Paris might be the ‘City of Love’, but we affectionately like to call it the ‘City of Pastries’. With over 30,000 boulangeries and pâtisseries in Paris meandering the cobblestone streets in search of your favorite is a pleasure in itself. Sweet Tooths: enjoy our curated guide to the most famous pastries and the best places in Paris and New York to get your fix.
A Master Class in French Pastries
Pastries are to France, what pasta is to the Italians. The secret to the perfect Parisian pastry, more like an elegant work of art, comes down to technique, the finest ingredients, and of course the generous use of butter that is quintessential to French cooking. From their signature pain au chocolate to classic baguettes and crepes here is the lowdown on to-die-for French pastries and desserts.
All hail the French Macaron, which has replaced the humble cupcake as the number one sweet treat. These delicious brightly colored meringue sweets are made using egg whites, almond flour and sugar, and are so cute, you’ll want to photograph them before eating. When peering through the patisserie windows in search for the best macarons, bigger does not mean better, actually, it’s quite the opposite.
Mille Feuilles is a classic French dessert that traditionally consists of three layers of puff pastry and two of pastry cream. Of course many pâtisseries have their own variations and fillings can vary between jam, custard or fruit. To finish the top is dusted with cacao powder, confectioners sugar or vanilla frosting, voile.
The Tarte Tatin is an elegant French dessert that dates back to the 1900’s. Similar to an apple pie, the most notable difference is the entire cake is flipped over after baking. The apples are caramelized in butter, sugar and cinnamon which pairs perfectly with a buttery crust. If you happen upon a Tarte Tatin made with pears, be sure to try it.
This glazed chocolate, puff pastry delight is a beloved French favorite. Traditionally filled with cream, new twists include fruits and caramels then decorated in elaborate ways. Every Paris food guide includes the eclair and if you want to track down the best, this list is the best place to start.
The Opera Cake
The iconic Opera Cake was created by famed French pastry chef Cyrique Gavillon in 1955 at the legendary Dalloyau pastry shop. The Dalloyau dates back to 1682 when Charles Dalloyan was first hired by Louis XIV. To his mind, the avant-garde design resembled the stage of the Opera Garnier in Paris, thus the name. Layers of cake are soaked in coffee syrup before being layered then coated in coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. Typically it is sliced into bars before serving. Bon Appetit.
This petite sponge cake is perfect for afternoon tea. Instantly recognized by its molded shell shape it has a light lemon flavor and can come dipped in chocolate.
Must Visit Bakeries in Paris
It’s not easy to narrow this list, but these are the pastry hotspots according to Parisians. You can also check here to unearth more delectable hidden gems.
La Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac
This is the brainchild of celebrity chef Cyril Lignac. He has multiple locations throughout the city each showcasing his signature creations. The focus here is on bread sourdough, baguettes, and even brioche but pastries are not forgotten. If you have room after devouring the sourdough the lemon tart is absolutely spectacular.
Du Pain et Des Idées
The Du Pain et Des Idees is a local institution. The postcard-pretty building with gold accents and rustic charm is almost as alluring as the delicious and extensive assortment of pastries. To us, the star of the show is the escargot pistache-chocolat. And while you’re in dessert heaven, be sure to buy Du Pain et Des Idees incredible cookbook. The cookbook features just 14 recipes but the stories and photography highlight the importance of the human element in bread making.
This new kid on the bakery block is the creation of Olivier Magne, and where you should go to taste the lightest, flakiest, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-your-month croissants on earth. In France there is typically a division between bread makers and pastry chefs but what makes Farine&O so remarkable is that Mange is a master at both. He is one of the true leaders of innovation in French baking.
A Taste of France in the Big Apple
If you can’t make it to the City of Lights, don’t fret, these French style bakeries in New York City, do Parisian pastries to perfection.
Duane Street Patisserie
Nestled in the heart of the Financial District you’ll find Duane Street Patisserie a French bakery owned and operated by accomplished pastry Chef Madeline Lanciani since 1992. All of their desserts are made in house using natural ingredients. The house specialty is a contemporary take on a classic favorite, the Ring Ding. The flavor combinations range from PB&J and Nutella to Mama’s Margarita, a lime cake with a white chocolate coating.
Opulent Chandeliers, a gorgeous outdoor terrace, and some of the city’s tastiest macarons are to be found at Laduree. They reimagine their macaron menu seasonally; it’s been said their secret recipe book has over 100 innovative flavors. While the focus remains on the confectionary treats they do also have a full-scale restaurant serving brunch items like Quiche Lorraine.
Frenchman Olivier Dessyn fell in love with New York City while on vacation, eventually moving to the city. This entire Greenwich Village bakery is dedicated to the most beloved French pastries, the Mille-Feuille. If you have more of a savory palate the traditional and almond croissants are fantastic.
One of the best ways to pull the velvet curtain back and peek into the world of French pastries is by taking a class at the prestigious Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts. This 90 minute Pastry class in Paris will have you creating classic French desserts like Paris-Breast and Tarte Tatin like a Michelin chef. The best bit, the class culminates with you savoring all of your delectable creations. If it is macarons that set your heart on fire, there’s also a class for these colorful gems too.