For all the artistic, cultural, and scientific advancements that have been made by France over the past centuries, perhaps no contribution is as widely celebrated as the nation’s pastry menu. Bakeries around the world work to emulate the crispy and creamy delicacies that come out of French chef’s kitchens, and there’s not a person among us who hasn’t craved an eclair, cream puff, macaron, or similar treat at one point in his or her life.
Rather than shell out the money at your local bakery or patisserie, try these 7 recipes to get a taste of authentic French confections in your own home.
1. Lemon-Cardamom Macarons
Macarons are one of France’s most popular and adaptable snacks, with current flavors ranging from classics like almond to wilder offerings such as Cheetos Macarons and Ketchup Macarons. Those of us who aren’t trying to abuse our taste buds may wish to try this pleasantly sweet and spiced Lemon-Cardamom Macaron recipe from With Love And Cupcakes. The fragrant, citrusy flavor combination makes a perfect complements this dainty French dish. Each batch yields 25 to 30 macarons.
Cardamom macaron shells:
- 4 ounces almond flour
- 7 ounces powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 4 ounces egg whites
- 3.5 ounces granulated sugar
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Directions: For the cardamom macaron shells: Sift together the almond flour, powdered sugar, and cardamom. set the dry ingredients aside.
Put your egg whites and a pinch of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed until you see soft peaks. Then, with the mixer on low, slowly add in the rest of the sugar; turn the mixer up to high speed. Whisk the mixture until it has stiff peaks.
Add your dry ingredients to the egg mixture all at once. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, fold it all together; keep folding until the batter falls from the spatula in thick ribbons.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip and pipe it into small circles about an inch apart on the parchment. Once you are done piping, take each baking sheet and bang it hard against the countertop a few times — this releases any air bubbles hiding in your batter. Let the baking sheets sit out on the counter for at least 15 minutes, until the macarons are dry to the touch. While the macarons are drying, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the macarons are dry, set one of the baking sheets on top of another empty baking sheet and put it in the oven. bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the macarons peel off easily from the parchment. Repeat with the other baking sheet.
Let the macaron shells cool completely.
For the lemon curd: Combine all of the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave it in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the mixture has thickened.
Strain the mixture into a separate bowl and put the it in the fridge to let it chill completely before putting it in the macaron shells.
2. Crème Brûlée
The best desserts speak for themselves, and no dish speaks quite so eloquently as a simple Crème Brûlée. The dish’s torched sugar topping gives way to a soft, buttery-warm interior. The lusciously creamy and crunchy components in each bite will have you on the fast track to dessert lovers’ nirvana. Averie Cooks’ classic recipe for the dish yields 4 to 6 servings. It takes about 5 hours to make, including chill time, but is worth every minute!
- 1 pint whipping or heavy cream (2 cups)
- 4 egg yolks from large eggs
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Pinch salt, optional and to taste
- About 3 to 4 cups water, for water bath
- 1 to 2 teaspoons superfine sugar per each ramekin, for caramelizing
Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 6 ramekins in a 9-by-13 pan or large baking pan that will be used for a water bath. Spray ramekins with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
Add the cream to a 2-cup glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave until cream begins to bubble just a bit, then set aside to cool.
Separate eggs and add yolks to large bowl (whites can be discarded or used for another recipe). Add ¼ cup granulated sugar, and whisk vigorously with eggs for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is lighter and paler in color, and has fluffed in volume.
With a spoon, remove any skin that’s formed on the cream. It will be warm, but not scalding. Very slowly pour about ¼ cup of cream into the eggs, whisking the whole time to prevent from scrambling.
Continue pouring the cream into the eggs very slowly, whisking the whole time. Add the vanilla, optional salt, and whisk to combine.
Evenly pour mixture into prepared ramekins; set aside. Add 2 cups water to 2-cup glass measuring cup and microwave on high power until boiling, about 4 minutes.
Slowly and carefully pour the hot water into the 9-by-13 pan. This water bath allows the crème brûlée to bake more evenly. Make sure the water isn’t being poured onto or splashing into the ramekins. Top off with more very hot tap water until the water level in the pan is about as high as the level of crème brûlée inside the cups.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until set with some jiggle. Baking time will vary widely, so use best judgment to bake until done, noting that crème brûlée will continue to set as it cools. If you open the oven and gently move the baking pan and the crème brûlée makes a wave-like motion, more than just slight jiggling, they’re not done.
Remove pan from the oven and very carefully with a hot mitt, remove ramekins from water bath and place them on a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.Cover them with lids or plastic wrap, and transfer to fridge to chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days in advance.
Prior to serving, evenly sprinkle each ramekin with 1 to 2 teaspoons superfine sugar. Using a torch held about 6 inches away from the surface, heat the sugar, making sure to keep the torch moving evenly to prevent burning. When sugar is sufficiently caramelized to your liking, serve immediately. Crème brûlée that has not been sugared/torched will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
3. Raspberry Soufflé
Indulge your sweet tooth with a lighter-than-air Raspberry Soufflé from Adore Foods. This recipe’s easy-to-follow directions are designed to help you achieve a perfectly puffy consistency while also maintaining the refreshing essence of raspberry. A hint of tangy orange juice helps to bring out the milder raspberry flavors of the dish. Tie your exquisite confection together with a fine dusting of confectioners sugar. Bon Appétit!
- 1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter for ramekins
- Sugar, extra, to dust ramekins
- 2 teaspoons corn flour
- 2 teaspoons water
- 4 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Confectioners sugar, to dust
Directions: Place the raspberries, orange juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until sugar dissolves and raspberries release their juices. Remove from heat. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl, using the back of a spoon to push excess pulp through sieve. Return the juice to the saucepan. Mix corn flour with water and add it to raspberry mixture. Bring to the boil, allowing to thicken until you have a custard consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place an oven tray in the oven to preheat. Brush 4 ramekins with melted butter and dust with caster sugar and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks form adding 1 tablespoon of sugar while mixing to get that glossy texture. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the raspberry mixture, starting with half of the quantity for the beginning. Pour among prepared ramekins and fill them. Run your spatula around the top of each ramekin just above soufflé mixture to remove the extras and clean the ramekins around.
Place soufflés on the hot tray and bake in oven for 15 to 17 minutes or until puffed and cooked through. Place on serving plates. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.
4. Mille-Feuille (also called Napoleon)
This classic French dessert features alternating layers of crisp puff pastry and smooth, velvety pastry cream. These irresistible layers gave way to the name mille-feuille, which literally translates to “a thousand sheets” or “a thousand leaves,” Vogue reports. Culinary Couture Blog shares a spectacular recipe for the Classic French Mille-Feuille, recommending that bakers at home allow the cream to fully thicken so that it maintains its shape on each layer (though it will taste just as wonderful if it oozes off the sides!). To store after serving, keep dish refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- One (17.3 ounce) package puff pastry, thawed
For the pastry cream:
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter, diced
For the icing/glaze:
- 1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
- 2 teaspoons corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons milk, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon unsweeetend cocoa powder
Directions: For the pastry cream: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch until well-combined. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt until simmering. Slowly add heated milk mixture to the egg yolks, ½ cup at a time, whisking constantly and vigorously to ensure the egg yolks do not curdle. Once the milk mixture has been completely incorporated into the egg mixture, return the mixture back to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and whisk in diced butter. Transfer pastry cream to a heat-proof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight. Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the surface of the pastry cream so it doesn’t form a skin.
For the puff pastry: Cut a piece of parchment paper as large as the baking sheet you will be using. Lightly flour the parchment paper.
Place both sheets of thawed puff pastry on top of one another on the piece of parchment paper. Roll them out into a 12-by-12 square. Using a pizza wheel, cut the square into three 12-by-4 strips. Prick the strips all over their surface with a fork. Transfer the puff pastry strips, with the parchment paper, onto baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until firm.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the pastry strips for 10 minutes. Then, place a baking sheet directly on top of them and bake for an additional 6 minutes. After that, remove the baking sheet and bake for 6 more minutes, or until pastry strips are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the glaze: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach a consistency that is pourable, but still thick. Transfer ¼ of the glaze to a separate bowl and whisk in cocoa powder to create the chocolate glaze. Spoon the chocolate glaze into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Alternatively, you can use a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off.
Take one of the cooled pastry strips and flip it over. Pour white glaze over the surface of the strip, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula. Pipe lines of chocolate glaze lengthwise across the pastry strip. Drag a toothpick horizontally across the chocolate glaze to create a pattern. Alternate the direction you drag the toothpick in each line.
Remove chilled pastry cream from fridge. Spread half of the pastry cream evenly over one puff pastry strip. Top with the second puff pastry strip, pressing gently to adhere. Spread the remaining pastry cream over this strip. Then, top with the glazed puff pastry strip. Refrigerate for 1 hour to let it set before slicing and serving.
5. Chocolate Mousse
Mousse has the uncanny ability to pack luxurious, full-bodied flavor into a creamy and cloud-like consistency. Food Network explains that this phenomenon is the result of air bubbles, which lighten the dessert’s density to create the airy French confection we all adore. Saveur’s Chocolate Mousse fuses the exquisite flavors of cocoa, rum, and coffee with butter and heavy cream, yielding 6 servings of chocolatey bliss.
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
- ¼ cup dark rum or orange liqueur
- 4 eggs, separated
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup strong coffee
- 8 tablespoons softened butter, cut into chunks
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup heavy cream
Directions: Combine chocolate and rum in a small pot; nestle it inside a larger pot filled partway with boiling water. Cover smaller pot and set aside to let melt.
Beat yolks in another small pot until pale and frothy. Combine sugar and coffee in another pot; cook over medium heat until dissolved, 5 to 6 minutes. Pour into yolks in a stream, while whisking; set aside. Pour water into a large pot to a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium-low heat until hot but not simmering. Nestle pot containing yolk mixture over pot and cook, whisking vigorously, until thick and creamy, 8 to 9 minutes. Transfer yolk mixture to a clean bowl; beat with an electric mixer until cool, about 5 minutes. Uncover chocolate mixture and stir; add butter and whisk until smooth. Fold chocolate-butter mixture into yolk mixture; set aside.
Beat egg whites in a bowl until just frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat to stiff peaks. Stir ¼ of the egg whites into chocolate-yolk mixture; gently fold in the rest. Spoon mousse into 6 serving cups or dishes; cover; chill until set. Beat cream to stiff peaks; transfer to a pastry bag with a star tip. Pipe a rosette of cream onto each mousse.
6. Profiteroles (Cream Puffs) With Chestnut Cream
Profiteroles continue to line bakery shelves around the world today, but did you know these puffy cream-stuffed pastries may have originated as early as the 16th century? A chef in France at that time is said to have presented the inaugural profiterole to Catherine de Medici, wife of the French king Henri II, writes Everyday French Chef. Since then, the pastry has undergone no small number of transformations, but Super Golden Bakes’ recipe for Profiteroles With Chestnut Cream remains true to the dish’s roots. The recipe, which yields 20 to 24 profiteroles, calls for a heat-capable blender to make the chocolate-marshmallow sauce; however, the ingredients can be just as easily melted in the microwave or on the stove.
For the choux pastry:
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup strong bread flour
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 small egg, beaten, for glazing
Chestnut whipped cream:
- 1 (17.6-ounce) carton double cream, whipped to soft peaks
- 1 (8.8-ounce) can sweetened chestnut paste
Marshmallow chocolate sauce:
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup double cream
- 5 to 6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 large handfuls mini marshmallows
- 1 to 2 tablespoons brandy
Directions: For the pastry: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two heavy trays with baking paper. Put the water, butter, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil until butter is completely melted.
Take off the heat and add all the flour at once. Stir vigorously until the flour is fully incorporated. Return to the stove and keep stirring over medium heat until the dough comes away from the edges of the saucepan, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Break the eggs into a measuring jug and lightly combine with a fork. Put the dough in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat using the paddle attachment to release some of the steam for a couple of minutes.
Slowly add the eggs while mixing at medium speed. The batter will separate but come together again as the eggs are incorporated.
Fit a plain nozzle into a large piping bag and fill with the dough. Pipe small blobs of pastry on the trays, spaced a slightly apart. Use a pastry brush to tamp down any peaks with a little beaten egg. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes without opening the door of the oven. Check the choux; they should be puffy, golden and sound hollow when tapped. Pierce holes with a skewer or knife on the bottom to release some steam and return to the oven (leave the door slightly open) for a further 10 minutes or until they they are crisp. Cool completely on a wire rack.
For the chestnut whipped cream: Combine the whipped cream and chestnut spread by folding together. Don’t over-mix; a rippled effect is fine.
For the marshmallow chocolate sauce: Put the water, cream and chopped chocolate in a heat-enabled blender and run the soup program to warm the ingredients. Add the marshmallows and blend using the variable speed function until you have a smooth sauce.
Alternatively heat the water and cream in a small saucepan until bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Pour over the chopped chocolate and let it stand for a couple of minutes. Use a hand whisk to gently mix together until chocolate is completely melted. Return to the pan and add the marshmallows (chop them up first to speed things along). Stir together over low heat until the marshmallows have melted into the chocolate.
To assemble: Pierce small holes on the bottom of the profiteroles using a chopstick. Put the chestnut cream into a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and fill each puff. Layer the profiteroles in a bowl or plate and pour the hot chocolate sauce over them. Add sprinkles, if desired, and serve immediately.
7. Crêpes Suzette
French chef Jacques Pépin brings some pizzazz to the table with his remarkable recipe for Crêpes Suzette, shared by Food & Wine. The dish combines warm, crispy, paper-thin crepes with a flambeed orange butter, infused with the flavors of cognac and Grand Marnier for a sophisticated finish. This melt-in-your-mouth dish takes about 45 minutes to make and yields 6 servings.
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ⅓ cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter, plus more butter for the skillet
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 tablespoons Cognac
- ¼ cup Grand Marnier
- 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
- ⅓ cup fresh orange juice
Directions: In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, milk, salt, and sugar until smooth; the batter will be thick. Whisk in the water, oil and melted butter.
Heat a 6-inch crêpe pan or nonstick skillet and rub with a little butter. Add 2 tablespoons of the batter and tilt the skillet to distribute the batter evenly, pouring any excess batter back into the bowl. Cook over moderately high heat until the edges of the crêpe curl up and start to brown, 45 seconds. Flip the crêpe and cook for 10 seconds longer, until a few brown spots appear on the bottom. Tap the crêpe out onto a baking sheet . Repeat with the remaining batter to make 12 crêpes, buttering the skillet a few times as necessary.
In a mini food processor, blend the 6 tablespoons of butter with ¼ cup of the sugar and the orange zest. With the machine on, gradually add the orange juice until incorporated.
Preheat the broiler. Butter a large rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Place 2 rounded teaspoons of the orange butter in the center of each crêpe. Fold the crêpes in half and in half again to form triangles; arrange on the prepared baking sheet, pointing them in the same direction and overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and broil on the middle shelf of the oven until they begin to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Using a long spatula, transfer the crêpes to a heatproof platter.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the Grand Marnier and cognac. Ignite carefully with a long-handled match and pour the flaming mixture over the crêpes. Tilt the platter and, with a spoon, carefully baste the crêpes until the flames subside. Serve right away.