French food is one of the best cuisines in the world. Many people visiting the country go specifically to try the incredible dishes and meals, as well as French pastries and desserts. You’ve probably heard that it’s really easy to find a French bakery. And although it may sound like a stereotype, it really is true: French bakeries are the pride and joy of the country. Below, we’ve created a list of the top five French pastries you need to try. Now, the next time you’re in France, you’ll be able to practice your speaking skills by ordering some of these incredible pastries.
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1. Le croissant
Pronunciation: The easiest way to sound like a local French person is to say “kwa-son”.
What better way to begin than with the humble croissant? There’s a reason why it’s the favorite pastry for much of France. This buttery and flaky French pastry has been a staple in the country for centuries, but its origins go back much farther to the 13th century in Austria. The modern-day croissant dates to the early 20th century and can be found in every French bakery across the country. While they may be delicious, they are notoriously difficult to make due to the multi-layer format and baking process.
Pain au chocolat
Pronunciation: It’s a tricky one! We’ll show you how to pronounce it with English words: “pan-o-shaw-cola”.
A pain au chocolat is essentially a croissant with chocolate inside. Another staple of French bakeries, this pastry is a firm favorite amongst children and adults alike. Fun fact: There is a debate in France about whether this pastry should be called a pain au chocolat (the most common term) or a chocolatine (commonly used in the southwest of the country).
2. La tarte Tropézienne
Pronunciation: This is a bit easier because la tarte is fairly similar in English. Tropézienne should be pronounced “tro-pe-zi-en”.
La Tarte Tropézienne is, as you can probably guess, a French pastry created in Saint-Tropez. If you head to the south of France, you will come across this dessert in most bakeries. A baker named Alexandre Micka designed this famed pastry as a brioche (a type of French bread) flavored with orange blossom. Typically, you’ll find this pastry filled with vanilla cream and topped with pearl sugar. The name of this French pastry was actually suggested by French actress Brigitte Bardot when she was filming in the town of Saint-Tropez and came across this wonderful dessert.
3. Les chouquettes
Pronunciation: Don’t let the number of vowels scare you! Pronounce this “shoo-kette”.
The next French pastry on our list is chouquettes. If you’re looking for an afternoon snack, this pastry is the ideal sweet treat. They are made with choux pastry, a type of light and airy dough used to make pastries in France. Chouquettes are wonderfully simple French desserts, because they are small, bite-sized desserts made with the choux pastry and topped with pearl sugar. Given their size, it’s very easy to get carried away and eat a mountain of these mouth-watering desserts!
4. La religieuse
Pronunciation: This is pretty similar to the English word “religious”, simply add a French touch “re-lee-gieuz”.
Despite the name of this French pastry, the only religious link to la religieuse is the fact that it apparently resembles a nun in a habit! This delightful French dessert is similar to the chouquettes because it uses choux pastry. The traditional recipe is made up of two choux buns filled with crème patissière (pastry cream) and then topped off with some dark chocolate ganache. The final touch is the addition of whipped cream to create a white collar.
5. Le Paris-Brest
Pronunciation: It looks like it sounds, but the ‘s’ in Paris is silent!
Let’s round off this list of French pastry names with le Paris-Brest. This dessert was invented by a French pastry chef at the request of Pierre Giffard, the editor-in-chief of a Parisian newspaper who wanted to honor a bike race between Paris and Brest. The chef, Louis Durand, invented this dessert in 1910. As with many other French desserts, it is made with choux pastry, and it is in the shape of a bike wheel. It is filled with heaps of praline cream and topped with crispy almonds.
A piece of cake
The next time you’re in France, you can try out all of the French pastries on this list and decide which is your favorite. But it doesn’t have to stop there, French bakeries are filled with dozens of incredible and yummy desserts, so you can shop to your heart’s content. Just remember to practice your French food vocabulary while you’re there.
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Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with expats looking to move to France. Connect with her on LinkedIn.