The Dessert Dictionary Project

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éclair  France

An individual-sized dessert made with cream puff pastry (pâte à choux), most commonly filled with pastry cream and topped with one of several types of glaze (chocolate and caramel are the most typical).  Éclairs are usually the shape and size of a very small hot-dog bun.  More recently, some pastry chefs have begun to experiment with less common flavors, such as Elizabeth Falkner’s cassis-violet and raspberry-rose flavored éclairs pictured below.

Election Cake United States (18th-19th centuries)

In the early years of the United States, these huge cakes were baked for special occasions such as elections.  The usual recipe resembled what we now call a fruitcake.  For the earliest printed recipe in an American cookbook (these sorts of “great cakes” were common enough in England), see Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (1796), p. 43.

entremets France

The term, entremets, roughly follows the development of the French menu.  Pre-Revolutionary menus took the form of several courses where numerous dishes were served buffet-style–the so-called “service à la française.” The sequential service common today, referred to as “service à la russe,” was introduced in the 19th century.  Under the old way of serving, entremets were literally what was placed “entre les mets,” that is between the main dishes.  The entremets were often pastries both sweet and savory, but they could also include vegetables.  (In the late 1600s “hors d’oeuvres” meant roughly the same thing.)  By the late nineteenth century the term entremets became more restrictive and started to refer to an exclusively sweet course to be served after the cheese course.  The 1961 Larousse Gastronomique uses entremets as a synonym for dessert.   More recently (since the 1990s?) entremet (without the “s”) has come to mean a cake made up of layers of sponge cake and mousse.  This use is especially common in the United States but French pastry chefs also use it.

fairy cake UK

coming soon

far breton France

A dense, crusty custard or baked pancake typical of Brittany.  It is similar to clafouti though here dried prunes take the place of fresh cherries.

fastnachts United States

Plain yeast-based doughnuts associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch (Germans).  They are traditional to Shrove Tuesday (Fastnacht in German). Many recipes include mashed potatoes and occasionally replace the yeast with baking powder.  See also doughnuts.

figgy duff Newfoundland (Canada), UK

In Newfoundland, a figgy duff is a boiled pudding made with raisins, sweet spices and molasses.  The terms comes from the UK where it was dialect for fig pudding though (at least in Cornwall) there also used to be a baked cake of the same name.

filo (also phyllo) Greece, yufka Turkey

Paper-thin sheets of wheat-based dough. Unlike strudel dough, the pastry is not stretched but rather made by rolling the dough very thin, traditionally several layers at a time, with starch to keep them separated.  These sheets are then typically brushed with fat and layered once more before baking.

fios de ovos Portugal

This quintessentially Portuguese confection is  made by drizzling a batter of egg yolks into boiling syrup.  The result looks like a tangle of yellow vermicelli and has a chewy, almost rubbery texture.  These are most often used as an ingredient in other desserts.

Photo: Antonio Rosado from Doçaria Popular Portuguesa, 2004

financier France

coming soon...

flan France

A single crust tart that may be filled with either sweet or savory preparations.  While this is the most general meaning in French, it can occasionally also refer to set custards as in Spain; see below.

flan Spain, Latin America, pudím Portugal, crème caramel France

coming soon...

floating island UK, île flottante, oeufs à la neige France

Most commonly this is a dessert made by poaching meringues in sweetened milk and serving them with crème anglaise (vanilla custard sauce).  The 1961 edition of Larousse Gastronomique describes an île flottante as a sponge cake, cut in layers, soaked in kirsch and maraschino, reassembled, iced with crème chantilly (sweetened whipped cream) and served in a pool of crème anglaise while the meringue version is identified as oeufs à la neige. Both versions of the recipe show up earlier in English rather than French sources.

fried pie US

Essentially a fried turnover that uses the same ingredients as a classic American fruit-filled pie. These days, it’s mostly associated with the South;  Leslie Brenner, the  Dallas News restaurant critic tells me this one needs a pronouncer: “fraaahd paaah.”  That said, Yankees have a long tradition of fried pies too.  Yankee Notions, a collection of New England lore from 1852, gives a recipe for a nightmare that includes a fried pie as an ingredient:

“Just before going to bed, eat two pig’s feet and a fried pie.  In less than an hour you will see a snake larger that a hawser devouring eight blue-haired children who have just escaped from a monster with sorrel eyes and a red-hot overcoat.” (p. 120)

fritelle veneziane Italy

Egg-sized doughnuts made from a yeast dough scattered with candied fruit and spiked with a shot of grappa or anisette.