French Pastries of Southern France
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!
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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!
- How Do We Define French pastry?
- Dessert Specialties of Southern France
- Flan pâtissier
- Gâteau Basque
- Pastis Landais
- Canelés de Bordeau
- Gâteau au yaourt
- 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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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?
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.
- 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.
- Pastis Landais is a brioche type cake. You will find this cake all over the Aquitaine Region. To die for dipped in coffee 🙂
- 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!
- 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.
- Gâteau au yaourt is something French people make all the time and it’s really easy to make. Recipe here.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Canestry in Corsica
- Pogne in Romans in the Drôme
- 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.
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.