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. Helen Rosner
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 »
Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin
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 »
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.
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 »
Bouchon’s Apple Pie
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 »
Shortbread Cookies (Punitions)
Traditional French shortbread cookies taste best using a good salted butter with a high butterfat content, such as Kerrygold.
Gâteau Millasson (Gascon-Style Flan)
This French egg custard is traditionally made with corn flour, but wheat flour works just as well. It puffs dramatically while cooking, then settles into a dense, delicately sweet flan.
A decadent custard batter is studded with juicy, ripe cherries in this elegant and satisfying treat.
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.
Pain au Chocolat
Beautiful homemade croissants, each containing a bar of high-quality dark chocolate, make for an impressive and indulgent addition to a breakfast spread.
“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.
This raspberry brûlée is a delightful combination of whipped cream and luscious ripe raspberries covered with a crunchy sugar topping.
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 »