Whether you like them sinfully self-indulgent or slightly more wholesome, there's still nothing that can make your mouth water quite like the perfect dessert. Here are the best after dinner treats from across the globe.
Pavlova, New Zealand/Australia
Whether this famous dessert, with its light, meringue base, lashings of whipped cream and handfuls of fruit, was created in New Zealand or Australia remains a matter of hotly contested debate. What is certain, however, is that egg whites beaten to a stiff consistency with added sugar, white vinegar and cornstarch makes for one of the tastiest, crunchy soft desert sensations known to man. Especially when decorated with whipped cream and fruit, usually strawberries, peaches, kiwi or passion fruit.
Tiramisu – Italy
For a dessert that seems to have been unknown until 30 years ago, when it is believed to have been invented in the town of Treviso in northern Italy, Tiramisu quickly made its mark on international tastebuds, and today very few things seem as quintessentially Italian as this luscious dessert. Meaning ‘Pick me up’ in Italian, the layering of flavours, combining coffee, alcohol, a light airy mascarpone based zabaglione cream and chocolate, is the true innovation of this dessert.
Macarons – France
The macaron is a dessert of legendary proportions which easily transcends the cookie genre. Technically, it’s a pastry, in which two shells made from ground almonds, egg whites, icing sugar and sugar encase a delicate filling flavoured with a symphony of different flavours. It is believed that macarons made their way to the French court from Italy with the chefs of Catherine di Medici who married King Henry II of France in 1533. However the dessert really entered the popular imagination in 1792 when two nuns seeking asylum in Nancy during the French Revolution baked and sold macarons to support themselves and became known as the macaron sisters!
Black Forest Cherry Cake / Schwarzwälderkirschtorte – Germany
Sour Morello cherries and Kirchwasser (a double-distilled, clear cherry brandy made from these cherries) are widely produced in the Black Forest (Der Schwarzwald) region of southern Germany. Therefore, it is not surprising that desserts incorporating these ingredients have become staples of this region. Of these, Black Forest Cherry Cake is probably the most famous. The earliest version of the recipe dates back to the late 16th century and some suggest that it actually originated in Switzerland and travelled north to Germany.
Sticky Toffee Pudding – Great Britain
While Great Britain boasts a plethora of traditional puddings from sweet to savoury, Sticky Toffee Pudding is perhaps the modern classic. A light, moist cake, flavoured with chopped sticky dates and vanilla, served warm, soaked in a sticky toffee sauce, the pudding was invented by Francis Coulson, chef and owner of the Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel, in England’s Lake District around 1960 and has since travelled the world.
It is said that it takes 32 steps to prepare the perfect Sachertorte – although eating it only takes one.
Shrikhand – India
This deliciously creamy Indian dessert originates from the region of Gujarat. In its purest form Shrikhand is basically strained yogurt, hung to drain all of the liquid and then whisked with sugar and spices like cardamom and saffron. The result is a thick, sweet, creamy mixture served chilled with a sprinkling of nuts, often eaten in traditional Gujarati cuisine as part of a vegetarian platter, called Thali.
Umm Ali – Egypt
Umm Ali is a light fluffy pastry bathed in sweet milk, sprinkled with tangy dried fruits and nuts, baked in the oven to allow all the flavours to mingle into an incredible experience. The name Umm Ali literally mean’s Ali’s mother and dates back to Ottoman rule in Egypt. According to legend, a sultan stopped in a poor village looking for something to eat and the village’s best cook, named Umm Ali, made something akin to this dish. Today anyone can order it anywhere in Egypt and still be delighted.
Baklava – Turkey
The exact origin of Baklava is hard to pinpoint, because every ethnic group with Middle Eastern ancestry has laid claim to this scrumptious pastry at some time or another. And you can understand why. Probably dating back to Assyria in 8BC and made from layers of phyllo dough, stuffed with nuts and aromatic spices then drenched in sweet syrup and honey, this is the dessert of nobility and until the mid 19th century was considered an upper class delicacy.
Sachertorte – Austria
Rich, chocolaty and fruity, everything about Viennese Sachertorte screams decadence. For more than 175 years the Sachertorte has been considered as one of the world’s most sophisticated chocolate pastries. First created in the 1830s after Franz Sacher, a 16 year old apprentice working in a small pastry shop in Vienna was tasked with creating a totally new style of pastry, the sachertorte comprises two layers of slightly bitter chocolate cake, sandwiching a sweet, fruity apricot jam and sealed in a shiny dark chocolate glaze. A dollop of whipped cream was added on the side for traditionalists. It is said that it takes 32 steps to prepare the perfect Sachertorte – although eating it only takes one.
Engadine Nut Cake – Switzerland
While there might be several different recipes for nut cakes, the most popular originates from Engadine in Canton Graubunden, Switzerland. Containing caramelized walnuts and a heavy cream filling inside a traditional shortbread crust, this Swiss classic was first created in 1926 by Engadine baker, Fausto Pult who later went on the sell his nut cakes at an exhibition in Basel, which introduced the cake to the wider world. Loaded with calories, Nusstorte are usually cut into small pieces and served with coffee or tea.
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