French Pastries of Southern France, Episode 34

French Pastries of Southern France

A Collection of French Pastries
Can you name any of those pastries? Miniatures by Luce Fédière

Every country has a tradition of sweet desserts, but what makes French pasties so famous? On today’s show we are taking you on a Tour de France in Pastries, and specifically the pastries of the south of France. As you probably know, pâtisseries are to die for in France, and that’s because there is a rich regional tradition for making the prettiest and tastiest desserts possible. When I lived in America I realized something important: in France it’s not enough to make a beautiful pastries, it has to taste out of this world too! Let’s sink our teeth in French pastries today!

If you love our approach to travel and want to tour France with us, visit Addicted to France to look at upcoming tours.

French people don’t eat pâtisseries every day, but when we do, we seek the best. We tell you all about it in today’s show and the topic is so large that we divided it up in two shows. Today we concentrate on the pastries of Southern France, next week we go North. Enjoy!

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Episode Highlights

  • How Do We Define French pastry?
  • Dessert Specialties of Southern France
    • Flan pâtissier
    • Gâteau Basque
    • Pastis Landais
    • Canelés de Bordeau
    • Clafoutis
    • Gâteau au yaourt
    • Croustade
    • Prunaux à l’Armagnac
    • Tarte Tropézienne
    • Les Navettes
    • Canestry in Corsica
    • Pogne de Romans
    • Échaudé in Albi
    • Crême Catalane and Rousquilles from Perpignan
    • French Dessert Traditions
    • Galette des rois (King’s Cakes)
    • Crêpes at the Chandeleur (Candlemas)

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Pastries Miniatures, French Pastries
Miniatures Luce Fédière

To start the show, we thank a listener for suggesting many great French books, including those by Maigret which Elyse particularly loves. Here are all the books we love and recommend for your reading pleasure.

How Do We Define Pastry?

What are French pastries? Annie says it’s a dessert, it’s sweet and it’s pretty. According to a dictionary Elyse found, a pastry has a batter as its base, a filling or a topping, and it can be decorated. By that broad definition a crêpe is a pastry, and so is a cookie. But what makes French pastries so famous?

French Pastries

There are so many French pastries to talk about that in this episode we will concentrate on the French pastries of the south of France and in the next episode we’ll go north.

In the movie Cousin Cousine there is a romantic pastry scene where the characters go to a pastry shop and buy one of each, take them home and enjoy a romance around pastries.

Dessert Specialties of Southern France

    • Flan pâtissier is one of the cheapest items in a French pastry shop and it’s very filling and delicious. Bread pudding also falls in that category of cheap and filling.
Flan_pâtissier, French Pastries
Flan pâtissier
    • Gâteau Basque made with cherries from the town called Itxassou, celebratory cake that goes back to the 1600s. Gâteau Basque can be made with cherries, pastry creme (crême pâtissière), prunes, or figs.  It is not difficult to make, and you definitely should try one next time you find yourself in the Basque Country.
Gâteau Basque, French Pastries
Gâteau Basque
  • Pastis Landais is a brioche type cake. You will find this cake all over the Aquitaine Region. To die for dipped in coffee 🙂
Pastis Landais, French Pastries
Pastis Landais
  • Canelés de Bordeau are delicious, but it takes practice and a special mold. They are very popular in France and in Bordeaux in particular. Well worth the price!
Canelés, French Pastries
  • Clafoutis from the Limousin, easily made and can be made with cherries or apricots or any fruit you have on-hand. You should definitely try some next time you’re in Limoges or Brive-la-Gaillarde.
Clafoutis, French Pastries
  • Gâteau au yaourt is something French people make all the time and it’s really easy to make. Recipe here.

    Gâteau au yaourt, French Pastries
    Gâteau au yaourt
  • Croustade with Armagnac in the Gers. Called Poumpet in the Tarn. This type of pastry is prevalent all over the South West of France, try this pastry when visiting Auch.
Croustade, French Pastries
  • Armagnac mixes really well with fruit, Cognac does NOT. Pruneau à l’Armagnac. Take pitted prunes, add Armagnac, place in an air-tight jar and let it sit for two or three months.
  • Artisanal bakeries are wonderful in France but they are more expensive. Large supermarkets also offer very good pastries at a lower price.
  • In the Provence Côte d’Azur you will find the tarte Tropézienne. Annie’s friend recommends Weibel in Aix-en-Provence.
Tarte Tropézienne, French Pastries
Tarte Tropézienne
  • Navettes from Provence, a dry cookie. Made and served around Christmas time. Anise seed was the original flavor. There are a lot of variations on this sort of cookie.
Navette provençale, French Pastries
Navette Provençale, photo O’malley for ever
  • Canestry in Corsica
  • Pogne in Romans in the Drôme
Pogne de Romans, French Pastries
Pogne de Romans, photo JPS68
  • Échaudé In Albi
  • Fénestra in Toulouse, not commonly found, Annie will try to find some.
  • From Perpignan you’ll find Crême Catalane or Crême Brûlée and Rousquilles. Rousquilles are fabulous and not as well-known as other desserts.

French Pastry, French Pastries

It’s traditional to eat cake on Sundays in France. But since it’s so sweet and fatty we reserve it for special occasions. Sunday dinner or a birthday.

In France, cakes are seasonal too. At Christmas time you’ll see King’s Cakes (Galette des Rois), Christmas Logs, la Chandeleur brings crêpes.

Brioche des Rois, French Pastries
Brioche des Rois










11 thoughts on “French Pastries of Southern France, Episode 34”

    1. Hello Kaye and welcome to Join Us in France! According to the Wikipedia article you point us to, “tourteau” means cake in the Poitevin dialect, so my guess is they think it’s dessert! I’ve never had it myself, you’ve convinced me to give it a try, then I’ll tell you if I think it’s dessert or not. Man, tough assignment 😉 In the meantime here’s the recipe for Tourteau Fromager by a French food blogger in English.

  1. I have found it difficult, almost impossible to find pastry goods made with cinnamon, here in France. I do believe I traveled to one region in France, it may have been Normandie or Bretagne, where I did find some cinnamon items but I am not sure even of that. In fact, when I go to Paris, I always make a point of having a cinnamon and sugar crepe as those are available there but don’t try to find such a crepe here in Bordeaux. I’ve yet to find one. In Spain, I found all kinds of pastry goods made with cinnamon and such a wonderful variety beyon that. There are only two places here in Bordeaux where I can find cinnamon rolls: Picard (these are not so good) and IKEA (these are actually quite good). And going a little bit beyond my cinnamon comment, I find the pastry goods in my home city to be almost the same, regardless of which boulangerie one happens to visit. I find that even the major chains like Paul and Brioche Doree carry the same, rather boring, pastries. I long for cannelle and a little more variety in selection.

    1. Hello Larry and welcome to Join Us in France! You make an excellent point actually. French people are not in love with cinnamon generally, unless you go all the way across the country to Alsace and the north east of France. There they love cinnamon and all sorts of “northern European” spices. And you’re right on-point too when it comes to bakeries all selling similar goods. French bakers are becoming better businessmen and they won’t continue to take chances with items that are not sure to sell. It’s too bad really, but I still find some occasional wonderful surprises here and there. For instance I’ll buy a “Jésuite” whenever I find one, and those are not as common as they used to be. Keep trying new bakeries!

  2. I’ve made a fruit tart from a recipe that calls for a spoonful of this and that for the directions. The recipe was given to me by my aunt’s really good friend who lives in France (my aunt and uncle lived in France for 12 years.) The tart has a pastry crust and is lined with chocolate/creme fraiche layer (thin) with canned pears and topped with an almond/creme fraiche mixture and baked and then dusted with powdered sugar. I’ve even used apricots instead of pears. It comes out beautifully. Have you heard of this style of pastry-dessert?

  3. My husband and I discovered navettes at La Cure Gourmande in Aigues-Mortes, along with chocolate olives! I think that’s the shop you were thinking of. There’s a branch on l’Île St. Louis in Paris. Expensive, but a great treat to take back from aa trip because they keep for quite awhile.

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