cherry galette recipe

5 French dessert recipes for every kind of post-lockdown dinner party

Posted by for Food and Drink

Once it’s allowed, we want to be Dinner Party People – and these beautiful French dessert recipes are the perfect way to end a meal with friends.

Holidays, festivals, nightclubs – we’ve all been dreaming of doing something once lockdown eases. And if dinner parties are your thing, it’s good news. You can start with a small gathering of six to flex your culinary muscles on 17 May. All bets are off on 21 June, however, when you’ll be allowed as grand a soirée as your heart desires.

Whatever your dinner party plans, one thing’s for sure: you’re going to need dessert. And when we think chic, impressive and satisfyingly simple puddings, France is the first place that springs to mind.

Paris-based American food writer Rebekah Peppler is the author of new cookbook À Table – which contains an impressive collection of beautiful French recipes, all perfect to serve for a crowd. Below, you’ll find five of the best desserts from À Table to round off your post-lockdown dinner parties – whether you’re after something light and simple, or an all-out chocolate feast.

À Table: Recipes For Cooking And Eating The French Way by Rebekah Peppler Chronicle Books
À Table: Recipes For Cooking And Eating The French Way by Rebekah Peppler is out now with Chronicle Books

There’s a cherry galette, all crisp puff pastry and jewel-like fruit, the star of which, according to Peppler, is not the cherries themselves, but the fresh cream she suggests you pour over each slice.

Snackable baking might be more your thing, in which case, opt for the sablé cookies – Peppler has updated the classic recipe with extra vanilla and a pinch of salt. They’re small, crumbly shortbread biscuits (sablé means sandy) with a certain French je ne sais quoi.

Decorated madeleines are having a moment right now (check out @deesbasement if you want proof), but Peppler’s simple recipe strips them back to their deliciously fluffy roots.

For something simple-yet-delicious, try the macaroons – golden coconut mounds that shouldn’t be confused with pastel-coloured patisserie macarons. They only have five ingredients, and flour isn’t one of them, so they’re perfect for any gluten-intolerant guests in your midst.

Finally, if you’re after something rich and luxurious, try the chocolate option. And from the title alone – ‘Chocolate Pudding, But French’ – you just know it’s going to be wonderfully elegant. Peppler’s recipe takes the form of layered cups – combining the richness of a traditional French pudding with the light texture of chocolate mousse. Is it too early to start working on a guest list?

  • Cherry galette

    cherry galette recipe
    Best French dessert recipes: Rebekah Peppler's cherry galette

    Rebekah says: “You know what people around a table really lose their minds over? The pouring of good cold cream over a dessert. Try it first on this galette, which is studded with cherries enclosed in a flaky, lightly citrus crust, then keep a pint in the refrigerator for your next chocolate cake, batch of brownies, literally any ripe fresh or roasted fruit, a pie or tart… you get the idea.”

    Makes one 30.5 cm galette

    Ingredients

    For the crust:

    • 210g plain flour, plus more for dusting
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
    • ½ lemon, zested
    • 110g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

    For the filling:

    • 570g fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
    • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 tablespoon cornflour
    • ½ lemon, zested
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use
    • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
    • double cream, chilled, for serving

    Method

    To make the crust: in a food processor or large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and fine sea salt. Add the lemon zest and cubed butter and pulse, or use your hands to press together until pea-size pieces form.

    Add 3 to 5 tablespoons (45 to 80ml) of ice water and mix just until a dough forms. Gather into a ball and wrap in plastic or reusable beeswax wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

    To make the filling: in a large bowl, combine the cherries, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, cornflour, lemon zest, vanilla, and fine sea salt. Toss to combine.

    Preheat the oven to 200°C.

    On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a 38cm circle. Slide the parchment onto a large rimmed baking sheet and use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the beaten egg (reserving some egg to finish).

    Mound the prepared cherry filling in the centre of the dough, leaving a 5 to 7.5cm border. Gently fold the edges of the dough up and over most of the fruit, pressing the folds gently to seal.

    Brush the folded edges of the galette with the remaining beaten egg. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar and flaky sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes.

    Lower the oven temperature to 180°C and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly and nearly set, 40 to 50 minutes.

    Let the galette cool on the baking sheet on a cooling rack (the liquid will continue to set as it cools). Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with cold cream.

  • Sablés, but not, like, regular sablés, cool sablés

    sable cookie recipe
    Best French dessert recipes: Rebekah Peppler's sablé cookies

    Rebekah says: “One of the fun things about being an American living in Europe is that many parts of fairly innocuous American culture suddenly become hip. Take drop cookies. Your chocolate chip, your peanut butter, your white chocolate macadamia: all have become très cool in Paris.

    “But the French forget their own best cookie. Sablés are simple, crumbly (‘sablé’ means sandy), two-bite cookies rich with butter and not much else, just as good freshly baked as they are a few days later. This recipe is an update on the classic with extra vanilla and salt and a coating of turbinado sugar.”

    Makes 64 cookies

    Ingredients

    • 220g unsalted butter
    • 60g icing sugar
    • 50g granulated sugar
    • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use
    • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 315g plain flour
    • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
    • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
    • 65g turbinado sugar

    Method

    In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, confectioners’ and granulated sugars, and vanilla bean seeds; beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and beat until the eggs are incorporated. Stir in the flour and salt just until combined.

    Divide the dough in half and form each half into a 25 by 4cm log. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. (The logs can also be frozen for up to 3 months.)

    Preheat the oven to 180°C.

    Working one at a time, unwrap the logs and brush the outsides with the egg white, reserving some for brushing each sablé. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar until completely coated.

    Use a sharp knife to cut each log into 32 thin slices (about 6mm thick) and transfer to a baking sheet, cut-sides down.

    Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg white and sprinkle with additional turbinado sugar and flaky salt. Bake until the sablés are set and lightly golden around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes.

    Cookies will last, stored in an airtight container, for up to 5 days. 

  • Thibault’s madeleines

    madeleines recipe
    Best French dessert recipes: Rebekah Peppler's madeleines

    Rebekah says: “While there’s ample room for a lovely lady lumps pun here, I’ll spare you. All you need to know is that these small, tender, classic French cookie-cakes are packed with so much vanilla that they taste like birthday cake and – as long as you follow the steps – you’ll get those coveted L.L.L. every time.”

    Makes 24 madeleines

    Ingredients

    • 140g plain flour, plus more for dusting the pans
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 130g sugar
    • ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use
    • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 110g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for greasing the pans
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    Method

    In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and vanilla bean seeds, then add the eggs and vigorously whisk until the mixture is smooth and lightly thickened. Use a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients just until they are incorporated.

    Add the melted butter and vanilla extract and fold gently to combine.

    Butter and lightly flour two madeleine pans (or work in batches and chill the remaining half of the batter), and spoon the batter into the moulds until each mould is about two-thirds full (you may have a little batter left over).

    Cover the pan lightly with a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

    Place a large, heavy baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 230°C.

    Place the cold madeleine pan on the hot baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 180°C. Bake until the edges of the madeleines are golden brown and the centres lightly spring back when gently poked, about 10 minutes.

    Assertively tap the bottom edge of the pan against the counter to release the madeleines from their moulds and carefully transfer to a serving platter. Serve immediately.

  • Macaroons

    macaroons recipe
    Best French dessert recipes: Rebekah Peppler's macaroons

    Rebekah says: “There are macarons: pastel, filled, layered, best for tea parties and those without nut allergies. And there are macaroons: coconut, toasted, sometimes dipped in chocolate, ideal for Passover and those with gluten allergies.

    “These are the latter, almost meringue-like, made to be deeply browned, and packing big coconut flavour, a.k.a. the way a macaroon should be but rarely ever is.”

    Makes 24 macaroons

    Ingredients

    • 285g large flaked unsweetened coconut
    • 4 large egg whites
    • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
    • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 150g sugar

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 180°C.

    Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until the flakes start to brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

    In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until the egg whites are frothy, 15 to 30 seconds.

    Whisking constantly, add the sugar gradually until the mixture is bright white and thickened (but not so much that peaks form) and the sugar is completely combined, about 1 minute more. Use a spatula to fold in the toasted coconut.

    Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Using damp hands (to prevent sticking) or a cookie scoop, gently form the coconut mixture into 4cm balls, each 1½ to 2 tablespoons. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2.5 cm between the macaroons.

    Bake until deeply golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the macaroons to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Macaroons can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

  • Chocolate pudding, but French

    french chocolate pudding recipe
    Best French dessert recipes: Rebekah Peppler's chocolate pudding

    Rebekah says: “Chocolate is messy and finicky and – please keep reading this recipe after you hear this – unless it’s in strict bar form, I don’t particularly like it for dessert. A great many in France, however, do.

    “This recipe takes their pudding-like pots de crème and their rich, family-style bowls of mousse au chocolat and combines them with a chocolate-based American schoolyard treat I do love: layered pudding cups. Serve it in your biggest, chicest bowl with lots of whipped cream, flaky salt, and spoons.”

    Serves 6 to 8

    Ingredients

    • 600ml whole milk
    • 180ml double cream
    • 100g sugar
    • 3 tablespoons cornflour, sifted
    • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • heaping ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • 100g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • lightly whipped cream, for serving
    • flaky sea salt, for serving

    Method

    In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the milk, cream, sugar, cornflour, vanilla bean seeds, vanilla extract, and fine sea salt and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.

    Let the mixture boil just until it starts to thicken, 1½ to 2 minutes, then immediately remove the pan from the heat.

    In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Whisking constantly, slowly add 120ml of the hot milk mixture to the eggs.

    Pour it all back into the pan with the remaining milk mixture and cook, whisking constantly over low heat, until the mixture just starts to bubble.

    Place the dark chocolate in one mixing bowl and the white chocolate in another. Strain half the milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into each bowl. Whisk both until the chocolates are completely melted and the puddings are smooth.

    Transfer the dark chocolate pudding to a large serving bowl. Add the white chocolate pudding and gently swirl just to barely combine. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 6 hours, and serve with lightly whipped cream and flaky salt.

À Table: Recipes For Cooking And Eating The French Way by Rebekah Peppler (£21.99, Chronicle Books) is out now

Photography: © 2021 Joann Pai

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