By Larena Tannert
Whipped cream, puff pastries, crème brûlée, macarons, and crêpes— what do these delicious desserts have in common? They all originated from the lovely country of France. I decided to try some of these sweet treats that I had never even heard of before, and tell you a little about where they came from, what they are, and how they taste.
I had never before heard of a macaron, but when I googled it, I found that it is a popular French treat: a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond meal, and food colouring. The macaron is traditionally held to have been introduced in France by the Italian chef of queen Catherine de Medici during the Renaissance. Bakeries devoted to the colorful confections have been popping up in New York, Seattle and San Francisco, and the legendary Parisian Patisserie Laduree, whose pastry chef Pierre Desfontaines created the macaron over a century ago, opened its first U.S. branch in New York City in August. Macarons come in many different flavors and colors, but they are all thin, flavorful meringue cookies that are sandwiched together with some kind of filling. What makes macarons so unique is the meringue cookies, which are hard and crunchy on the outside, but as soon as you bite into them you can taste the smooth and chewy interior. I went to Trader Joes and bought some macarons to try them, and I am officially obsessed. I can not describe to you how delicious these cookies are. Even though they are just two cookies with filling on the inside, which sounds basic, like an oreo, macarons are special. The texture of the cookies gives a whole new flavor to them and makes them more complicated than something like an oreo. I have found my latest obsession in these adorable French cookies.
Crème brûlée is a French dessert that consists of a rich custard topped with caramelized sugar. A common crème brûlée is vanilla custard with a hard burnt layer of sugar. In order to create the burnt crust on top of the custard you sprinkle sugar on top and then use a blowtorch to harden the sugar. I think it is really cool that in order to make this dessert you have to use fire! Crème brûlée has an interesting backstory; France, England, and Spain all claim to be the country where crème brûlée had its origin. The first printed recipe for a dessert called crème brûlée is from the 1691 edition of the French cookbook Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois by Francois Massialot, a cook at the Palace of Versailles. The name crème brûlée itself means “burnt cream” in French. To spice up your crème brûlée, you can try different flavors like cinnamon, chocolate, caramel or coffee. July 27th is national crème brûlée day, so make sure you celebrate by making and trying your own fancy version of crème brûlée. I recently tried crème brûlée for the first time, and wow is it delicious! I really enjoyed cracking the hard layer on top of the custard with my spoon before digging in. I think the whole idea of crème brûlée is genius, so props to Francois Massialot for creating such an interesting and delicious dessert.
Croissants are definitely one of the most common French pastries here in America. You can find sweet croissants and savory croissants at almost every store you go to. Even Starbucks has a variety of their own croissants, ranging from ham and swiss to butter to chocolate. I know this might sound crazy, but I have never had a croissant before, so I decided to try them to see what all of the hype is about. But before I get into my croissant adventure, here’s some backstory. Croissants were not actually made in France first; they were a popular treat in Austria, and they were brought to France by French Queen Marie Antoinette, who popularized the croissant by requesting the royal bakers to replicate her favorite treat from her homeland of Austria. The croissant got its name from its shape, as croissant means “crescent” in French. The first croissant I tried was the butter croissant from Starbucks. In my opinion it tasted kind of plain and boring. I think the texture and flakiness of the bread made it more interesting to eat, but the butter one was too plain for me. Next I tried the ham and cheese croissant (again from Starbucks), and this one was definitely an improvement. With the ham and cheese there was more flavor and overall the whole croissant tasted better. Still, I did not enjoy it that much so I decided to go to Trader Joe’s and buy some frozen chocolate croissants that I could heat up myself at home. They were absolutely delicious. I ate one pretty soon after it came out of the oven and it was nice and warm. The bread almost melted in my mouth and the chocolate gave it a sweet and pleasant flavor. Both my little brother and I really enjoyed the chocolate croissants and I will definitely be buying some more the next time I am at Trader Joe’s.
Overall, the French pastries I tried were all delicious and unique. Although I had never tried any of these desserts before, I can guarantee that I will be having them again many times in the future!