17 Tips to Learn French Pastry At Home
You’re a pro at baking brownies and your cakes are requested for every friend’s birthday. Your cookies are the star of every bake sale. But when it comes to your baking journey, you’re ready for something a little more challenging…like learning French pastry at home.
Does this sound like you? Then you’re not alone! I’ve been lucky enough to work with hundreds of home bakers just like you over the last several years, helping them learn French desserts, the easy way, at home. Desserts that will impress even the toughest critics, but won’t require hard-to-find ingredients or fancy tools to make in your own kitchen.
If you want to learn how to make French pastries and take your baking skills to the next level, then this post is for you. Keep reading for my top 10 tips for learning French pastry techniques.
10 Tips to Learn French Pastry at Home
Baking traditional French desserts often feels intimidating – even for experienced bakers. But there are plenty of easy French desserts you can make at home. Use these tips to get started.
Start with the Basics
The key with learning any new skill is to start small and gradually build your skills and your confidence. So don’t start with the hardest French pastry out there. Instead, begin with fundamental recipes like pâte brisée (shortcrust pastry) and pâte à choux (choux pastry). These serve as building blocks for many French pastries and are a great place to begin.
Invest in Quality Ingredients
Use high-quality butter, flour, eggs, and chocolate for the best results. Quality ingredients are crucial in French pastry. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to go to a fancy European market to gather ingredients. Instead, focus on buying the best quality options at your typical grocery store.
I recommend focusing on the main ingredient or flavor of the dish you’re making when it comes to buying better quality ingredients. Foe example, if you’re making a chocolate cake then get a nice chocolate. Even going from Nestle to Ghiradelli will make a difference!
Invest in Proper Tools
There are many easy French desserts to make at home that don’t require any equipment that most home bakers don’t already have. However, if you’re newer to baking you’ll want to make sure you have at least a few key items. Equip your kitchen with essential tools like a pastry scraper, rolling pin, piping bags, and a thermometer for accurate temperature control.
You’ll also need a whisk, spatula, a baking sheet, a muffin tin, a springform pan, a tart pan, a sieve, and a good kitchen scale. Need equipment inspiration? Learn more about the tools I keep in my baking studio and how I organize them.
Master the Techniques
One of the best ways to expand your baking skill set and learn French pastry at home is by trying to master techniques like whipping up egg whites, rolling doughs and piping. These basic techniques are very common in many French pastry recipes. Practicing each technique will make it easier to successfully follow a wide variety of recipes.
Find a French pastry cookbook that not only shares recipes, but also teaches you about these key techniques. My book, French Pastry Made Simple, is a great option!
Learn the Language
Familiarize yourself with French baking terminology and recipe names. This will help you understand recipes and techniques better. Some of the terms you’ll hear or read a lot when starting to learn French pastry at home include:
- Pâte Brisée: A type of flaky pastry dough often used for quiches and tarts.
- Pâte à Choux: A common pastry dough used to make treats like profiteroles & eclairs.
- Crème Pâtissière: Pastry cream used for filling éclairs, cream puffs, and tarts.
- Ganache: A rich mixture of chocolate and cream, used for fillings, glazes, or truffles.
- Macaron: A delicate meringue-based cookie sandwiched with various fillings.
- Éclair: A long, thin pastry filled with cream and topped with icing.
French pastry requires patience and precision. While treats like brownies and cookies don’t always require a lot of waiting, French pastry recipes can be very different. Allow doughs to rest and chill as needed, respect the temperatures of ingredients, and keep an eye out for certain textures as instructed.
Give yourself patience and grace, too! Learning a new skill isn’t easy and learning to make French desserts does require time. On the bright side, you get to eat a lot of desserts along the way!
Experiment and Innovate
Once you’ve mastered the basics, don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors and fillings to create your own unique pastries. That’s one of my favorite things about French desserts. Once you learn a few key recipes, like a tart crust, pastry dough or pastry creme, the combinations are endless!
You can use the same pastry dough and pastry creme recipes, add in new ingredients and flavors and make countless desserts.
Take Online Classes or Watch Tutorials
If you’re serious about getting better at baking, then taking French pastry classes online could be a great fit. With online pastry school classes, you can go beyond reading recipes in a cookbook and get step-by-step instruction as you bake.
Interested in signing up for online pastry classes? Check out Online Pastry School!
Online Pastry School is my monthly French pastry baking membership for bakers who want to make delicious French pastries from home, all year long.
Get new recipes, new video lessons and new resources every month and join an incredible community of French pastry enthusiasts who will be learning alongside you! Learn more about Online Pastry School and register now.
Keep a Notebook
Baking is basically science. To be a better baker, you need to act like a scientist! That means observing what’s happening with your baking, taking notes about any changes you made and refining your practices over time.
I recommend keeping a notebook just for baking. You can keep track of the recipes you’ve created, make notes about any changes you want to make next time or jot down mistakes you want to avoid in the future. This is exactly what I did when I started working at bakeries. I used an address book so I could quickly find recipes alphabetically.
Share Your Creations
This last step is definitely the most fun part of learning French pastry: share your desserts with friends and family! You’ll be sure to be a hit at all the parties and friends will be dying to stop by and try your latest creation.
Getting feedback is also invaluable as a baker. Tell your taste testers to be totally honest and let you know if things are too sweet, too salty, too dense or (hopefully) absolutely divine.
Ready to Learn French Pastry at Home?
If you’re ready to learn how to bake French desserts from the comfort of your kitchen, then it’s time to step into my atelier! Join me and my baking community in the Online Pastry School to master new French baking techniques every month.