Why Are French Supermarket Desserts So Damn Good?
The French are known for their decadent pâtisseries and airy croissants. But what if I told you their "desserts industriels" are worth a taste, too?
Growing up in the States, I was quite the dessert connoisseur. (My grandfather used to say I had a hole in my leg – in other words, no matter how much I ate, I always had room for an after-dinner sweet.) But when I moved to France, I got to know dessert on a whole new level.
Rather than busting out an entire cake or a tray full of brownies, the French (at least the ones I've met) would limit themselves to a small sweet treat after dinner, and even sometimes after lunch. More intricate pastries were saved for special occasions, while a plastic-enrobed confection from the dessert aisle at the local supermarket would do the trick on a random Tuesday evening.
And although some are misses, and they usually won't compare to a homemade version, most of these single-serving, ordinary, "industrial" desserts are total hits. With top-notch brands like Bonne Maman (you know the jams) and Rians, made with high-quality ingredients, the row of brightly colored packaging at the grocery store always makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. The choices are practically endless.
So, I decided to taste test some of my favorites for you. Allez, on va déguster !
First up, a tried-and-true classic that, naturally, wins a 5/5 rating in my book: Bonne Maman's fondant au chocolat, or chocolate lava cake. Just microwave for 10 seconds, and you have a warm, gooey delight that is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Next, another Bonne Maman sensation. Their mini tarte au citron meringuée (lemon meringue pie) has all the necessary components: a cookie crust, tart lemon curd and fluffy meringue. Obviously, it's difficult to ensure a perfect play of textures when your dessert has traveled hundreds kilometers and sat on a supermarket shelf, so we'll give this dessert a 4/5.
I was shocked when I first tried this Rians crème brûlée – sprinkle the packet of raw sugar on top, and it magically becomes crunchy, no blowtorch necessary (although it's even better if you have one on hand). The flecks of vanilla come through nicely, but it's still just a crème brûlée, quoi. 4.5.
Coup de coeur for this cappuccino Liégeois. Subtle coffee-flavored pudding topped with an airy whipped cream and oozing chocolate from its center, this Mamie Nova dessert was a dark horse (I'm not usually the biggest pudding fan). This will definitely make a reappearance in my shopping cart: I'm giving it a 5/5!
Finally, to really send our sugar high into overdrive, the U Saveurs (supermarket brand) speculoos tiramisu. Speculoos tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts – the nutty notes of the Biscoff cookie pair perfectly with the sweet, rich mascarpone cream. But this version just doesn't do it for me. The alcohol is just a bit too overpowering, and I didn't get the cookie crunch I was so hoping for. Just a 3/5 for our last dessert.