Forget heating up a donuts in the microwave.  If you want true decadence, the real crème de la crème of desserts, exploring the world of French cuisine is a must.  There exists an element to French desserts that can often be lacking in English speaking countries.  Many Anglophones view a fast food sundae or a pre-packaged, frozen cake as a legitimate dessert. Au contraire, in French cooking fresh, seasonal fruit is often involved, as well as savory nuts.

Take for example, the Pompe aux pomme du Perigord, hailing of course from the Perigord region of France.  This puff pastry involves fresh apples and slivered almonds.  Envision the autumn taste of your grandmother’s apple pie, but with an elegant French spin.  Fruit tarts, known as Tarte aux Fruits, can be found in bakeries all over France.  With fresh fruit arranged in beautiful patterns over the top of this short crust pastry, not only are they gorgeous to look at, you would almost think them healthy to eat.

Walnut cake, or Gateau aux Noix, is another well-known dessert from the Perigord region.  Indeed, this dish does boast the health benefits of walnuts.  It’s no coincidence that the Perigord region claims the second lowest rate of heart disease worldwide, in part thanks to walnuts and their cholesterol-lowering properties.

Yet another fruity delight, named after French politician and gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), is the Strawberry Savarin.  Strawberry Savarin is a buttery leavened cake reminiscent to strawberry shortcake, but a bit more refined.  Not only it is a summery delight, but it has the added benefit of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties offered by the phenols in the strawberries.

Of course, not every traditional French dessert involves fruit or nuts.  It would be almost blasphemous not to mention the famous crème brûlée (literally, burnt cream).  First mentioned in Francois Massialot’s 1691 cookbook, this rich custard is topped with a hardened caramel that is cracked with a spoon, and the opposing textures play together to stimulate more than just the sense of taste.  Though the traditional flavor is vanilla, even crème brûlée is sometimes flavored with lemon, orange, or coconut.  So skip the fast food ice cream, and try something a little more fresh and French.  Your taste buds won’t regret it.

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