If you’ve spent any amount of time in a Parisian pâtisserie, you might think you know all there is to know about the world of French desserts. But there are plenty of delicious local treats from all over France that are worth checking out if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Here are just a few.
It might just look like a flattened waffle, but the Gaufre fourrée lilloise is a Northern French specialty from Lille that takes inspiration from Belgium. The waffle, popularized by the Maison Méert, is usually filled with brown sugar, or sometimes vanilla, and was a particular favorite of Charles de Gaulle.
Named for the boats that give the city its lifeforce, the Marseillais specialty known as the navette is a funny little kayak-shaped cookie flavored with fleur d’oranger (orange flower). Made without yeast, the tough cookies, closer to a biscotti than a snickerdoodle, can be kept all year long.
Calissons, or Calissons d’Aix, are a type of candy from Aix-en-Provence, made of candied fruit and ground almonds and topped with a layer of royal icing. The consistency is like that of marzipan, but with a distinctive melon flavor. Within France, the confectionery has been protected since 1991, and must be made according to union specifications.
Crumbly, tender, and chewy, the Gâteau Basque is a “cake” native to the Southwestern region of France. Its two cakey layers are sandwiched around black cherry jam, or sometimes pastry cream (though it’s more likely to find that version in Spain).
This one is more of a proper cake. The Gâteau Nantais is basically a rum-soaked pound cake made with almond meal and topped with white royal icing. It originated in the 17th century, when Nantes was used as a port city to import goods (like Caribbean rum) from the French Antilles.
Fiadone is a cheesecake from Corsica with a distinctive flavor that comes from brocciu, a Corsican cheese made from sheep’s milk and whey, akin to ricotta. Lemon, sugar, and eggs round out the mixture, and it is served without a crumbly base typical to American cheesecake.
Originally served at village festivals in Lower Normandy, Teurgoule is a rice pudding sweetened with sugar and cinnamon, and baked in an earthenware terrine for many hours to create a thick, caramelised crust on top.
Beaujolais isn’t only known for its stoutly mediocre wine. The grape-growing region also gave us the Poire à la Beaujolaise, or pears poached in wine. Common to Bordeaux and Lyon, the pears in question are slowly cooked in a mixture of fruity Beaujolais wine, sugar, and spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
Named for the sisters who invented it, Tarte Tatin has become such a staple of Centre Val de Loire cuisine that the hotel where it was invented, the Maison Tatin, has become something of a living shrine to the dessert. This French version of an upside-down apple cake has a rich, caramelised apple base that turns into a glistening crown when flipped.