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French Pastries Demystified

You don’t need to be a pastry chef to create beautiful (and delicious!) French pastries at home.
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French pastries and desserts may look intimidating to home bakers, but you don’t have to be a pastry chef to create them. Many times, it’s simply a matter of understanding their elements, like how to make a sweet, crisp meringue or how to work with puff pastry. Learn the whys and hows behind your favorite classic French desserts, from an elegant dacquoise to ever-popular macarons.

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    Beignets

    Beignets are not only a French classic, they’re also a French Quarter classic. Usually filled with jam or cream (or even chocolate), beignets are more closely related to fritters than they are doughnuts. They should be seemingly light—and if you ask David Guas, covered in a whole lotta confectioners' sugar.

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  • Recipe

    Jalousie

    Pronounced “zhah-loo-ZEE,” its intriguing name is the French word for a louvered window, and one look at the slatted top crust will tell you why. It’s sort of like a strudel, sort of like a turnover, filled with whatever fruit your heart desires (apples and pears in fall, mixed berries in summer, for example). Made with store-bought puff pastry, it’s also super-easy.

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  • Recipe

    Pâte à Choux

    Choux pastry (pronounced "shoo") is a light, easy-to-make pastry that's the basis for cream puffs, éclairs, and profiteroles, which are traditionally filled with ice cream. The batter is quite forgiving: you can make it one day and bake the puffs the next, or you can fully bake the puffs, freeze them, and then reheat them quickly before filling with plain pastry cream or ice cream.

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  • Recipe

    Tarte Tatin

    This tart of caramelized apples in pastry is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. It’s amazing that it started out as a mistake, when hotelier Stéphanie Tatin accidentally put apples in a tart pan without lining it first with dough in 1889. To salvage the tart, she draped the pastry on top, baked it, and served it upside down, turning her mishap into a beloved classic.

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  • Recipe

    Sables

    Dorie Greenspan knows a thing or two about French desserts. Her simple French shortbread cookies are a revelation when made with the very best ingredients: high-fat European-style butter, sea salt, and plump vanilla beans. During the holidays, traditional sables dough can be flavored with cinnamon and almonds and the cookies shaped like Christmas trees, stars, and snowmen.

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  • Recipe

    Dacquoise

    Pronounced "dah-KWAHZ," this delectable French cake is all about complementary layers of flavor and texture: silky buttercream, mousse or even lemon curd (in the example pictured), sandwiched between light, crispy meringue.

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  • Recipe

    Croquembouche

    We have our multi-tiered wedding cakes and France has the croquembouche: cream-filled choux-puff pastries, dipped in caramel and piled high into a cone-shaped tower. This modern version features a ricotta cream filling and a sea-salt caramel coating. Intimidated? Don’t be. Watch our step-by-step video to learn how to make the puffs and assemble the tower.

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  • Recipe

    Frangipane

    Not a pastry in its own right, this simple filling made of ground almonds, sugar, butter, and eggs is an essential element in many French pastries, from almond croissants to classic fresh fruit tarts.

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  • Recipe

    Clafoutis

    This rustic French dessert (a bit like a puffy oven pancake) is easy to make: Just mix up the batter, pour it over the cherries, in this case, and bake until golden-brown. You can use any ripe but relatively firm fruit that will remain intact. Think: apricots, pears, or figs.

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  • Recipe

    Macarons

    Texture is the key to these little cookies (pronounced "mah-kah-ROHN"), which are simply two meringues made from ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar sandwiched with a sweet filing, such as jam, ganache, buttercream or lemon curd. They're often tinted in colors (from delicate to neon) that signal the flavor of their fillings.

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