French Pastries of Northern France, Episode 35

raspberry Tart

French Pastries of Northern France

On today’s show we go back to the pâtisserie and we’re having seconds as we talk about the pastry specialties of the north of France which include Tarte Tatin, the Brioche Vendéenne, the Eclairs, the Napoleons, the Madeleines, the Pain d’épices, just to name a few. Do you have favorite French pastries? Annie and Elyse have so many, they can’t choose just one!

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to look at our upcoming tours.

Episode Highlights

  • Tourteau Fromager, Cheesecake French Style
  • Cinnamon in France
  • Are You a Cheese or a Pastry Person?
  • Cakes from the Alps Region and Walnuts
    • Beignes from the Alps
  • Puff Paste Dough or pâte à choux
  • Cakes from Picardie
  • Cakes from Lille
  • Cakes from Vendée
  • Cakes from Brittany
    • Palet Breton
    • Quatre-quarts
  • Cakes from the Paris Area
    • Tarte Tatin
    • Paris-Brest
    • Éclairs
    • Mille-feuille or Napoleon
  • Cakes from Normandy
    • Tarte Normande
    • Bourdelot
  • Dessert from Reims
    • Biscuits roses de Reims
  • Desserts from Alsace and Loraine
    • Pain d’épices
    • Kouglof
    • Black Forest Cake
    • Pet de nonne
    • Madeleines
  • French Jams with Funny Names
    • Les couilees du Pape from Provence
    • Gratte-Cul, rose hip jam

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French Pastries of the North of France

Cheesecake French Style

Tourteau Fromager is a sort of cheesecake from the Poitou area. Make sure you try one next time you’re in the Poitou and Charente area because it’s not readily available in most places outside of that. There’s also a specialty from Corsica called Fiadone made with a local goat cheese (brocciu). Fiadone can be categorized either as a cheesecake or a flan.

Tourteau Fromager
Tourteau Fromager

Cinnamon in France

France doesn’t have a tradition of making and a lot of cinnamon goods. Canelés have some cinnamon, but it’s not a strong flavor. You will not find cinnamon rolls most places either. The regions of France where they use the most cinnamon are in the North East of France, near Germany.

Are You a Cheese or a Pastry Person?

Elyse favors pastries but Annie can’t decide. They’re both wicked in terms of calories, even though cheese probably packs on the calories more than most pastries. Feel free to add your preference in the comments!

Cheese or Pastry?

Cakes from the Alps Region and Walnuts

Walnuts are very prevalent in the Alps in the region of Grenoble in the Savoy Alps. Walnuts have an AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) which guarantees where the walnuts come from. There are many sorts of Gâteau aux Noix in the Alps area. La Bouffette de Mens is also a fun local specialty from Mens, just south of Grenoble, with it famous secret recipe.

Bouffette de Mens
Bouffette de Mens

Beignes, also from the Alps area. Recipe in French. They are associated with Mardi Gras in France.


Walnut Oils are amazing, especially for making scrambled eggs.

Puff Paste Dough Is a Confusing Name in English!

In English you use the same name “Puff” for both a “Choux” dough (used to make Eclairs for instance) and a flaky pie dough (pâte feuilletée) even though they are quite different as you can see on these pictures. What do you call those doughs? Place your vote in the comments!

Pâte à Choux
Pâte à Choux
Pâte Feuilletée
Pâte Feuilletée

Cakes from Picardie

Cake on a Spit. Annie could not find one specific to Picardie, there are many such cakes all over Europe. If you know of one that’s specifically from Picardie, please let us know in the comments!

Cakes from Lille

Cramique is a sort of brioche with lots of crystal sugar and lots of dried raisins.  Opinions differ on whether this is French or Belgian. Whatever it is, it’s delicious! You can find it at the French chain bakery called Paul.


Cakes from Vendée

South-west of Paris, below Brittany. Area famous for its light brioche. Saindoux is pork fat or lard and it’s used a lot in that part of France. Brioche Vendéenne

Brioche Vendéenne

Cakes from Brittany

Kouign-amann is a specialty of Brittany and extremely fattening. It was invented by accident in the 1860s 

Kouign-amann from Brittany

Far Breton is traditionally made with prunes, quite easy to make, and easy to find in any French supermarket.

Far-breton photo Easyfrenchfood

Palet Breton

A hokey puck shaped cookie that tastes a little bit like shortcake. Very traditional recipe from Brittany.

palet cookie from brittany in France

Quatre-quarts from Brittany. This cake is much loved all over France and it’s the French equivalent of a pound cake. The four “quarters” are sugar, butter, flour and eggs are in equal weight and flavored with vanilla  or rum, or nothing at all actually. The trick is to weigh the eggs with the shell on, then  or it’ll throw you off in your measurements!

Pound Cake from Brittany

Cakes from the Paris Area

Pithiviers is a lovely cake and Pithiviers is just south west of Paris a little bit. This cake was invented in the 1600s and is used as a King’s Cake in January all over France.

Pithiviers cake from the Paris area

Tarte Tatin is one of the most divine desserts ever invented. It is an inverted open face cake made with thickly sliced and caramelized apples. You can cook it in a cast-iron pan starting on the stove-top. Lots of butter, sugar and a little bit of cinnamon are cooked in the cast-iron pan, then pour batter over it and turn it over when it’s done. The story is that early in the 20th century two sisters who owned a hotel, their last name was Tatin, forgot some apples on the stove and they got caramelized. They decided to put a batter over it to try to save it and it became an instant hit! This dessert is from Sologne, near Bourges.

Tarte tatin
Tarte tatin photo Wmeinhart

The Paris-Brest is a wonderful cake with praline filling that was invented in honor of a bicycle race between the cities of Paris and Brest and it’s in the shape of a wheel.

Paris- Brest pastry
Paris- Brest photo Dainee Ranaweera

Eclairs were invented by a man named Carême who was a pastry chef for Napoleon and he invented the choux dough. He is considered to be one of the best pastry chef ever in France.

Chocolate Eclair
Eclair au chocolat photo Nikchick

Mille-feuille or Napoleon

Mille-feuille or Napoleon
Mille-feuille photo Georges Seguin

Cakes from Normandy

The Apples of Normandy. If the name of the recipe says Normand, it has apples in the recipe. The Tarte Normande has a lot of apples in it and some Calvados.

Calvados is an alcohol that some people drink, but we think it’s much too strong for drinking. What we like to us it for is cooking because it has a wonderful flavor. Calvados is used a lot in the recipes from Normandy, probably because it is made primarily from apples.

Bourdelot is a dessert where you take a small apple, core it, cover it with a butter pastry crust, pour some Calvados into the core. It is divine! You can put some crême fraîche on top and eat it warm or room temperature.

Bourdelos dessert from Normandy
Bourdelos photo Antiguide.

 Dessert from Reims

Reims has the Biscuits Roses de Reims. These are pink biscuits made to eat with champagne. They are actually made to dip into champagne! French people love to dip things into liquids, so it’s not surprising.

Champagne Biscuits from Reims
Biscuits Roses de Reims

The Desserts from Alsace and Loraine

The history of Alsace is quite Germanic so they use a lot more spices, cinnamon. Their signature dessert is Pain d’épices which is the French gingerbread. In all of France you will find these at Christmas, but in Alsace you will find it year-round.

Pain epices French Gingerbread
Pain d’épices

French Bundt Cake or  Kouglof is also from the Alsace area and variations on it are found all over Europe. You need a special pan to make it and this one is particularly beautiful.

Kouglof from Alsace
Kouglof from Alsace

The Black Forest Cake is something that you will see a lot in this area. It has chocolate, cherries and cream.

The Pet de Nonne (or Nunn’s Puff in English) it’s a funny name in French (Nunn’s fart!!!) and you need a special pan to make them.


Pet de Nonne or Nun Puff
Pet de Nonne or Nun Puff

The Madeleines were made famous by Proust in his famous novel A la recherche du temps perdu. In the novel he dips the Madeleine into tea or coffee and it brings back floods of memory. You need a special pan to make Madeleines but they are otherwise easy to make and look great.

Madeleines photo Bernard Leprêtre
Madeleines photo Bernard Leprêtre

French Jams with Funny Names

Les couilles du Pape is apparently a fig jam from Provence.

Gratte-Cul jam is a rosehip jam

Gratte cul jam
Gratte cul jam

There is so much to say about French pastries that we went long again. We’ll save our discussion of Macarons for next time on Join Us in France. Au revoir !



6 thoughts on “French Pastries of Northern France, Episode 35”

  1. La Pâtisserie des Rêves’, rue de Bac, Paris has individual
    Paris-Brest pastries. I ate the best ever orange flavored canelé here . When ever I get back to Paris, I will zoom over to get another canelé from here.
    I read that they have a branch in London now and send their wares over.

    Annie, I am emailing you since you are lonely here on the website. With a new episode I go to the website to see the great photos!!! Most of the time I can’t wait to listen to your episode as a podcast so I view the photos and listen. Then I listen to the podcast many times while I doing my walking.

  2. I enjoy France vicariously through your wonderful podcasts. The historical information is very interesting and the rapport between the girls is natural and entertaining. A truly quality product I look forward to listening to. Thank you.

  3. Annie,

    When my wife and I were in Beaune, Burgundy in 1999 we ate the most delicious pastry. It was cylinder shaped, with chocolate powder on the outside covering a layer of chocolate, which was covering a layer of what must have been marzipan and then finally a cream-like inside. We returned in 2005 and ate it again. There were no names and I was too shy to ask what it was. Is this something that is common or that you recognize?

    Thanks, Matt

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