10 European Desserts to Try

One of the things I love about travel is trying all the different foods that countries are famous in each area.  I try to do a little research before traveling to make sure I know what I should try.  I found the following article helpful and can’t wait to try the following.  I do not have recipes attached, but I might have to start finding them and trying them at home.

On The Great British Bakeoff, Paul Hollywood had the contestants attempt to makePastéis de Nata, and it was not one of the more successful endeavors, so not sure if I am going to try that one.

Europe’s cultural diversity manifests itself in its cuisine, from Italian pasta to French escargot. But for those travelers with a sweet tooth, this appetizing variety extends to the continent’s many mouthwatering desserts. Forget about your diet if you’re planning a trip soon, here are ten European desserts you have to try.

Rødgrød

Rødgrød
You’ll find fruity rødgrød if you visit Denmark, but the similar rote grütze can be found just across the border in northern Germany. Served hot or cold, it’s bursting with summer berries like redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, and blackberries. The fruit is cooked with sugar and some form of starch, like semolina or potato starch is added to make the pudding. Custard or cream often accompanies the dish to balance the acids in the fruit.

Pastéis de Nata

Pastéis de Nata
Pastéis de Nata is the traditional Portuguese custard tarts that are small enough to fit in your mouth in one go. The best place to find them is in the Pastéis de Belem bakery that’s been churning them out in their millions since 1837. The proof of the quality is in the length of the queue, which snakes around the block whatever the time of day. They sell about 50,000 of these delicious tarts every day, which surely makes them a contender for western Europe’s favorite dessert.

Gelato

gelato
Italy’s dessert menu might encompass tiramisu, pannacotta, and zabaglione (all fabulous!) but its gelato is legendary the world over. Every imaginable flavor can be found, on street corners, at pavement cafes, and in fancy restaurants. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the same as ice cream, however. If what you see is heaped high above the edges of the container, it’s full of air and not the real deal.

Clafoutis

Clafoutis
This baked French dessert originates from the Limousin region and was popularized in the 19th century. It is usually made with black cherries, though raspberries, plums or blackberries are occasionally substituted. The fruit lines a baking dish and a thick batter is poured over the top. Traditionally, the cherry stones are left in, adding an almond-like flavor to the dish.

Apfelstrudel

Apfelstrudel
Apfelstrudel is one of Austria’s greatest exports. Layers of thinly-rolled dough are filled to bursting with sweet apples, juicy raisins and a liberal measure of cinnamon. The first recipe dates from Vienna in 1696 and it’s just as popular today in the city’s many coffee houses.

Sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding
Peruse the menu in any British gastropub and you’re almost guaranteed to find sticky toffee pudding. This dense, dark pudding is topped with lashings of toffee sauce and served with cream, ice cream or custard. It’s rich, so save plenty of room for dessert if you plan to try it.

 

Flan

Flan
A flan is not a flan when it’s from Spain. Instead of receiving a small tart or quiche, order flan in Spain and you’ll be presented with a tasty crème caramel. To make it, a caramel syrup lines a mold and warm custard are poured on top. It’s cooked in a water bath to ensure the custard doesn’t curdle and flipped over to serve once cooked and set.

Waffles

Waffles
If there’s one dessert synonymous with Belgium, then it’s surely waffles. Known as gaufre to the nation’s French speakers and waffels to Flemish speakers, the two most popular kinds hail from Brussels and Liege. Buy one from a street stall and eat it straight from the paper, dusted with icing sugar. In a cafe, you’ll find them served with fruit compote, Nutella or Chantilly cream, but hold off on the maple syrup as that’s not the way it’s done on home turf.

 

Baklava

Baklava
Layer upon layer of rich, flaky filo pastry bound together with sweet honey and lavishly sprinkled with nuts, baklava is understandably the Greeks’ most popular sweet treat. But though they’ll argue the toss, it actually originated in the city of Istanbul in Turkey before migrating east. That’s still Europe, at least in part. Wherever you try it, it’s delicious.

Black Forest Cherry Gateau

Black Forest Cherry Gateau
Germans know a thing or two about cake, but its most famous cake is not quite what it appears. That signature bake, Black Forest Cherry Gateau, was invented, so they claim, in 1915 at the Café Agner in Bad Godesberg near Bonn. It’s so popular it even has its own food festival. The key ingredient is the “Schwarzwälder kirschwasser”, a potent cherry brandy which made its way across the border from Switzerland but is named after the Black Forest region of Germany. Without the kirsch, it’s just a chocolate and cherry cake.

10 European Desserts to Try

Chocolate Caramel Cake

This is my go-to cake for special occasions, as every always loves it. But you do have to love chocolate ~ Caramel ~ English Toffee!  It is a simple recipe, but the add-ins make it rich and delicious.

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The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (King Arthur available at Amazon)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • One jar of the best caramel topping you can find, kept in the refrigerator to make it harder.
  • English Toffee
  • Big Malted Milk Balls

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350º F.   Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring. Then line with 9″ round parchment paper and spray again.  (I buy the pre-cut rounds by Wilton – available at Walmart)
  • For the cake:
  • Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  • Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
  • Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center, comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.
  • Using a serrated bread knife, cut each layer in half so you have four layers.
Putting it together:
  • Make the Chocolate Buttercream recipe shown below.  Pipe or spoon a ridge of the buttercream all around the outside of the first layer.
  • Fill the center with the now hardened caramel
  • Put on the second & third layer and repeat
  • Frost the cake with rest of the frosting (there always seems to be a bit too much)
  • Put the English Toffee in a ziplock bag and crush with your rolling pin or meat pounder.
  • Decorate how you like with the Malted Milk Balls

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
  2. Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
  3. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
  4. Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.
  5. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

Serve with Champagne and have a wonderful time.

Chocolate Caramel Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

One of the young women I work with has a birthday today.  Since she likes to eat gluten-free. I decided to make a Flourless Chocolate Cake.  My “go to” for recipes is America’s Test Kitchen, so I pulled a couple of recipes from online and made one.  I don’t know if I did not follow the directions perfectly or what, but it looked awful and all the butter in it melted to the bottom of the pan in a big goo.  That baby hit the trash.

Luckily I bought extra chocolate and made King Arthur’s version as it had received five starts.  It looks pretty darn good.  Flourless

This flourless cake, featuring both chocolate and cocoa is RICH! A chocolate ganache glaze takes it over the top. Since it contains neither flour nor leavening, it’s perfect for Passover and those following a gluten-free diet.

Cake

  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process cocoa preferred

Glaze

  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan; cut a piece of parchment to fit, grease it, and lay it in the bottom of the pan. See “tips,” below.
  2. To make the cake: Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the butter is melted and the chips are soft. Stir until the chips melt, reheating briefly if necessary. You can do this over a burner set at a very low heat. Transfer the melted chocolate/butter to a mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in the sugar, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla. Espresso enhances chocolate’s flavor much as vanilla; using 1 teaspoon will simply enhance the flavor, while 2 teaspoons will lend a hint of mocha to the cake.
  4. Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake the cake for 25 minutes; the top will have formed a thin crust, and it should register at least 200°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into its center.
  7. Remove it from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 5 minutes.
  8. Loosen the edges of the pan with a table knife or nylon spreader, and turn it out onto a serving plate. The top will now be on the bottom; that’s fine. Also, the edges will crumble a bit. Allow the cake to cool completely before glazing.
  9. To make the glaze: Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, but not simmering. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is completely smooth.
  10. Spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it to drip over the sides a bit. Allow the glaze to set for several hours before serving the cake.
  11. Yield: 8″ cake, 8 to 12 servings.

Tips from our bakers

  • You line your pan with wax paper instead of parchment. While wax paper shouldn’t be exposed to direct oven heat, it’s fine when used between cake batter and pan.
  • If desired, garnish cake with 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a 350°F oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. I used Chocolate Curls described below. 
  • For cleanest slicing, use a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry. Repeat dipping knife in hot water and wiping dry for each slice.

I added chocolate curls and yellow M & M’s since the Birthday Girl hates yellow.  Thought it might be funny.

How to Make Chocolate Curls

 Ingredients
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons butter (or shortening)

Instructions

  1. Melt chocolate & butter in the microwave on 30% power until smooth.
  2. Pour onto the underside of a baking pan using an offset spatula to spread the chocolate thin as possible.
  3. Place in the freezer for 3-4 minutes or until firm. Using a spatula or scraper, scrape the chocolate off the pan and make curls. If the chocolate begins to soften too much, pop it back into the freezer for a couple of minutes.
  4. Once curled, place the pan back in the fridge until ready to use. Transfer the curls to your dessert using a spatula.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake

The Birthday Party

Birthday Girl

Every grandmother should have the opportunity to have a birthday part for their granddaughter.  It brings joy to all involved, but I didn’t realize is that it also brought stress.  (in a good way)

It had been about twenty or more years since I had a party for kids.  My sons are grown and in their thirties.  Back in the day it was very easy for me.  One of my sons was born the day before Halloween, so we had a scary ghost and dunk for apples, eat the donuts off the rope line, walk through the cardboard castle, filled cooked spaghetti worms, grape eyeballs and etc.  The other two sons were born in the summer, so we had outdoor scavenger hunts, big picnics at the park and always had a wonderful clown named Flutterby, who came with chicks and ducks.

My beautiful granddaughter, Claire has a birthday in December.  In Washington that means you either have a party in the house, or go somewhere like Chucky Cheese.  Being there is not Chucky Cheese close by, I volunteered to have it at my house.  Luckily Claire had been here most of the summer and made some friends at the local Boys and Girls Club.  I was worried about getting anyone to attend.

I love to entertain and usually find it quite easy; but to entertain a group of seven year olds, I was now out of my league.  I asked a former student for some advice and the director of the Boys and Girls Club and we came up with a plan.  I told my sons I was more worried about this than a dinner party with six courses, as it had been a long time since I had been around that many children.

So the plan came into being.  The party would be Saturday morning from 10 AM till 12 PM.  We would make personal pizzas, have a first floor scavenger hunt, play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, eat cake and ice cream and open presents.  By the day before we had nine children that were going to come.  I had baked a cake for the party and a cake for our more formal dinner at a restaurant.  I had party favors, had ordered the donkey game online, as no one sells it anymore, and made a scavenger hunt of funny stuff.

Pizzas went well, but I did not make enough red sauce.  My sons organized the lines and the cooking and getting the right pizza to the right person. My husband made Mimosas for the adults and everything actually went well.  The scavenger hunt started and I realized within minutes, they did not need twenty minutes to find everything and reset the timer to five more minutes.  Four of the nine found everything on the list, so there went my prizes.

Pin the tail on the donkey was next.  I learned that you had to put tape on each tail, as I seemed to have forgotten and having a solid mask was sort of important. One of parents handed me tape for each one.  The one that was closest to where the tail belongs got cake and ice cream first after Claire. It was her birthday and even though she did get the tail directly in the appropriate spot, we had to change the see-through blind fold.

Cake & ice cream was a breeze and even though I took the ice cream out too soon and it was pretty melted, it seemed to be eaten just fine.  Only had to wipe a little off the floor and luckily had enough chocolate milk containers for all.  As gifts were being opened, I thanked everyone for coming and for their gifts.

All that worry and it went quite well.  Claire had such a good time, she took a two hour nap (her choice) in the afternoon and then we all went out to dinner.  Then I came home and went to bed.  Tired Grandma!

The Birthday Party

Happy Easter

Easter was always a special day in our lives when my sons were young and we were a family of five.  The boys were dressed alike, of course I had a new hat with matching dress or visa versa and we all went to church and shared Easter Egg hunts and Pot Luck brunches at one of our houses.  It was a wonderful of great friends, good food and happy children chasing around the yards in a frenzy looking for the best egg or surprise, as we hid trucks and etc.

As the years passed and the boys grew and we moved away from that community, Easter has become quieter.  I no longer have that great group of friends to say to “Come on over and bring the kids”, so it looks differently these days.  My youngest son came to dinner, so I had a lovely morning cooking.

Paul Hollywood’s Chocolate Almond Cake is wonderful with a cherry infusion and chocolate ganache frosting.  After a taste we sent it next door to my neighbor having a bigger get together.  Dinner was simple with a butterflied, rolled and stuffed leg of lamb.  Using Giada De Laurentils recipe, it was a tad dry, so would add a stock bath in the pan next time.  The Arugula Salad sitting on Ricotta was tasty, but I would use a lot less dressing than she called for in her recipe.  The Artichoke Risotto was perfection.

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Happy Easter

Searching for the Perfect Italian Dessert

A group I belong to is having an Italian Dinner, so I thought it would be fun to make the dessert.  Doing a little research, I decided an Almond Cake with Whipped Cream laced with Gran Marnier would be one good one, but my favorite might be Tiramisu.  I have not made one, so tried two different recipes and invited my good friends, who just happened to be Italian for a tasting.  It was impulsive and fun.

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The first recipe used Ladyfingers laced with dark rum, but I did not think the presentation was very pretty.  But is surely did taste

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The second Tiramisu was made with two sponge cakes cut in half and laced with brandy. This one is much prettier, but the brandy was not as good.  So for the final it will be a combination of the two.

Be sure not to leave Ladyfingers out if you have a cat.  They were all over the floor in the morning.  I don’t think he ate many of them, but he sure did make a mess.

I find baking soothes my soul.  On a gray day, (which we have a lot in Washington) it makes my happy.  I don’t really ever eat what I cook, so pass it on to friends.  My local Fire Department is the recipient of many desserts.  I never baked too much when I was younger as I was always busy with my three sons.  They are grown, I am mostly retired and do not sit around very well.

Yesterday I made a Caramel Chocolate Cake, that tastes a lot better than it looks.  My step sons came by and loved it.  The caramel frosting did not set up, so it just kept rolling off the top, kind of like a slow lava lamp.

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It is wrapped and ready to go to the local firemen.  I have not gotten any complaints yet.  Chocolate – Cake – Caramel – FREE!  No wonder no complaints.

I think people need to do what ever they need to do to be happy.  Baking makes me happy, so I bake.  Do something to make yourself happy every day.

Searching for the Perfect Italian Dessert

It’s more than just a cake

Claire and the Cake

Sometimes it is more than just making a cake. It is joy; it is pleasure, is the happiness of sharing time together and the fun of putting the fun decorations on a simple chocolate cake.  It is the pleasure of knowing young people at the office where my son works got to have a piece.  Actually the half that we sent into Nokia disappeared before 10 AM with email announcement or notice.  Guess they liked, but there is the notion that it is difficult not to like chocolate.

Claire, my four year old granddaughter has such a good time sticking the chocolate rolls into the frosting and sharing with dad, my son, when he came home.  For me, it her working so hard to mix the cake by hand, working the ingredients together and laughing throughout the entire process.

Joy is where you least expect it.   Baking a cake with a good friend is right up with the best things to do.  And I don’t even eat cake, but I do steal a little of the frosting…..

It’s more than just a cake

Why is baking a cake Relaxing

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Sometimes I wonder why stopping to bake a cake for no really good reason is calming and enjoyable.  In the middle of learning systems for real estate, learning lead systems and trying to respond to every email I received, it is just nice to take a little time and make a cake.

I eat Gluten-free, so I won’t even eat the cake, but I know my husband will like a little and now I can take the rest to my real estate office.  It is so much like summer it just seemed an Angel Food Cake with a little chocolate ganache and strawberries might be good for the soul.

Enjoy!

Why is baking a cake Relaxing