Today’s post is from my friend Molly Wilkinson, an American pastry chef who just came out with an amazing French pastry cookbook titled “French Pastry Made Simple” that you need in your life. Here are her top French pastry recommendations… but why not try them all? Buying them is perfectly acceptable, but why not try your hand at whipping up your own. What follows are Molly’s words. Enjoy!
Mouthwatering French pastry recommendations
Pastries have become an integral part of my life. Either I’m teaching how to make one, eating one, or dreaming about one! I live in Versailles where there are two fabulous shops to visit, three if you count Angelina’s in the château.
There is a patisserie on just about every corner in France to address that sweet tooth. So, how do you tell if one is a bit better than another one? I’d suggest visiting a patisserie you know is good. This is pretty easy to do with all the guides that have been written, so you should have no trouble finding a top spot.
You can never go wrong with Pierre Hermé, Stohrer, Utopie, Philippe Conticini, or Carl Marletti in Paris to name a few. In Versailles, I head to Fine and Au Chant du Coq. Look closely at the finesse of each pastry and take in every detail. The piped cream should be smooth, the glaze not too heavy and gloppy on top, and the puff pastry should show off its glorious layers.
As you explore and try more neighborhoody spots, you’ll be able to peek in the window at the case and compare to have an idea of what to expect… or just dive right in and see what you think!
But what to try? There are so many traditional pastries, some that are only found in specific regions. Depending on what you like, I’ve suggested several classics to devour on your next trip to France.
For the chocolate lover:
You can’t go wrong with a classic chocolate éclair with creamy pastry cream on the inside and a glaze on top. Éclair means “lightning” referring to how they’re eaten… in a flash! Don’t be surprised if you’re asked at the patisserie if you want a box, or just a napkin so you can eat it straight away.
Another favorite of mine is the Tigré, a rich almond cake base with chocolate pieces mixed inside to look like tiger stripes. Then in the middle, a generous amount of chocolate ganache.
For those who like light pillowy delights:
A Saint Honoré, a true classic named after the patron saint of bakers, is for you. A crisp puff pastry makes up the base, then on top, cream puffs filled with light pastry cream and lots of Chantilly whipped cream.
For the unexpected:
Keep your eye out for the Pomme de Terre. Oh yes… a potato pastry!!! Often times you have to head to smaller towns to see this one, as it is very old school but such a delight!! I found it quite a bit while in Alsace and bought one every single time. The inside is a vanilla pastry cream which is then surrounded by a thin layer of cake and marzipan. Then the top is decorated with cocoa powder and a couple lines to resemble a baked potato!!! And… it’s delicious!
For fruit fans:
The best is always a seasonal fruit tart. These will come with mixed fruit on top or just the one they want to highlight. The base is most often a pâte sucrée (tart crust), but this can change to a macaron or even a butter cookie (sablé Breton). Often times there are hidden layers inside like a jam or jelly, cake, or more fruit! Check the tag or just be surprised!
For a rich, over-the-top treat that will keep you on your feet:
All you need are a couple of bites of Opéra Cake. The high amount coffee and chocolate in this pastry is believed to have been invented to keep opera spectators awake through the whole show. It is rich and a true example of how elaborate French pastries can be with layers and layers going into each spoonful.
For a refreshing treat:
Keep your eye out for the Vacherin on restaurant dessert menus. Meringue, ice cream, and Chantilly cream combine to make what I like to call, an Ice Cream Cake à la Française.
If you’re interested in making any of these treats, you can actually find the recipes for just about all of these in my new cookbook, French Pastry Made Simple.
Thanks so much for this delicious post, Molly! For those of you interested in chocolate mousse, you can watch my dad and me as we whip up a batch over on my YouTube channel.
Photos are Molly Wilkinson’s unless otherwise noted.