French Pastry Made Simple: Foolproof Recipes for Éclairs, Tarts, Macarons and More, written by Molly Wilkinson, features a variety of over 60 recipes with beautiful photos and easy-to-follow instructions. A few highlights include Lunettes de Romans Cookies, Strawberry Fraisier, Coconut-Peach Génoise Cake, Galette des Rois, and Spiced Caramel Apple Cream Puffs. I will also be sharing her recipe for Tigré Almond Cakes following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Page Street Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and statements are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Molly Wilkinson is a pastry chef currently based in Versailles. She is originally from Dallas, Texas and moved to Paris in 2013 to study pastry at Le Cordon Bleu. She has worked in pâtisseries in both France and the United States.
Molly is the creator of MollyJWilk Pastry and now teaches pastry and cooking workshops and classes online. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Capital Gazette, and Living France magazine. This is her first cookbook.
French Pastry Made Simple
French Pastry Made Simple begins with a short introduction by Molly and how she developed a passion for French pastries. She shares a few tips and key points to help get started. Most of the recipes come together with readily available ingredients and minimal use of special equipment.
Each section has a base recipe and detailed tips to use as the foundation for the rest of the chapter. This will help on building and applying techniques from rustic and everyday baked goods to more stunning desserts made to impress a crowd.
The chapters are divided according to type of dessert:
- Pâte Sucrée: The Only Tart Dough You Need
- Crème Pâtissière: A Scrumptious Custard Filling
- Ganache au Chocolat: A Sauce, A Filling and Stand-Alone Treat!
- Crème au Citron: No-Fuss Lemon Curd
- Pâte à Choux: The Multipurose Dough!
- Gènoise et Joconde: Rolled or Layered Sponge Cake
- Light-as-a-Feather Mousse
- Pâte Feuilletée: Super-Simple Puff Pastry
- Crisp or Gooey Caramel
- Meringue Sugar Clouds
The photography is provided by Joann Pai. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a full page photo of the finished pastry. There are also a few step-by-step photos to help demonstrate specific techniques such as rolling out a simple puff pastry and forming a Génoise Sponge Cake.
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Titles are written in French or English. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, tips, serving size, notes, and variations.
Tigré Almond Cakes
During this review, I was especially drawn to the Ganache chapter. It is filled with so many wonderful treats! A particular favorite were these Tigré Almond Cakes.
The Financier (butter almond cake) base is speckled with pieces of chocolate (bittersweet or semisweet), then topped with a rich chocolate ganache before serving. The cake is named for the tiger-like appearance from the bits of chocolate (though Molly mentions they actually look more like a leopard than a tiger).
I love how Molly developed these Tigré Almond Cakes using simply a muffin tin. The chilled batter is arranged among the greased tins (no more than 1/4 full), then the top of the tray is covered with a sheet of parchment and a sturdy baking sheet. This will help prevent the cakes from doming during the baking process. While still warm, the back of a teaspoon is pressed into each cake to form an indentation and create the shape perfect for holding the ganache.
The batter can also be baked in a mini doughnut pan. Make sure the center is coated in the batter and the baking time will be reduced to about 15 minutes.
For the speckled chocolate look, I finely chopped bittersweet chocolate. If using chocolate chips, it is recommended to also finely chop them.
Before baking, the batter can be combined and refrigerated, covered, up to two days in advance.
After baking and topping with the ganache, store the Tigré Almond Cakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
I also made the One-Bite Chocolate Truffles, Earl Grey Madeleines, The Frenchman’s Chocolate Mousse, and Meringue Kisses.
The One-Bite Chocolate Truffles are such a fun and versatile treat. Chocolate ganache is chilled until set, then rolled into individual truffles. The kids enjoyed covering them with sprinkles and cocoa powder. Toasted coconut, nuts, melted chocolate, and fruit powder would also be delicious.
The Earl Grey Madeleines are yet another recipe from the Ganache chapter. Small Madeleine cakes are infused with ground Earl Grey Tea, then filled with an Earl Grey Milk Chocolate Ganache for even more flavor.
The Frenchman’s Chocolate Mousse was a favorite with Claire. It takes a little prep, but comes together with only a handful of ingredients I often already have in the pantry. Beaten egg whites are carefully folded into a rich chocolate mixture then refrigerated for a few hours until set. I garnished with a few rose petals and cocoa nibs.
The Meringue Kisses were another treat with many variations and flavors. A French or Italian Meringue base is piped into individual little bites and slowly baked until set. We made peppermint and mini chocolate chip Meringue kisses, but other ideas include fruit, coffee, citrus, and chocolate.
French Pastry Made Simple is a wonderful pick for those interested in French cuisine and pastries. Desserts range from quick and easy treats to more intricate pastries requiring a bit more time to assemble and perfect for entertaining. Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American grocery store.
Tigré Almond Cakes Recipe
Excerpt from French Pastry Made Simple
Tigré Almond Cakes
Almond Cake Batter:
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 115 grams) unsalted butter cubed
- 2/3 cup (60 grams) almond flour or meal
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (140 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup (45 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4 large egg whites (~120 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1.5 ounces (45 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate finely chopped
- Baking spray or melted unsalted butter for pan
- 2 ounces (60 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) heavy cream
Prepare the Almond Cake Batter:
- Brown the butter: Place the cubed butter in a small to medium-sized saucepan with a light-colored interior (so you can see the color change) over low to medium heat.
- Swirl the pan until all the butter is melted. This also helps a bit with some of the sputtering (be careful!).
- Once the butter is melted, continue to heat it on the stove. At first, there will be big bubbles, then this changes to smaller bubbles, and eventually it foams. Watch for the first signs of browning on the bottom of the pan. You may need to angle the pan to see this.
- As soon as you see browning, remove the pan from the stove. The butter will continue to cook with the residual heat for the next several minutes. By turning off the heat at the first sign of browning, you'll prevent it from burning. Set aside to cool.
- Into a large bowl, pour the almond flour, powdered sugar and flour. Whisk together and then whisk in the egg whites and vanilla. Mix well to get out any lumps.
- Next, pour in the browned butter and carefully whisk into the batter. Then, stir the chopped chocolate into the batter (even the chocolate dust). Cover and let chill for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days, to firm up.
- When you're ready to bake the tigré, preheat your oven to 350˚F (175˚C).
- Spray a standard 12-well muffin (or mini doughnut pan) with baking spray or brush with melted butter.
- Divide the batter equally among the wells, filling them one-quarter of the way full. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the muffin tin, then top with a flat story baking sheet. This will encase the cakes during the baking process so you will have flat cakes, instead of domed.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the baking sheet and parchment paper. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sides are browned and pulling away from the sides. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a clean surface.
- Use the back of a teaspoon-sized measuring spoon to firmly press into the bottom of each warm cake to make an indentation. Sometimes you need to try a second time for the indentation to stay. Be sure to do this while the cakes are still warm.
While the cakes cool, make the chocolate ganache filling:
- Place the chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the cream just to simmering on the stove or in a microwave and pour, all in one go, over the chocolate.
- Wiggle the bowl to make sure all the chocolate is covered, then let it sit for a couple of minutes for the chocolate to start to melt.
- Stir the chocolate and heavy cream together with a whisk, gently at first, then briskly to bring it together.
- Transfer to a piping bag and cut a small opening at the end. Pipe into the indentation you made in the cakes, or simply spoon it in. Let cool several minutes before using if it's too runny to control.
- Let the chocolate set at room temperature (about 30 minutes to an hour) or enjoy immediately for a runny center.
- Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.