One of my favorite things about traveling in Europe is the vast array of delicacies to satisfy my sweet tooth. Each country has its own specialty sweets made from recipes that have been handed down (and perfected) through generations of pastry chefs. Pain au chocolat in France, ensaimada in Spain, viennoiserie in Denmark…it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite. Here are my recommendations for tempting treats to try as you travel across the continent.
Head to the nearest patisserie (pastry shop) and grab a classic pain au chocolat (a croissant dough exterior surrounding a morsel of dark chocolate), a soleil (an apricot nestled in custard and surrounded by flakey croissant dough), or a réligieuse (two custard-filled pastries, stack and covered with a chocolate or coffee icing – it gets its name from its resemblance to a nun’s habit).
When in Germany, indulge in a bethmännchen – a pastry made from marzipan, powdered sugar, rosewater, flour and egg. The subtle almond flavor is just lovely. Another favorite of mine is the donauwelle – a cake (that is also popular in Austria) made with sour cherries, buttercream, and chocolate.
My favorite Spanish pastry is the ensaïmada de Mallorca – a rich pastry roll made with flour, eggs, sugar and a reduced pork lard called saïm that gives the ensaïmada its distinctive flavor. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a traditional Spanish flan (custard tart).
My go-to dessert in Italy is gelato – a rich, flavorful ice cream that comes in a variety of flavors. From time to time, I also like to treat myself to a zeppole – Italy’s answer to the donut. It’s a pastry made with deep-fried dough that’s rolled in powdered sugar and filled with sweet fruit or custard and topped with icing or cream.
The viennoiserie (originally from Vienna) has become the signature Danish pastry (typically referred to in America as a “Danish”). It’s made from rich pastry dough, various fruit fillings (my favorite is cherry), and finished with an egg wash and delicate icing.
Wishing you a sweet trip!