12 Delectable Pastries From Around the World

iStock
iStock

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

MRG90 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Adrian Michael (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

iStock

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.

The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired

bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

While you’re battling your cousins for the best napping spot after Thanksgiving dinner, feel free to use this as a diversion tactic: It’s a myth that eating turkey makes you tired.

It’s true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer tells WebMD that the best way to boost serotonin is to eat a small, all-carbohydrate snack a little while after you’ve eaten something that contains tryptophan, and the carbs will help ferry the tryptophan from your bloodstream to your brain.

But Thanksgiving isn’t exactly about eating small, well-timed snacks. It’s more about heaps of potatoes, mountains of stuffing, and generous globs of gravy—and that, along with alcohol, is more likely the reason you collapse into a spectacular food coma after your meal. Overeating (especially of foods high in fat) means your body has to work extra hard to digest everything. To get the job done, it redirects blood to the digestive system, leaving little energy for anything else. And since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it also slows down your brain and other organs.

In short, you can still hold turkey responsible for your Thanksgiving exhaustion, but you should make sure it knows it can share the blame with the homestyle mac and cheese, spiked apple cider, and second piece of pumpkin pie.

[h/t WebMD]

How Mammoth Poop Gave Us Pumpkin Pie

MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images
MargoeEdwards/iStock via Getty Images

When it’s time to express gratitude for the many privileges bestowed upon your family this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be grateful for mammoth poop. The excrement of this long-extinct species is a big reason why holiday desserts taste so good.

Why? Because, as Smithsonian Insider reports, tens of thousands of years ago, mammoths, elephants, and mastodons had an affinity for wild gourds, the ancestors of squashes and pumpkin. In a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Smithsonian researcher and colleagues found that wild gourds—which were much smaller than our modern-day butternuts—carried a bitter-tasting toxin in their flesh that acted as a deterrent to some animals. While small rodents would avoid eating the gourds, the huge mammals would not. Their taste buds wouldn't pick up the bitter flavor and the toxin had no effect on them. Mammoths would eat the gourds and pass the indigestible seeds out in their feces. The seeds would then be plopped into whatever habitat range the mammoth was roaming in, complete with fertilizer.

When the mammoths went extinct as recently as 4000 years ago, the gourds faced the same fate—until humans began to domesticate the plants, allowing for the rise of pumpkins. But had it not been for the dispersal of the seeds via mammoth crap, the gourd might not have survived long enough to arrive at our dinner tables.

So as you dig into your pumpkin pie this year, be sure to think of the heaping piles of dung that made the delicious treat possible.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER