While you’re probably familiar with pies, croissants, cream puffs, and tarts, there are plenty of other tantalizing pastries to discover. Using a simple base of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and shortening, pastry chefs can create a cornucopia of delicious desserts. If you’re looking to expand your pastry horizons, consider these 12 delectable pastries from around the world.
1. FRANZBRÖTCHEN // GERMANY
Most popular in Hamburg and other parts of northern Germany, Franzbrötchen are croissant-like spiral pastries made with butter and cinnamon. Germans usually eat Franzbrötchen at breakfast with their morning coffee, and they sometimes add raisins to them.
2. GULAB JAMUN // INDIA
We can thank India for gulab jamun, a glorious pastry that combines balls of fried dough with sweet syrup. Shaped like doughnut holes, the balls of dough are usually made with milk powder or corn flour and then fried in ghee. Gulab jamun packs a powerful dose of sugar, but cardamom, rose water, and saffron add more subtle notes to the pastry.
3. PASTELITOS // CUBA
Cubans and Cuban-Americans in Miami know pastelitos well. Similar to jelly doughnuts, the pastries are typically made with flaky filo dough and contain a filling of guava and cheese. Some pastelitos have more unusual sweet and savory fillings, such as pineapple, coconut, ham, and crab.
4. BAKLAVA // TURKEY
A popular Middle Eastern dessert, baklava consists of layers of chopped pistachios and sweetened filo dough. The pastries may also include chopped walnuts or pecans as well as plenty of honey, butter, and sugar. For an authentic Turkish experience, savor baklava after a meal while sipping tea.
5. CANNOLI // ITALY
Cannoli got its start over 1000 years ago in Palermo, the capital of Sicily. Today, Italians still enjoy biting into the cannoli’s shell of fried dough to taste the creamy, sweetened ricotta filling. And thanks to Italian-Americans making and selling cannoli, most of us are familiar with the decadent Italian pastry.
6. SUFGANIYOT // ISRAEL
Sufganiyot are Israel’s answer to jelly doughnuts. The balls of deep-fried dough are filled with jelly and topped with powdered sugar. The Jewish recipe is popular around the world now, especially each December when they are served during Hanukkah.
7. LINZER TORTE // AUSTRIA
The beautiful latticework on the top of Linzer tortes makes them instantly recognizable. Said to date to the mid-1600s, people in Linz, Austria began making these tortes, layering pastry dough with currant preserves. Today, the torte usually contains a filling of berry preserves, and the pastry dough is made with butter and ground nuts.
8. KOLOMPEH // IRAN
Native to Kerman, Iran, kolompeh are cookie-sized pies made with minced dates, walnuts, cardamom, saffron, and sesame. Before baking the pastries, Iranians stamp them with kolompeh stamps, creating beautiful, intricate designs on the top of the pastries.
9. BIRNBROT // SWITZERLAND
Pear lovers will enjoy Birnbrot, a pear-centric Swiss pastry that incorporates dried fruits, spices, and nuts. The sweet bread is made from yeast dough and filled with everything from dried pears, dried apples or figs, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, clove, and coriander.
10. MOONCAKE // CHINA
Every fall, Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival by gathering to view the full moon and giving mooncakes to their friends and family, symbolizing completeness and unity. The pastries are round (like the moon), sweet, and filled with a paste made of lotus seeds, red beans, or dates. Some Cantonese mooncakes also contain a salted duck egg yolk inside.
11. CROQUEMBOUCHE // FRANCE
If you’re at a wedding or special event in France and spot a tower of desserts, you’re probably looking at a croquembouche. This triangle-shaped tower consists of carefully stacked profiteroles (a.k.a. cream puffs) decorated with strands of caramelized sugar. It’s fancy, elegant, and downright delectable.
12. PINEAPPLE BUN // HONG KONG
Pineapple buns—also called Bolo Bao—are soft, sweet, chewy, and slightly crunchy on top. They don’t actually have any pineapple in them; rather, the pastry’s crust has a grid pattern that resembles a pineapple. If you’re not in Hong Kong, you can probably find pineapple buns in Chinese bakeries.