comes to eclairs, homemade is always better. Bakeries have to chill their filled eclairs, which makes for soggy centers and mushy crusts; you can freshly fill yours at home and eat them right away. This recipe is adapted from pastry chef Scott Cioe from Park Hyatt New York. Get the recipe for Classic Eclairs »

Farideh Sadeghin

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Pastry chef Christine Ferber's not-too-sweet kugelhopf, an Alsatian cake baked in a distinctive ring mold, has just a few choice raisins per slice. Enjoy with a sweet Alsatian wine, like gewürztraminer or muscat. Get the recipe for Kugelhopf »

Matt Taylor-Gross

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Calvados, an apple brandy made from double-distilled apple cider aged in oak barrels, is generally made from highly tannic apples. Guillouet-Huard likes to use it to underscore the flavor of sweet cooking apples. Get the recipe for Baked Apple Terrine with Calvados »

Matt Taylor-Gross

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These pillowy, delicate cookies, typically filled with jam, buttercream or ganache, are small yet decadent enough to provide the perfect bite of dessert. Get the recipe for Macarons »

Helen Rosner

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Chef Steven Brown of Tilia serves these custards in egg-shells, but espresso cups work just as well. The yogurt helps to balance the sweetness of the rosemary-infused custard. Get the recipe for Bay and Rosemary Custard »

Ariana Lindquist

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Classic apple pie gets an upgrade at Las Vegas' Bouchon Bakery, where pastry chef Scott Wheatfill tops a flaky sweet crust with housemade apple butter and almond cream. The result is a delicate, refined tart with a creamy interior and a concentrated spicy flavor. Get the recipe for Bouchon's Apple Pie »

Eilon Paz

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These delicate French cookies are sugar-dusted and flaky, with a toothsome bite. Get the recipe for Palmiers »

Helen Rosner

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This two-bite pastry is as rich as the name suggests: its defining ingredients are almond flour, ground pistachios, and brown butter, lightened with whipped egg whites. Get the recipe for Pistachio Financiers »

Todd Coleman

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This simple yet sophisticated, airy yet intense concoction has been a hit with home cooks in America at least since the New York Times published its first recipe for the dessert in 1955. Get the recipe for Chocolate Mousse »

Todd Coleman

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There is something about a souffle—a magical blending of eggs, air, and acid—that turns any meal into an unforgettable event. Get the recipe for Lemon Soufflé »

Todd Coleman

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This classic French pastry, whose name means thousand leaves (for its delicate multiple layers), is known as the napoleon. The name is probably a reference not to the diminutive Corsican emperor, but to the multilayered confections of Naples. Get the recipe for Napoleons »

Helen Rosner

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Beautiful homemade croissants, each containing a bar of high-quality dark chocolate, make for an impressive and indulgent addition to a breakfast spread. Get the recipe for Pain au Chocolat »

Todd Coleman

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A perforated coeur a la creme mold is traditionally used to form this classic French heart-shaped dessert, though a mesh sieve makes a fine substitute. Get the recipe for Coeur a la Creme »

Todd Coleman

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"The fine arts are five in number," wrote the chef Marie-Antoine Careme, "painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture—whereof the principle branch is confectionery." He knew what he was talking about. After all, he created croquembouche, a spire of caramelized cream puffs.

Todd Coleman

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Buttery homemade puff pastry only gets better with a touch of chocolate. Adding a little cocoa powder to the butter block transforms the pastry into a barely sweet, delicately chocolaty version of itself. Get the recipe for Chocolate Puff Pastry »

Ingalls Photography

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This ice cream is best when made with true miel de lavande, French lavender honey from Provence, which is produced by bees that feed primarily on lavender blossoms, imparting a creamy texture and distinctive flavor and scent. Get the recipe for Lavender Honey Ice Cream »

Helen Rosner

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This raspberry brûlée is a delightful combination of whipped cream and luscious ripe raspberries covered with a crunchy sugar topping. Get the recipe for Raspberry Brûlée »

Nicole Franzen

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These crêpes stuffed with fromage blanc and maple syrup and are topped with stewed blueberries, strawberries, and peaches. Get the recipe for Crazy Day Crêpes »

Corey Hendrickson

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Made from an airy sponge cake batter, these oversized lemon-scented madeleines are baked until dark brown to impart a delectable crust. Get the recipe for Madeleines »

Landon Nordeman

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Credit for inventing crêpes Suzette is claimed by French restaurateur Henri Charpentier, who in 1894, at age 14, while an assistant waiter, accidentally set a sauce aflame when serving dessert to the Prince of Wales. Get the recipe for Crepes Suzette »

Landon Nordeman