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Delicious Desserts from Around the World

Posted by Editor on Aug 1, 2014

Delicious Desserts from Around the World

In an age when ethnic foods easily transcend borders and menus are bombarded with endless options, it’s hard to imagine that there are still some things that are not introduced to our palates. So much of our diet consists of dishes that are native to foreign lands but somehow there are always tastes that never get integrated into our meals. Around the globe, desserts may be enjoyed as the last course, but depending on what region you’re dining, it could be vastly different from what you’re used to. And though not every confection sounds as appetizing to Americans as apple pie, it doesn’t make them any less delicious.

Mont Blanc – Paris

Maybe this sounds familiar because you’ve heard of Mont Blanc itself. Or maybe you read a lot of Shelley back in the day. But, if you haven’t heard, Mont Blanc happens to be highest mountain in the Alps and falls between Italy and France. It’s been around forever, but in 1475, a dessert was created that shares its name. Like the mountain, the dessert really stands out. A Mont Blanc is made of pureed, sweetened chestnuts that are topped with whipped cream.

Pastel de Nata – Portugal

Monks have created a lot of great things over the ages like champagne, cheese that ripens, and delicious desserts. It’s thought that Catholic monks at a parish in Lisbon created pastel de nata using left over egg yolks. Many desserts that originate in the area are based around the yellow part of the egg because the whites were used to starch clothes. Today, these puffy, pastry tarts filled with slightly burnt custard are enjoyed all over the world.

Baklava – Turkey

Unlike some desserts, the history of Baklava isn’t all that easy to follow, as it’s not specific to one country, but to the region of the Ottoman Empire. (However, since it was a Turkish empire,so we’ll go ahead and let them claim Baklava as their own.) Baklava is a sweet pastry comprised of layers of phyllo dough that are filled with gooey honey, chopped nuts, and spiced with cinnamon. Traditionally, it’s served during Ramadan and has been for hundreds of years. The oldest recipe found dates back to 1330, where it’s listed in a Chinese cookbook under Turkish cuisine.

Pavlova – New Zealand

This creamy, rich dessert gets its name from the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who is widely regarded as one of the finest classical ballet dancers in all of history. In 1926, she toured the world and this dessert was created in her honor after she performed in New Zealand. Pavlova, the dessert, consists of meringue with a crisp crust that’s filled with sweet whipped cream and topped with berries and fruit. In New Zealand and Australia, it is eaten all year round, but is especially enjoyed during holidays and in the summer months.

Gulab Jamun – India

Popular throughout India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, this dessert is made of milk solids that are rolled into a ball with flour, deep fried and flavored with simple syrup, rosewater, and saffron. (So, they’re sort of like hush puppies or corn fritters only with milk products.) Galub jamun is a pretty major dessert and is common at festivals, weddings, and other important celebrations, such as Diwali (the Indian festival of lights).

Tang Yuan – China

“Round balls in soup” may not sound super appetizing, but without translation, tang yuan is delicious. Initially, tang yuan was eaten during the Yuanxiao festival to symbolize having families together and to bring luck into the New Year. They can be filled with sesame paste, nuts, or rock candy, be died fun colors, and are generally served in broth.

Diafuku Mochi – Japan

Similar in meaning and origin locale to tang yuan, daifuku mochi is a boiled rice cake that signifies good luck. Generally, these desserts come in two sizes: tiny and palm sized. They can be stuffed with anko or red bean paste, and are generally white, green, or pink. After the 18th century, they became really popular and are usually served in ceremonies and given as gifts.

Basbousa – Egypt

Native to the Eastern Mediterranean (with deep roots in Egypt) this sweet cake is usually made with semolina that’s been soaked in syrup. Then some coconut, almonds, and rosewater is added to create this authentic Egyptian dessert. Crumbly and moist, basbousa is often eaten with Arabic cream called qashta and enjoyed all year round.

Brazo de Gitana – Spain

Ever wonder what it was like to eat a gypsy’s arm? No one knows exactly why brazo de gitana is thus named (it literally means gypsy’s arm) but it’s so delicious that no one’s really hung up on the name. You probably already know this rich, creamy dessert as a Swiss roll (maybe you got a small, not-so-gourmet one in your lunch box when you were little). Anyway, the full-size version has become very popular all over the world, especially in Spain and South American countries. They’re made of cake that’s filled with butter cream or jam and can be coated with icing, chocolate, meringue, or burnt cream.

Quindim – Brazil

Quindim may not look great, but then, neither do a lot of foods that turn out to be delicious. Like many Portuguese desserts, this custard is made chiefly with egg yolks and sugar. Quindim is bright yellow and flavored using sugar and coconut. It’s served upside down so that there is a crust, sort of like a translucent, lemon-hued Bundt cake.

So, the next time you’re perusing a dessert menu and see something you don’t know, try it. Or, if you’re looking for a new recipe, make something different than usual. Sure, there’s a chance you won’t like it (there’s that chance with anything – even an old favorite), but 9 times out of 10, these fabulous desserts from all over the world will leave you sweetly surprised.

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