French desserts are rich, decadent, and absolutely delicious. I'm an unabashed fan of desserts in generals, from cakes to cookies to more sophisticated delicacies, but French desserts are among my very favorites. There are so many sinfully scrumptious options, it's hard to pick a single favorite. If pressed, I'll always pick crème brulee, though, and I don't care what kind it is. But before I start drooling and get completely sidetracked, I'd like to share some of the most delicious French desserts with you!
1. Raspberry Macarons
Some of the best French desserts are not simple to make. These gorgeous raspberry macarons are an excellent example of that. But if you try, it will be completely worth it. Keeping the right temperature is the trickiest part. As for the ingredients, it basically comes down to almond flower, sugar, egg whites, and food coloring for the pink tint. Yet the results are absolutely incredible!
• 1 cup(s) confectioners' sugar
• 1 cup(s) almond flour (see Tips & Techniques)
• 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup(s) granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoon(s) water
• 2 drop(s) (or 3) red food coloring
• 1/2 cup(s) seedless raspberry jam
• Preheat the oven to 400° and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
• In a large, wide bowl, using a large rubber spatula or a handheld electric mixer, mix the confectioners' sugar and the almond flour with 1 of the egg whites until evenly moistened.
• In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar with the water and bring to a boil; using a moistened pastry brush, wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Cook over high heat until the syrup reaches 240° on a candy thermometer.
• In another large bowl, using clean, dry beaters, beat the remaining 2 egg whites at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer at high speed, carefully drizzle the hot sugar syrup over the whites and beat until firm and glossy. Beat in the food coloring until the meringue is bright pink.
• Stir one-fourth of the meringue into the almond mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining meringue. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip; pipe onto the prepared baking sheets in 1 1/2-inch mounds, 1 inch apart. Tap the sheets and let dry for 15 minutes.
• Transfer the meringues to the oven and immediately turn off the heat. Bake the meringues for 5 minutes. Turn the oven on to 400° again and bake the meringues for 8 minutes, until they are puffed and the tops are firm and glossy. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let cool completely. Peel the meringues off of the parchment paper.
• Spoon the jam into a small pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch tip. Alternatively, use a resealable sturdy plastic bag and snip off a corner. Pipe the preserves onto the flat sides of half of the meringues. Top with the remaining meringues and serve.
2. Vanilla Crème Brulee
As I mentioned, crème brulee is probably my favorite French delicacy. This one is a simple vanilla recipe, and it's also quite easy to make. You'll need half and half or light cream, heavy whipping cream, vanilla, eggs, and both white and brown sugar. Oh, and a torch – don't forget the torch!
• 1 cup(s) light cream or half-and-half
• 1 cup(s) heavy or whipping cream
• 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
• 5 large egg yolks
• 1/3 cup(s) granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoon(s) dark brown sugar
• Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Into 13" by 9" metal bakingpan, pour 3 1/2 cups hot tap water; place in oven.
• In microwave-safe 2-cup liquid measuring cup, heat creams in microwave on Medium (50% power) 5 minutes. Remove from microwave; stir in vanilla.
• Meanwhile, in 4-cup liquid measuring cup (to make pouring easier later) or bowl, whisk egg yolks and granulated sugar until well blended. Slowly whisk in warm cream until combined; with spoon, skim off foam.
• Partially pull out oven rack with baking pan. Place six 4-ounce ramekins in water in pan in oven. Pour cream mixture into ramekins. (Mixture should come almost to tops of ramekins for successful broiling later.) Carefully push in rack and bake custards 30 minutes or until just set but centers jiggle slightly. Remove ramekins from water and place on wire rack; cool 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until custards are well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.
• Up to 1 hour before serving, preheat broiler. Place brown sugar in coarse sieve; with spoon, press sugar through sieve to evenly cover tops of chilled custards. Place ramekins in jelly-roll pan for easier handling. With broiler rack at closest position to source of heat, broil custards 2 to 3 minutes or just until brown sugar melts. Refrigerate immediately 1 hour to cool custards and allow sugar to form a crust.
3. Quick Tarte Tatin
Classic French desserts are known for a rich taste and a simple cooking process. The tarte tatin takes no time at all, but the results are beyond delicious. This is basically an apple tart made in the skillet, but it includes homemade caramel, which requires a very, very light touch. You can't let this go unattended.
• 3 pound(s) (5 to 7 large) Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut in half
• 2 tablespoon(s) butter
• 3/4 cup(s) sugar
• 1 (half 17.3-ounce package) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed as label directs
• Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place apples in 9-inch glass pie plate; cover with waxed paper, and cook in microwave on High 7 minutes.
• Meanwhile, in heavy 10-inch skillet with oven-safe handle (or with handle wrapped in a double layer of foil for baking in oven later), melt butter over medium-high heat. Add sugar and cook about 5 minutes or until amber in color, swirling skillet frequently. Immediately remove skillet from heat (caramel will continue to darken).
• With tongs, transfer apples from pie plate to skillet, coating flat sides of apples first with caramelized sugar. Then arrange apples, rounded side down, rotating them slightly to fit in a single layer in skillet.
• On lightly floured surface, unfold puff pastry sheet. Fold in each corner of puff pastry about 2 inches and press down to form an "octagon." With lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into 12-inch round. Place dough round on top of apples in skillet; tuck in edge of dough around apples. With knife, cut six 1/4-inch slits in dough to allow steam to escape during baking. Bake tart about 25 minutes or until crust is golden.
• When tart is done, cool in skillet on wire rack 10 minutes. Center large platter upside down on top of skillet. Wearing oven mitts to protect your hands, and grasping platter and skillet firmly together, quickly invert tart onto platter. Cool 20 minutes to serve warm.
4. Crepe Cake
Crepes can be difficult to make, but once you get the hang of it, you'll turn out perfect crepe after crepe effortless. Believe me, while assembling the crepes needed for this lovely layered cake, you'll have plenty of practice! Essentially, this cake contains layers of crepes with delicious dark chocolate pudding in between.
• 1 1/2 cup(s) flour
• 3/4 teaspoon(s) salt
• 1/3 cup(s) granulated sugar
• 6 eggs
• 2 cup(s) whole milk
• 5 tablespoon(s) melted butter
• 3 cup(s) Deep Chocolate Pudding
• 1 teaspoon(s) confectioners' sugar
• Combine the flour, salt, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs until smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk, while whisking, and add the butter. Mix until smooth. Let batter rest for 20 minutes.
• Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough batter to make a thin layer on the bottom of the pan (3 tablespoons batter) and cook until the edges turn golden brown, about 30 seconds. Flip the crepe and cook until crepe is golden brown, about 15 more seconds. Transfer to a plate; cover with waxed paper. Repeat with remaining batter to make 24 crepes.
• To assemble, place a crepe on a serving plate and spread with 2 tablespoons chocolate pudding. Top with another crepe and repeat until all the crepes have been used. Do not spread pudding on the top layer. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 2 hours. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
5. Cream Puffs with Dark Chocolate Sauce
Cream puffs are one of the most popular French desserts, for very good reasons. The cream is delightful, the pastries are light, and the addition of dark chocolate sauce in this recipe gives the whole confection a wonderful decadence. A look at the list of ingredients reveals just why this one is so incredible.
• 1 cup(s) water
• 6 tablespoon(s) butter or margarine
• 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
• 1 cup(s) all-purpose flour
• 4 large eggs
• 4 ounce(s) bittersweet chocolate
• 1/2 cup(s) half-and-half or light cream
• 1 tablespoon(s) sugar
• 1 quart(s) light vanilla ice cream
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease and flour large cookie sheet or spray it with a nonstick spray that contains flour.
• In 3-quart saucepan, heat water, butter, and salt to boiling on medium until butter melts. Remove saucepan from heat. Vigorously stir in flour all at once until mixture forms ball and comes away from side of pan.
• Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until batter becomes smooth and satiny.
• Drop batter by scant 1/4 cups into 10 large mounds, 2 inches apart, onto prepared cookie sheet. With fingertip moistened with water, gently smooth tops to round.
• Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until puffs are a deep golden-brown. Remove cookie sheet from oven; with knife, poke hole in one side of each puff to release steam. Turn off oven. Return cookie sheet to oven and let puffs stand 10 minutes to dry out slightly. Transfer puffs to wire rack to cool completely.
• Using serrated knife, slice each cooled puff horizontally in half. With fingers, remove and discard any moist dough inside.
• Meanwhile, coarsely chop chocolate. In 1-quart saucepan, heat half-and-half and sugar just to boiling on medium-high. Remove saucepan from heat; add chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth.
• To serve, place 1 scoop ice cream in each cream puff base; replace cream puff top, then drizzle with warm chocolate sauce.
6. Individual Lemon Souffles
Souffles are notoriously temperamental, but if you're careful while making this recipe, your rewards will be perfect. You'll need some ramekins for this, they definitely help in the execution. You can even include strawberry sauce for some extra sweetness!
• 2 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter, softened
• 10 tablespoon(s) granulated sugar, divided
• 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
• 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
• 1 1/4 cup(s) milk
• 2 teaspoon(s) grated lemon zest
• 1/4 cup(s) fresh lemon juice
• 3 tablespoon(s) confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting
• 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
• 1/2 teaspoon(s) cream of tartar
• Strawberry Sauce, optional
• Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Evenly spread 6 (1-cup) ramekins with butter, then coat with 4 tablespoons of the granulated sugar; tap out excess sugar. Place prepared ramekins on a baking sheet with sides.
• In a medium saucepan, whisk yolks with 4 more tablespoons of the granulated sugar until blended; whisk in flour until blended. Heat milk in a small saucepan or in microwave until it comes to a boil. Whisk hot milk in a thin stream into yolk mixture until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to bubble and is very thick, about 3 minutes. Scrape mixture into a large bowl; whisk in lemon zest and juice and confectioners' sugar until blended.
• Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. With mixer on high speed, gradually beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold 1/4 of the egg white mixture into yolk mixture to loosen, then fold in the remaining egg white mixture. Spoon soufflé mixture into prepared ramekins to fill completely. Level tops with a small icing spatula until flat.
• Bake 16 minutes, or until puffed and browned. Immediately dust with confectioners' sugar and serve hot with Strawberry Sauce, if desired.
• Puree in blender 1 (10-ounce) package thawed sliced strawberries in syrup with 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice until smooth. Strain out seeds. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
7. Strawberry Savarin
Speaking of strawberries, they're an integral part in one of the most delicious French desserts I've ever tasted: Strawberry Savarin. This yeast-leavened delicacy is incredibly buttery and wonderfully rich. Making this involves a lot of work and a lot of time, but the end results are so worth the effort.
• 1/2 cup(s) warm water
• 1 package(s) active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon(s) granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoon(s) granulated sugar
• 3 cup(s) unsifted all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
• 4 large eggs, beaten
• 8 tablespoon(s) (1 stick) butter, softened
• 1 quart(s) fresh large strawberries
• Vegetable-oil cooking spray
• Confectioners' sugar (optional)
• Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup
• In a small bowl, combine water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar; stir to dissolve yeast. Let stand until foamy -- about 5 minutes.
• In a large bowl, combine remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the flour, and salt. Add yeast mixture and eggs; with wooden spoon, beat flour mixture 5 minutes. The dough will be wet. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel; let dough rise in warm place, away from drafts, until doubled in size -- about 1 1/2 hours.
• Lightly coat a 10-inch ring mold with cooking spray. With a wooden spoon, beat butter into dough; spoon into ring mold. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise in warm place until nearly doubled in size -- about 1 hour.
• Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake until golden brown and firm -- 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Loosen savarin from pan; unmold onto wire rack and let cool 15 minutes.
• To serve, place savarin on cake plate. Fill center with strawberries and dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired. Serve with Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup.
8. Creme Caramel
Caramel is a rich, creamy staple in many French desserts, but none of them are nearly as good as this one. This decadent custard is sweet and a little salty, pure decadence with just the right amount of sauce. If you want to add some appeal and balance it out, serve it with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Yum!
• 1 cup(s) sugar
• 2 tablespoon(s) cold water
• 2 large eggs
• 2 large egg whites
• 3 cup(s) low-fat (1%) milk
• 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat 4-quart saucepan of water to boiling on high to use for water bath later.
• In 2-quart saucepan, heat 2/3 cup sugar with cold water on medium until melted and a light caramel color, swirling pan occasionally. Immediately pour caramel into eight 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins.
• In large bowl, with wire whisk, beat eggs, egg whites, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar until well blended. Beat in milk and vanilla. Pour custard mixture into custard cups.
• Place cups in large roasting pan (17" by 11 1/2"); pour boiling water in pan until it comes halfway up sides of cups. Bake 40 minutes or until center of custard is just set. Remove custard cups from water in roasting pan; cool on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or until custard is well chilled.
• To serve, with small spatula, carefully loosen custard from sides of cups. Invert each crème caramel onto dessert plate, tapping cup to help release custard. Leave inverted cup on plate for several minutes to allow caramel syrup to drip from cup onto custard.
9. Mocha Pots De Creme
Chocolate is also a staple in many French treats. These mocha pots are just ... oh man. If you're any kind of chocoholic, you'll love these. They're incredibly rich and dense, and the jolt of espresso powder is absolute perfection!
• 3/4 cup(s) heavy cream
• 3 tablespoon(s) sugar
• 1 1/2 ounce(s) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon(s) instant espresso powder
• 2 large egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
• Whipped cream, for garnish
• Chocolate shavings (optional), for garnish
• Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Put on a kettle of water to boil. In a medium saucepan, bring cream and sugar to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate and espresso powder. Let stand 1 minute; stir until chocolate melts and coffee dissolves. Whisk in yolks and vanilla until mixture is blended and smooth.
• Pour chocolate mixture into 2 (6-ounce) heart-shaped or round ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in an 8-inch-square baking pan. Pour hot water into pan so that it comes halfway up sides of ramekins.
• Bake 25 minutes or until almost set in centers. Remove ramekins to a wire rack; cool slightly. Serve warm and soft, or refrigerate up to 1 day. Garnish with dollops of whipped cream and chocolate shavings, if desired.
Most French desserts pride themselves on being rich beyond all measure. They're ostentatious, decadent, thick, creamy, and just … man, they're just so good! There are all kinds of French desserts, of course, but these are among the top choices – and, of course, every base dessert here generally has at least a dozen different variations. What are some of your favorite French desserts? Don't forget to share the recipes!
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