Americans love their sweet desserts. Two of the most loved treats in the U.S., chocolate chip cookies and brownies, were both invented by American bakers. However, every culture has something to soothe a mean sweet tooth. Mixtures of sugar and spice, crunchy and gooey, and fruity and crisp can be found worldwide.
Baklava is best known as a Middle-Eastern treat made from crispy layers of puff pastry alternating with sweet honey and rich nuts. It’s dense yet crispy and sweet without being overpowering. It’s a highly sophisticated dessert, yet it’s also traditionally made in home kitchens throughout Turkey, Greece, and other Middle Eastern countries.
When first invented, most ingredients in baklava were difficult to attain. Honey and nuts are plentiful in the region, but making delicately crisp filo dough by hand requires skill and patience. Today, premade filo dough makes it easier for bakers of all skill levels to create sweet, nutty triangles of baklava themselves.
True to Japanese culinary tradition, mochi is simple, not overly sweet, and incredibly satisfying. It is sometimes described as Japanese ice cream but is actually a combination of a glutinous rice flour dough and sweet red bean paste. Modern versions of mochi found in the supermarket are typically small scoops of ice cream surrounded by the traditional chewy rice dough.
Whether filled with bean paste or ice cream, mochi is also hearty. One small mochi ball contains approximately one whole serving of rice. This dessert is traditionally served in religious rituals and Japanese New Year celebrations.
Fans of the Sicilian treat known as cannoli (singular) or cannolo (plural) may think it’s the quintessential Italian dessert, but cannolo is a delicious example of cultures merging their traditional cuisines. The candied citrus often used in the creamy ricotta cheese filling of a cannoli is evidence of Arabian influence on Sicilian cuisine.
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Kashata is a brittle candy that originates from East Africa. It is made from peanuts, fresh coconut, spices, and caramelized sugar. The “secret” ingredient that makes kashata stand out is cardamom. The delicate aroma and flavor of cardamom bring this version of peanut brittle to a new culinary level.
The concept is simple: fried dough covered with cinnamon sugar, but a churro is more than the sum of its parts. Crispy, pillowy, sweet, and mildly spicy churros are a popular doughnut-type dessert throughout Latin American, Portuguese, and Spanish countries and the U.S.
Delicious for breakfast, an afternoon snack with coffee, or for a traditional dessert complete with chocolate dipping sauce, churros were likely popularized in the U.S. thanks to Mexican immigrants who brought their food culture with them.
Today, you can find churros filled with chocolate, dulce de leche, and even guava paste, but nothing can top the delicious simplicity of a warm, crunchy churro generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
French cuisine is renowned for its elegant and rich desserts. Lemon tart with a shortbread crust is the ideal French offering. It is simple and yet still iconic. Tart, creamy lemon curd fills a buttery crust for the perfect bite of sweet, tart, velvety, and crunchy.
Modern French bakers have embraced intriguing new twists on the classic dessert.
Tarts made from yuzu, a close citrus cousin of the lemon, and the addition of candied citrus, are just two of the many variations that can be found in patisseries across the country.
How Sweet It Is
A person could spend their lifetime sampling sweets from around the globe and never eat the same thing twice. Humans are wired to enjoy sweet things, and fortunately, the cuisines of the world provide plenty of options to choose from.
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