This Bastille Day I have chosen to celebrate with three of the many fine French sweet delights.
When thinking of things French, a certain undeniable style and elegance springs to mind. But food is really foremost - in my mind at least - and while garlic and beaujolais may be favourite pleasures, French baking is worth celebrating.
Madeleines are pretty, delicate little cakes baked in specifically designed shell-shaped moulds for a short amount of time. This makes them a charming alternative to a muffin or friand with your morning cafe au lait. They are lovely flavoured with lemon and honey, dusted with icing sugar and served with a little cream.
The apple tart is a French classic with its irresistible golden pastry, fine layers of apple and sticky glaze. It's not at all difficult to make but looks and tastes impressive and is perfect for a slice of sweetness in the afternoon. Just remember to slice the apple as finely as possible and brush with warm jam to make it gorgeously glossy. Or you could use apple or pear syrup as an alternative.
Whatever you decide to eat for dinner to celebrate Bastille Day - grappling with a large bowl of garlic butter snails can make for an entertaining dinner party - serving a clafoutis for dessert will keep everyone very happy. Traditionally made with cherries, but also good with plums, blackberries or prunes, this is French peasant cooking at its best. A simple pancake-type batter is poured into a buttered dish over fruit and baked until puffed and golden. Served warm with the added flavours of vanilla and amaretto, this dessert is anything but ordinary.
Madeleine moulds have a unique pattern and shape. They are usually sold in a tray of 12 and are available from specialist kitchenware stores. If not making your own puff pastry, look out for pastry made with butter for a much better flavour and flakiness.By Amanda Laird Email Amanda