After our article about the “5 European snacks you probably haven’t tasted yet” and based on the same philosophy, that in order to truly understand a city or country, you should get acquainted with its food culture, we present this time five sweet desserts that are characteristic of the places we visited and part of their tradition and culture.
Tarte Tropiezenne : Also known as La Tarte de Saint-Tropez, La Tarte Tropiezenne, is a dessert pastry consisting of a cut-in-two and filled brioche. It was created in 1955 by Alexandre Micka, a pastry shop owner in Saint-Tropez. The pastry was named by actress Brigitte Bardot, who eat the tart regularly while filming “And God Created Woman” in St Tropez, and advised Micka to give it a proper name. The brioche is filled with tasty and smooth lemon flavoured cream; whose recipe remains a well-kept secret and was based on a recipe Micka was given by his grandmother. The tart comes in many different shapes and sizes (occasionally strawberries were added to the cream) and is sprinkled with powdered sugar or sugar crystals. Nowadays the tart has become an icon of Southern French dessert and could be found all over Provence. However, the best place to taste it remains the original Micka’s shop, named La Tarte Tropezienne (Traverse des Lices, Saint Tropez – France) in St Tropez and it is the perfect ending after a long walk around the streets of the world-famous village. [For more information about St Tropez see our related article]
Calisson : This traditional French candy is believed to have its origins in medieval Italy, especially in Venice, where a cake made with almonds and flour was named “calisone”. In Crete, which was under Venetian rule, you could also find a similar pastry named “kalitsounia”. Calisson consists of a smooth yellow paste of fruit (especially melons and oranges), sugar and ground almonds topped with a layer of royal icing. They are often almond-shaped and relatively small in size. They are traditionally associated with the town of Aix-en-Provence. There’s also a unique story to go along with the calisson. In 1454 King Rene of Anjou was to marry Jeanne de Laval, but the King had a problem : the Queen never smiled. So he went to the royal chef and asked him to make something special which would make her smile. The chef thought of the calisson, which finally made the smile return on her face. Nowadays most of the world’s supply of calissons is still made in Provence. One of the best producers of calissons is Le Roy Rene, whose products could be found all over Provence. However, their most scenic shop is the one at the centre of Aix-en-Provence (11 Rue Gaston de Saporta, Aix-en-Provence – France).
Racuchy : Racuchy or racuszki is a traditional Polish dish similar to American pancakes, which is basically made at home as dessert or light dinner. Racuchy are fluffy and pan-fried in oil. They are made with flour, milk, eggs and sugar. They could be eaten plain or sprinkled with sugar and sometimes are accompanied by diced apples, whipped cream or sour cream. In some regions of Poland, racuchy are prepared more savoury and served with fish soup or mushroom soup, especially at the Christmas Eve dinner. You could find excellent racuchy all over Poland. They are served in restaurants, cafes and Polish milk bars. If you are visiting the wonderful town of Krakow, you could taste excellent sweet racuchy, among other excellent Polish dishes at the modern Milkbar Tomasza (l. Sw. Tomasza 24, Krakow – Poland), right in the middle of the historic centre. The cafe-restaurant, continuing the tradition of the Polish milk bars, serves excellent and well-cooked Polish dishes in unpretentious style with a modern twist.
Trdelnik : If you have visited Prague, it is sure that you came across the smell of roast pastry. This is trdelnik, a Czech traditional pastry made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick and grilled on an open fire. It is usually topped with sugar, walnut mix or coconut. The name trdelnik originates from the word “trdlo”, which means “wooden stick”. The origins of the pastry are not very clear and could be found in several Eastern European countries with different names. One sure thing is that the cooking of dough on a wooden stick that rotates over an open fire has ancient origins. It could be traced back to various ancient civilizations before the discovery of the oven. Trdelnik is very popular among tourists. You could find it in canteens, food stalls and cafes, and is the perfect snack during your walk around the streets of Prague. Our favourite place for trdelnik in Prague is U Kajetana (Nerudova 247/18, Mala Strana, Prague – Czech Republic), a wonderful small cafe, under the shadow of Prague Castle, which makes tasty trdelnik, filled with various creams and covered with different toppings. [For more information about Prague see our related articles]
Pastel de Nata : There is no way to visit Portugal and especially Lisbon and not to come across this divine dessert. Pastel de Nata (plural : Pasteis de Nata) is a Portuguese custard tart dusted with cinnamon. It was created by Catholic monks at the Hieronymites Monastery in Belem. During that time monasteries were using large quantities of egg whites for starching clothes and the monks used the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries. During the 18th century the monks of Hieronymites Monastery began to sell pasteis de nata at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some revenue. In 1834, the monastery was closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fabrica de Pasteis de Belem, which still remains the most famous place to eat them and claims to have the only authentic recipe (in 2009 The Guardian listed Pasteis de Belem as one of the 50 best things to eat in the world). You could find pastel de nata in various places across Lisbon. Our favourite shop to buy them, apart from the world famous Fabrica in Belem, is Μanteigaria (Rua do Loreto 2, Lisbon – Portugal), at La Placa Camoes. Here the cream is smoother and the egg flavour is not so intense. [For more information about Lisbon see our related article]
No trip is complete without some unique tastes. The quest never stops and there are always more things and experiences to discover.
*[All photos are from iStock, except photo of Pasteis de Nata]