French Desserts – Hillary Davis

Hillary Davis‘ has done it again – another gorgeous cookbook spilling over with delectable recipes in her new title, French Desserts. This may be my new favorite from her collection. Hillary’s books are always special, well tested and teeming with unique recipes.

The book itself is striking from its eye-catching cover of the Giant Break-and-Share Cookie, to the photographs of the vibrant French countryside and city markets; it will make you long for a trip across the ocean to experience France in all its glory.

Hélène’s Grandmother’s Rice Pudding Cake Bathed in Caramel, Pumpkin Seed Tuiles, Grand Marnier Mousse, and a stunning Fresh and Dried Fruit Salad in Sweet Basil Syrup are examples of a few of innovative recipes from this title. The classics are here such as Breton Butter Cookies and Chocolate Sables.  Wonderfully helpful are Hillary’s delineation of time committments necessary for making the dishes: Longer, quicker and so forth. 

I have made the Orange Madeleines with Orange Glaze a few times now. They are truly magical because they disappear. Light perfect crumb, incredible flavor and so easy to make. These madeleines are foolproof with Hillary’s great instructions. 

Special thanks to Hillary and her publisher, Gibbs-Smith, for allowing us to share two recipes from French Desserts: the Giant Break-and-Share Cookie from the cover and the Orange Madeleines. Be sure to enter our giveaway post for a chance to win a copy of this wonderful book.

Le Broyé du Poitou (Cover cookie)

In 2004 a group called the La Confrérie de l’Ordre des Chevaliers de la Grand Goule formed to protect and promote the tradition of making of this giant cookie, a specialty of the Poitou-Charentes region of France.

It’s a cookie worth protecting and promoting. Recognizable by its criss-cross pattern made with a fork across the top, and by its great size, it is a communal cookie, brought out for people to share after mass, baptisms, weddings, community dinners, and even inaugurations. Once I heard about it, I had to try to find a recipe. This one is adapted from the official recipe on the Confrérie’s web site. I can’t stop eating it, and I have to admit it may be my favorite cookie of all time. It tastes a lot like shortbread, and is great dipped into tea or with a glass of milk.


3 3⁄4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1⁄4 cups granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons salted chilled butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 large egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 6 times.  Add the butter and process until the mixture is granular in texture. Whisk the egg and rum in a small bowl, add to the food processor, and process just until a ball forms. If it is still too dry to form a ball, add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time until it comes together into a ball.

Place the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap. Press it down into a circle with the palms of your hands. Transfer to the baking sheet, removing and discarding the plastic wrap, and continue shaping and pressing the disk until it is 1⁄2 inch thick and approximately 10-11 inches across. Pinch all the way around the edges to create a decorative wave pattern. Beat the egg yolk and brush it across the top and down the sides. Drag the tines of a fork from one end to the other several times to create a large crisscross pattern.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes on the baking sheet then carefully slip it off onto a large round plate. To serve, present the whole cookie and let people break off pieces like they do in Poitiers. TIP: Some families scatter slivered almonds over the top before baking. You can also form this dough into mini or individual 1⁄2-inch-thick cookies if you wish.

Les Madeleines Glacées à l’Orange LONGER | MAKES 24 MADELEINES

“And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane.”- Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
Although technically not a cookie, I serve these small shell-shaped cakes like I would cookies, with tea or coffee after dinner. Madeleine baking pans have scallop-shaped indentations that give them their unique shape. If you don’t have one, use mini muffin tins to make buttery, soft mini cakes A specialty of Commercy in northeastern France, madeleines became popular with Louis XV’s court at Versailles, and later became popular all over France.



1 organic orange, microplaned for zest then juiced
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick salted butter, melted and still warm


3⁄4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Enough orange juice to make spreadable glaze


Divide the orange zest into 2 piles. Make the batter by hand, not using an electric mixer, to ensure tender madeleines. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar to combine. Whisk in half of the orange zest, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon orange juice. Sift in the flour and baking powder and stir to just combine. Pour in the butter and whisk to just combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour the madeleine tins and put them in the freezer until ready to use so that the butter hardens. Pour the batter into the madeleine tins until just filled, trying for a mound in the center. If you are making large madeleines, they will take 14-16 minutes to bake until puffed and golden brown on top. Small ones will take approximately 8-10 minutes. Cool in pans for 2 minutes before removing.


Mix the confectioner’s sugar with just enough orange juice to make an opaque, thick, yet spreadable glaze. Spread over each Madeleine with a pastry brush, sprinkle the remaining orange zest over the tops, and allow to dry for about 20 minutes before serving.

Cover photo credit: Steven Rothfeld
Photo of madeleines: Jenny Hartin 

Post a comment


  • rchesser  on  October 10, 2016

    Thanks for the great review and recipes!

  • rchesser  on  October 10, 2016

    Macarons are on my French confectionery list to master, so far I have failed 2 of 3 times.

  • annieski  on  October 28, 2016


  • Randalb  on  October 28, 2016

    Definitely Kouign Amann

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