Getting to know French pastries

Parisian Chouquettes

The world of French pastries is a magical, complex, and sometimes overwhelming.

When you enter Maison Parisienne in search of the best French pastries in Chicago, you may be amazed at the amazing things that can be accomplished with butter, flour, sugar and eggs (plus a few extras). Here’s a guide to memorize so that you can sound smart and impress your friends when you stop into Maison Parisienne for a snack.

Discover French pastries

Choux is a simple, unsweetened pastry dough made with only butter, flour, eggs and hot water. Since it contains no yeast, its moisture content makes it rise during baking, producing a light, hollow pastry which is often given a sweet filling of cream, custard or fruit, and topped with icing or sugar (such as éclairs and cream puffs). Chouquettes are hollow rounds of choux baked with a sprinkling of pearl sugar.

Brioche is a rich, breadlike pastry made with leavening, eggs, butter, cream, and sometimes even brandy. It’s wonderful in its simple, unadorned form, but even better when baked with raisins (pain aux raisins) or chocolate (pain au chocolat).  Perhaps its most recognizable form is as Brioche des Rois, which in France is traditionally eaten as part of the feast of Epiphany (January 6). Its American version, called king cake, is especially popular during Mardi Gras.

Pâte feuilletée (puff pastry) may look like the simplest form of French pastry, made with only butter, flour and a pinch of salt, but its preparation is by far the most complex and time-consuming. There are many recipes for “quick” puff pastry, which is fine when you’re making it at home, but why not let Maison Parisienne save you the trouble? Its best-known form is mille-feuille, also known as Napoleons: multiple layers of flaky, crunchy puff pastry sandwiched between fillings such as vanilla custard, whipped cream, almonds, fruit and/or chocolate. We’re getting hungry just writing about them.

Classic French pastries must embody the perfect balance of beauty, flavor, and texture. Stop by Maison Parisienne and see which ones you like best – it may take you a whole afternoon, but what better way to spend that time?

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