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Top 10 French indulgences: Confessions of an amateur pâtissière

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Perhaps it all began that teenage summer when I visited my French friend Zoë in Paris. It was my first time in the City of Lights (although City of Pastry would be more apt).

Ever since then I have been fanatique about pâtisserie, especially whenever I’m in France. Each pastry shop is worthy of that famous guidebook phrase, vaut le detour. I become impossible to travel with. Patisserie windows get my full attention until I am forcibly dragged away. I love the look of pastries, the smell of them, and naturally their sweet delicate crusts, their ethereal fillings, their gooey unctuousness

For a time, back home in the U.S., I took to working in bakeries to satisfy my lust. I rolled croissants and petit pains au chocolat each Saturday morning at an upscale restaurant. I even sold my own French-style pastries at a local farmer’s market.

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I know people will swear by one French pâtissier or another – perhaps they’ve been doing that since the Middle Ages when pastry-cooks went by the name of oubleyeurs, from the French word for a wafer, the oublie.

I am more of an equal opportunity shopper. I make lists of new establishments and check them out. But I also go back to ones that have served me well over time. Like the place where I special-order the Gâteau Basque. It’s actually a double crust pie filled with pastry cream.

Pastries don’t have to be the fancy, over-the-top constructions that Carême, the celebrated late-18th century cook, wrote about. Délicieux is what counts. Next time you’re in striking distance of a patisserie, you might look for one of these top ten.

Top 10 French indulgences

10. Gâteau St. Honoré
Named after the patron saint of bakers. A circle of cream puffs dipped in caramelized sugar, nesting on a layer of pastry. The middle of the circle is filled with pastry cream.

9. Figue
Green-colored marzipan in the shape of a fig. Underneath the cover, fig paste and chocolate.

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8. Religieuse
Two rounds of choux paste, one on top of the other, filled with flavored pastry cream, and iced with fondant. The religieuse is supposed to resemble a nun in habit, hence its name.

7. Gâteau Breton
A Brittany butter cake, simple, always satisfying.

6. Any gâteau au chocolat
Double chocolate is even better.

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5. Tarte aux pommes
A classic apple tart but there are many variations on the theme.

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4. Tarte aux fraises
A fresh strawberry tart on a bed of pastry cream.

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3. Tarte Tatin
An apple upside-down pie. Make sure it’s fresh or you’ll be disappointed.

2. Tarte au citron
Sweet and sour lemon tart, sometimes with the French word inscribed on top in chocolate. A bistro favorite.

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1. Gâteau Basque
As discussed earlier in this article.

Which is your #1 and why?



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4 Comments




  1. Hannah Duke
    7 years ago

    So delicious! I don’t think I can pick a favourite from this list… But Gateau St Honoré is incredibly yummy. I think I’ll have to swing by a patisserie on my way home now….


  2. Emmanuelle Tremolet
    7 years ago

    I miss France !


  3. Celine Mangiardi
    7 years ago

    Tarte aux fraises is my favorite! Especially the one from my Grand Mother 🙂


  4. Kah Kit Yoong
    7 years ago

    I’m also partial to tarte aux fraises especially when made from fraises des bois.