The Wonderful World of Classic French Pastries
The first lesson in learning to bake classic French pastries is to choose classics that do not strike fear in the hearts of bakers.
French pastries are a delicate balance of light fluffy pastry dough married to various types of sweet fillings.
With this in mind, choose well-sifted flour, pure flavorings rather than artificial, and keep lots of unsalted butter on hand.
What are Classic French Pastries
In France, a pastry is enjoyed as a quick breakfast, a sweet finale to lunch, or a glorious dinner presentation.
For example, a quick breakfast in the French tradition is a cup of cafe allonge (expresso) with a buttery croissant, a slice of brioche, or for sweet cravings, profiteroles.
Lunch pastry trays might include light and flaky Palmier, filled Madeleines, or a custard tart. For spectacular dinner desserts, there are luscious opera cakes topped with glossy chocolate ganache or layered custard or cream-filled Mille-feuille.
French Classics for Beginners
One of the easiest types of pastry dough to make for beginners is Pate a Choux or Choux. There are only five ingredients in Choux. These include:
The directions are fairly simple. Depending on the number of pastries you plan to make, you place water, butter, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and allow the ingredients to come to a short boil. With a wire whisk, add in the flour and the eggs.
Notice that a sticky dough forms. Remove from heat. This dough forms the basis of eclairs, profiteroles, and more. Fill a pastry bag to form round or log shapes. Place the dough on the parchment and bake for about six to seven minutes or until golden brown.
Don’t worry if the baked dough falls slightly. Once the pastry dough is baked, you can slit the profiterole rounds in half horizontally and fill with your favorite flavor custard, whipped cream, or even well-frozen ice cream. Top with a chocolate sauce swirl. Voila! Profiteroles you make on your first attempt.
To fill log-shaped baked dough for eclairs, you can use an icing infuser or slice them length-wise and fill.
Now that you know how to make profiteroles, there are two other fantastic and fun French classics you can make using baked profiteroles: Croquembouche and Crown of St. Honore.
Croquembouche is a tradition for holidays since it is shaped like a tree and “built” with profiteroles. To keep the profiteroles from slipping, make a thick caramel sauce to hold the profiteroles together to form the tree.
Crown of St. Honore
Crown of St. Honore is a type of French classic tart that has only two layers. The first layer is the base made from a baked choux pastry dough topped with profiteroles around the edges to form the “crown.”
There is the added ingredient of sugar to the choux paste to make this dough sweeter. After forming the crown, fill the center with delicate pastry cream or creme patisserie.
Cream custards require eggs, milk, sugar, flour, cornstarch, and vanilla.
However, if you are in hurry, you can create a pastry cream using mascarpone cheese, sugar, vanilla and beaten eggs with a whisper of creme de cassis, creme de menthe, or Benedictine instead of vanilla. Blend and add to the center of the crown.
Palmier – Another French Classic
Once you learn how to make choux dough, try making Palmier the kids will love. Use a 9 inch by a 13-inch baking sheet or pan.
You need a sheet of parchment the same size, lightly floured to spread pastry dough as evenly as possible.
Roll the parchment and dough from the vertical edge to form a roll. Place the roll and parchment in the baking pan. Cut the roll into slices about 1/3 inches wide. Bake until light brown. Roll in sugar while slightly warm.
From one French classic dough, you’ve created four treats too tempting to resist.
Denise Worthley worked as a baker in a restaurant before setting up her own bakery business. As a pet lover, she also offers bake goods that are allowed for pets.