4 French Pastries For The Patissier In You
French pastries combine art and science. You must be precise in how you assemble ingredients and prepare dough, or the dessert won’t turn out. Additionally, your pastries should be visibly striking and filled with creative flavor combinations. Marrying precision and exploration in a single treat is a challenge, but one baking and pastry arts enthusiasts can master. Whether you’ve been baking for years or are just starting out, practice these classic French pastries to improve your skills:
Pronounced meel-foy, this dessert’s name means thousand leaves. The name is indicative of the cake’s construction, which consists of layers of flaky puff pastry punctuated by smooth pastry cream. The trick to perfecting this dessert is mastering each component before you try to add a new spin. Start with puff pastry. This laminated dough requires you to fold it over butter and flatten it out repeatedly. However, you have to keep the butter cool, which means popping your pâte in the fridge between rolls. Further, use ice cold water in your dough. When the puff pastry bakes, the fat will expand the dough, giving the fluffy texture you’re after.
Next, you’ll need to perfect your cream, which is made with eggs, milk, sugar, corn starch, flour and vanilla bean. Once you feel confident in your flaky pastry and decadent cream, you can play with flavors and make a mille-feuille all your own.
Eclairs use choux pastry, another French staple every pastry enthusiast should know. Use the dough to create the long, iconic desserts and fill them with pastry cream. Contrary to puff pastry, choux requires hot water and milk and is precooked outside of the oven before baking. Once your batter is ready, you’ll stir it in a heated pot until the dough pulls away from the sides. Then you can bag your dough and pipe it onto a lined baking sheet. Cooking time is important for choux, as taking it out of the oven too early will cause it to collapse. Pipe cream onto your eclairs right before serving.
3. St. Honoré cake
Feeling comfortable with puff and choux pastries? Then try a St. Honoré cake. This torte features a puff pastry base topped with pastry cream, ringed by profiteroles (made with choux) and finished with whipped cream. What’s more, the profiteroles are covered in caramel, giving you the opportunity to perfect your sugar work. This dessert is a challenge because it combines so many French pastry staples, each of which requires a high level of baking aptitude. However, if you’re a confident baker, this is the dessert for you.
4. French apple tart
Simple, elegant and delectable, the French apple tart uses sweet dough (like a classic pie dough with lots of sugar), apricot jam and carefully sliced apples. As with puff pastry, keep this dough cool while you work. Additionally, you do not need to blind bake it prior to adding the filling. The artistic part of French baking comes into play with this dessert – you should arrange the apples in an attractive fashion.