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 that will surprise and delight guests. From crème brûlée to macarons, our best French dessert recipes should be essentials on your list. croquembouche
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 »
Basque Cherry Pie (Cherry Gâteau Basque)
Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin
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 »
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 »
Pie Crust Sable Breton
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 »
This dessert—a fudgy, frozen or semifrozen chocolate mousse that’s sometimes coated in ganache, then sliced—likely came from the 17th or 18th century, when royal pastry chefs lived large.
Get the recipe for Frozen Chocolate Mousse (Marquise au Chocolat) »
Almond Frangipane Tart with Cranberries and Honeyed Pistachios
Chocolate Ganache Tart with Sea Salt Espresso Beans
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.
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 »
A French version of the classic American cookie, this recipe adds ground almonds for a result that’s chubby and chewy and just a little soft at the center.
Get the recipe for Edouard’s Chocolate Chip Cookies »
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 »
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 »
Rich yet airy, this decadent chocolate dessert also happens to be gluten-free.
Get the recipe for Flourless Chocolate Soufflé »
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 »
Traditional French shortbread cookies taste best using a good salted butter with a high butterfat content, such as Kerrygold.
Crisp, paper-thin sheets of phyllo dough wrap and crown tender brandied apples in this classic French tart.
Get the recipe for Apple Croustade (Flaky Apple Tart) »
This tart is traditionally made with apples, but firm-fleshed pears make a delicate and delicious alternative.
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.
Olives are candied in simple syrup and then sunk into a flan-like cake in this recipe from chef Lionel Lévy.
Get the recipe for Clafoutis aux Olives Noires Confites (Candied Black Olive Cake) »
These delicate French cookies are sugar-dusted and flaky, with a toothsome bite.
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 »
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 »
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 »
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.
Beautiful homemade croissants, each containing a bar of high-quality dark chocolate, make for an impressive and indulgent addition to a breakfast spread.
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 »
“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.
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 »
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 »
This raspberry brûlée is a delightful combination of whipped cream and luscious ripe raspberries covered with a crunchy sugar topping.
These boat-shaped, orange-blossom-scented sugar cookies are a signature Marseillais treat.
Les Navettes de Saint Victor (Shuttle Cookies)
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 »
Named for their twisted shape, these donuts get their airy texture from choux pastry.
Get the recipe for French Crullers »
A combination of all-purpose and potato flours gives this simple summer tart a delicate, crumbly crust.
Get the recipe for Apricot-Almond Tart »
These crêpes, layered and rolled with sweet amber sugar and syrup, make an indulgent breakfast or dessert.
Get the recipe for Crêpes with Maple Sugar and Syrup »
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 »
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 »
This thick, spicy chocolate sauce is perfect spread on french toast or sliced, toasted bread.
Get the recipe for Chocolate Chile Gravy »