Living The Sweet Life Around the Globe
Dessert: it’s something we crave. The crafting of exquisite pastries has been an international tradition for centuries—tempting both the palate and imagination with delicate fairy castles decorated with sweet fruit and spun sugar. The elegant presentation of a dessert tray often presents a predicament for those with a sweet tooth. Which will you choose? Is it the traditional crème brûlée, with its caramelized top—or delicate profiteroles stuffed with homemade pistachio ice cream? Or is it… no, wait… chocolate panna cotta? It’s an impossible choice—let’s get two and split them.
To get to the bottom of this sticky subject, we asked our experienced Travel Directors about some of the most iconic desserts in each region. Here are a few tasty ideas to help guide you where your sweet tooth beckons.
La Dolce Vita in Italia
Pastine di mandorle: These zesty almond flour cookies are baked in many parts of Italy—including the almond-growing region of Sicily. During our Italy: Sicily Guided Tour, Sicilian chef Daniela Adamo welcomes you to her rustic Sicilian kitchen where she shows you how to prepare these authentic Italian confections. As you walk along Sicily’s sundrenched seaside paths, you may notice groves of almond trees along the way—and in its charming medieval piazzas, you’ll find ample opportunities to sample the delicate confections inspired by its subtle flavor.
Torta della Nonna: This culinary classic from the golden hills of Tuscany literally means “Grandmother’s cake.” No one is sure whose grandmother first developed this lemony confection, but the iconic combination of pastry, custard, and pine nuts has been popular in Tuscany since the 18th century. There are many variations of this scrumptious dessert—but most are filled with pastry cream or ricotta and topped with pine nuts or slivered almonds. Find Torta della Nonna on our Italy: Tuscany & Umbria Guided Tour.
Cannoli: Of course, we would be remiss in our duty were we to omit the classic Sicilian dessert—cannoli. “But wait,” you may say. “I can get great cannoli right here.” And that’s where our Sicilian friends would beg to differ. In the eyes of these proud Italians, true cannoli cannot not exist beyond the Straits of Messina—do not be fooled by counterfeits! Furthermore, any cannolo that has been pre-filled isn’t worth the energy it takes to toss its soggy shell into the compost. According to Sicilian tradition, the shell of a true cannoli must remain empty until the last moment—when it’s filled with sweet, fresh ricotta and enjoyed before it loses its crunch. To find authentic cannoli, travel on our Italy: Sicily Guided Tour.
Let Them Eat French Pastry!
Mille-feuille: This classic French pastry incorporates multiple layers of puffed-up, buttery pastry. The name means “a thousand leaves,” and is called millfoglie in Italy. The pastry is simultaneously rich and light, flaky and creamy. Similar to a Napoleon—which traditionally uses almond cream—mille-feuille consists of crispy puff pastry layers filled with rich custard cream. The top is then garnished with glossy royal icing and elaborate whorls of dark chocolate. For an authentic mille-feuille, check out our France, Italy & Switzerland: The Mont Blanc Circuit Guided Tour.
Baba au rhum maison avec chantilly: The modern baba au rhum is a sweet, circular brioche-style cake served with dried fruit, whipped cream, and soaked in rum. It’s said to have been invented in the famous Rue Montorgueil in Paris, although a similar dessert has its origins in the 18th century royal court of Poland. There, the confection was soaked in Malaga wine and served only to the upper echelons of society. Today, the word “baba” in France usually refers specifically to the baba au rhum—which can be found in many high-end French restaurants. To experience the real baba au rhum, our France: Normandy & Brittany Guided Tour can’t be beat.
Nougat glacé de Montélimar: Originally developed in Marseille, Montélimar nougat has been an iconic Provençal dessert for centuries. Made from sweet lavender honey, almonds, and egg whites, Montélimar nougat is a traditional holiday dessert in Provence. It’s also used to create summertime confections—such as this delicate frozen treat. Blended with caramelized hazelnuts, the frozen nougat is served with raspberry coulis for a refreshing, tangy summer flavor. Discover this true Provençal delight at your own pace when you choose our France: Provence & St. Remy Self-Guided Tour.
The Quintessential English Dessert—Pudding
Sticky toffee and treacle puddings: Sticky toffee pudding, a iconic British dessert, gets its flavor from that oh-so British of beverages—black tea. The moist sponge cake gets its stickiness from chopped dates and rich toffee sauce—and is frequently served with vanilla custard or cream. It’s similar to its well-known sticky counterpart, treacle pudding—which is much like sticky toffee pudding but without the dates. These two decadent and delicious English puddings can be found on our England: Bath & the Cotswolds Guided Tour.
Canada Raises the Bar
Nanaimo bar: Nanaimo, a city in British Columbia, is home to the famous Canadian dessert, the Nanaimo Bar—savored by many as their favorite no-bake dessert. So dedicated are the denizens of Nanaimo to their eponymous confection that they developed a 34-stop Nanaimo Bar Trail. This sweet self-guided city tour features deliciously creative interpretations of the Nanaimo Bar—including a Nanaimo Bar Martini, Nanaimo Bar Fudge, Deep Fried Nanaimo Bar, and Nanaimo Bar Cake. The Nanaimo bar consists of three layers: a chocolate nut wafer on bottom followed by a central custard crème layer and smooth chocolate ganache on top. Nanaimo bars can be found throughout Western Canada. And for the love of all that’s sweet—when you join our Canada: Banff, Yoho & the Canadian Rockies Guided Tour and order a Nanaimo bar, don’t EVER call it a cookie!