Thanks to popular sweets like macarons, crepes, and crème brulée, France has cemented itself as one of the major dessert capitals of the world. In honor of Tuesday's kickoff to Paris Fashion Week, we're taking a look at some of those familiar French dessert staples, plus a few lesser-known dishes. Craving something sugary? Satisfy your sweet tooth with these delicious French desserts!
Though I've made many a soufflé in my years — I distinctly remember tackling goat cheese soufflés at the tender age of 11, oblivious about their diva reputation — each and every time I pull a batch out of the oven, my heart goes aflutter. These lofty, lemony, and all around lovely soufflés are no exception. Something magical happens as they undergo their heat-induced transformation from frothy, fluffy batter to delicate and airy pastry. And while they're utterly lovely unadorned, a drizzle of bright and tangy raspberry coulis takes them over the top, with a minimum of fuss — seriously, if you have five minutes to spare, you have time to make the sauce.
So what are you waiting for? Put your soufflé skepticism aside and whip them up posthaste — they're (and you're) worth it. Experience the magical transformation from batter to beauty yourself.
With their vibrant colors and lacy frills, dainty, crisp-crusted French macarons are the perfect Valentine's Day baking project. But these lovely little delicacies are temperamental enough to stump even the most accomplished chefs. Even if you follow a detailed recipe down to the letter, a batch of macarons can go very wrong very quickly. Thanks to humidity, an unreliable oven temperature gauge, or an overly enthusiastic stirring hand, you may find yourself facing macaron-ageddon rather than baking bliss. But before you throw in the tea towel, we've assembled a few tips to solve your sugary conundrums.
Who doesn't dream of owning a cute little pied-à-terre in Paris, combing the markets for fresh French food and cooking it in a tiny European kitchen? Until that becomes a reality, we'll have to resort to watching Rachel Khoo's Little Paris Kitchen on the Cooking Channel. The show is everything the name implies; it follows a charming British cook as she creates glorious French cuisine in the tiniest of kitchens.
Recently, I watched an episode where Rachel makes a lavender roasted chicken, and the video stuck with me for weeks before I finally did some serious digging to retrieve the recipe. That is, until the publishers sent us her latest cookbook, which is as quaint and enticing as the cooking show.
When the sizzling, caramelized pieces of chicken come out of the oven, Rachel recommends taking a bit of crusty bread and dipping it into the pan juices to sample the flavors. My oh my, this chicken will make you fall in love with lavender, if you haven't already. It hits all the right sweet and savory notes, providing just enough floral flavor and herbaceousness to perk you up on a cold Winter night. The recipe is halved on purpose, because the lavender chicken has all the right potential for a dreamy date night like Valentine's Day.
- Béchamel. This classic milk-based white sauce was named after Louis de Béchamel, chief steward to Louis XIV. It's composed of three main ingredients: flour, butter, and milk. The thickness of this cream sauce depends on the ratio of flour and butter to milk: the more milk, the thinner the sauce. It's usually served with eggs, fish, steamed veggies or poultry, or pastas, like macaroni and cheese.
- Velouté. This sauce is made just like béchamel, only milk is swapped for stock. Whether it's made from chicken, veal, or fish stock, velouté is typically not flavored with extra seasonings, and it's regularly used on veal, eggs, fish, steamed vegetables, poultry, or pastas.
- Espagnole. A brown stock-based sauce that may sound Spanish but is actually French in origin. Espagnole includes rich meat stock, browned vegetables, browned roux (a butter and flour mix), plus herbs and tomato paste. Unlike velouté, though, it's served mainly with roasted meats.
- Hollandaise. Egg yolks and fat, usually butter, are the basic ingredients for this yellow emulsified sauce. Like mayonnaise, this rich, creamy sauce tends to top eggs, vegetables, light poultry, or fish.
- Tomato. Whether it's made with raw, stewed tomatoes or a tomato paste, tomato-based sauce is generally used on pasta, fish, vegetables, veal, poultry, breads, and dumplings.
This list is still up for contention today, as still others believe that different sauces (like allemande, the egg-enriched velouté sauce, and vinaigrette) belong in the category of "mother sauce." How many of these have you made at home or sampled at a French restaurant?
If you've ever tasted a gougère — essentially savory cheese-flecked cousins of cream puffs and eclairs — then little needs to be said in order to convince you to head to the kitchen to whip up a batch of these luxurious appetizers. If not, I'll keep it simple: airy and light, with just enough nutty cheese to keep things lively, these pâte-à-choux party favorites will go fast if included in a party spread.
Put off by the slightly strange method of cookery that's outlined in the recipe below? Don't be. It may be a slight step outside of your baking repertoire if you've yet to try your hand at any treats in the choux-pastry family, but their assembly is actually quite simple and intuitive and can be made in large party-friendly quantities in precious few minutes. Keep reading for the easy yet impressive recipe.