As you may know, trying native cuisine is one of the best ways to learn about a new culture. When I travel, a large portion of my budget is spent on said cuisine. Oftentimes my down-time is spent meandering and, therefore, eating — and what’s better than lunch and dinner? Dessert. For this reason, I have rounded up a list of the European desserts that I find myself continuously drooling over. Of course, you should experience all of the culinary treats that Europe has to offer, but make sure you save some room for dessert!
Stroopwafel is a common Dutch dessert consisting of two thin wafer cookies that are held together by a caramel syrup. This simple treat is chewy, melt-in-your-mouth, perfection and is best consumed fresh. It is often sold by street vendors and at open-air markets. It can also be found in bakeries, however I recommend eating them fresh and warm from the street vendors! These delicious treats are cheap; you can find a single serving for no more than €2, with multiple selling for under €5. Stroopwafel also make great souvenirs because they are thin and durable for travelling, and can be reheated by placing them over a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea. They also go great with ice cream!
Traditionally found at holiday markets and during New Years, these deep fried balls of sweet dough are delicious, cheap, and perfect for sharing. When prepared correctly, they are crisp on the outside, and soft and warm on the inside. Oliebollen usually come in two variations: with or without raisins, and are served with powdered sugar. Another cheap Dutch street food, a single Oliebollen should cost you no more than €2. They are often sold in bulk for sharing, but we wouldn’t blame you for eating the whole bag yourself.
📷: Corinne Poleij
Pastel de nata
A creamy egg custard middle surrounded by a golden, flaky pastry. Yes please! Pastels de nata (AKA confeitaria) are made with a similar filling to that of crème brûlée; however, they are not broiled as much, which means the top of the pastry does not turn into a solid, sugary crust. They are also not quite as sweet. Pastels de nata are found in almost every Portuguese bakery, as well as prepackaged on store shelves. I would advise against purchasing them from kiosks or prepackaged because they tend to be soggy when not consumed fresh. Individually, these small pastries cost about €1, but they could easily be consumed by the hoards!
Tarte au citron meringuée
Citron = lemon. Meringuée = meringue. Although you might already be familiar with lemon meringue pie, citron meringuée from France will blow you away. The French flair for pastry and dessert-making is second to none, and these deserts are no exception. Citron Meringuée can be found at just about any pâtisserie. They are sold by the slice for around €2.50 to €4.
Crumble aux fruit
Crumble aux fruit is a fruit crumble consisting of a crisp pie base that is softened by the fruit juices, fruit filling, and a browned butter and crumbled sugar mixture on top. The two variations I like best are crumble aux fruit rouges, which is filled with a mix of red berries, and crumble aux fruit pommes or apple crumble. If you like fruit, this is the dessert for you! The crumbles are sweet and tangy, with a crisp top layer and a gooey fruit filling to satisfy all of your textural needs. Crumble aux fruit can be found at just about any pâtisserie, selling by the slice for around €2.50 to €4.
The madeleine is a small, buttery sponge cake baked in a traditional shell shape. The petite madeleine is a smaller version of the original, fitting roughly in the palm of your hand. Madeleines often have lemon flavouring, which makes them enjoyable by themselves or paired with jam and coconut flakes on top. They are the perfect treat because they are not too sweet, they are portable, and they go well with tea or coffee. Fresh madeleines are found at pâtisseries, but pre-packaged versions can be found at all markets and supermarkets. The price for a single Madeleine is around €1, with a single petite madeleine costing from €0.20 – 0.70.
A traditional French Macaron is a meringue based confection between two light, fluffy cookies (no one does meringue like the French!). Flavors can be extremely varied from traditional vanilla, chocolate, and numerous fruits, to green tea or salted caramel, so there is something for everyone to enjoy. It is important to note that many macaroons contain ground almonds or almond powder, so people with nut allergies beware! Although macarons can be found in most pâtasseries, there are shops all over Paris that specialize solely in macarons. Prices vary from €1.50 to €4 for a single macaron. They are also commonly sold in groups of 6, 12, etc. My personal favourite macaron shop in Paris is run by a Japanese chef by the name of Sadaharu Aoki.
The nougat I’m referring to here is the traditional white nougat, made of sugar or honey, whipped eggs, roasted nuts (specifically walnuts, almonds, or pistachios), and sometimes chopped fruits depending on flavor. The consistency of nougat is extremely chewy and its also extremely sweet. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of nougat, but it can be found at almost any open market in France and is definitely worth a try so you can decide for yourself!
Arguably the most traditional and recognizable French dessert/street food, the crêpe is similar to an extremely thin pancake. They are most often sold from street vendors, known as crêperies, and prepared in front of the customer on a round, flat surface and then folded to contain an assortment of ingredients. Crêpes can be served with sweet fillings such as nutella, fruit, honey, sugar, maple syrup, and sweet cream; as well as savory options like cheese, vegetables, eggs, and ham. Crêpes are quintessentially French and great for the traveller who wants to eat on the go! A crêpe should not cost you more than a few euros, even if you have filled it to the brim with ingredients!
Apple strudel or Apfelstrudel
A classic in many countries thanks to its delicious flavour, portability, and use of an abundantly available fruit- the apple; this German/Austrian treat consists of a pastry wrapped around a warm apple filling often made with green apples, butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Strudel can be found in restaurants and cafes, prepackaged for sale in markets, and also sold by street vendors. It is best consumed warm and goes well with ice cream. Prices vary from €2 to €3.50.
This German dessert consists of a berry medley, usually red currants but sometimes also strawberries, raspberries, or cherries, cooked together to make a gelatin/pudding. It is then served over ice cream, German rice pudding or milchreis, or vanilla sauce, and is traditionally found as a restaurant desert. This is a lovely, traditional treat after a German meal and can be found on most menus for roughly €5 to €7.
This pastry originated from northern Germany, but it can be found at almost any bakery in the country. It is similar in taste to a cinnamon roll, consisting of bread layered with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, and resembles a French croissant. Franzbrötchen cost about €1 and are just as commonly enjoyed for breakfast as they are after dinner.
Bukta is one of my favorite desserts. It is basically a sweetbread filled with jam or poppy seeds, or, if you are lucky, cocoa! Bukta can also be served as a meal staple and be filled with cottage cheese or cheese curds so beware upon ordering! It was served to me during a family meal and is traditionally made at home, but if you are ever offered bukta do not deny it!
A traditional Sicilian dessert, cannoli are made from a fried pastry dough moulded into a tube and then filled with a creamy ricotta filling. They can also be topped with chocolate, nuts, or dried fruits, and sometimes even citrus flavoured cream. I recommend a plain cannoli or one topped with pistachios. Cannoli sizes vary quiet largely: some are roughly the size of your finger while others would not even fit in the palm of your hand. Whatever size you try, be sure to look for bakeries that fill the cannoli “shell” upon ordering for the freshest experience!
Panettone is a traditional northern Italian sweetbread served around the winter holidays. Visually, it has a cylindrical shape and you will notice it is often quite “taller” than many loaves of bread you are familiar with. When prepared correctly it will have a beautiful golden-brown sheen on top, yet will remain moist in the middle. Panettone can contain nuts, candied fruit, and sometimes chocolate. It can be found at most panetterias in Italy and, depending on size, should not cost more than €7.
This yogurt-like dish is the perfect after lunch dessert when you are looking for something sweet that is not overly-filling. It consists of a sweet cream base that often has a warm fruit mixture poured over it that is then cooled to give a really beautiful layer effect – and a delicious balance of creaminess and tartness! Panna cotta is a northern Italian treat, which is why it is also common in France. In both of these places is can be picked up in most cafes and to-go markets, and should not cost you more than €6.
📷: Theerawan Bangpran