I am sure you will agree that good desserts are one of the simple pleasures that make life worth living. What you may or may not realise is that some of the best desserts come from foreign countries. Luckily for us, you don’t have to be a top chef or spend thousands travelling to enjoy some of the best food the world has to offer.
Here you will find a brief history and description of some of the best desserts from around the world, as well as easy to follow recipes so that you can make and enjoy these great desserts without even leaving your home! I have tried to keep these recipes as simple as possible so that even the most inexperienced cook can turn out a great dessert.
Pavlova (Australia and New Zealand)
Named after the Russian ballet dance Anna Pavlova, this meringue based dessert was invented in the early 20th century in Australia or New Zealand. There is a long running debate between the two countries as to who came up with it, but it is an important and popular dessert in both countries.
Made from mostly sugar and egg whites, the pavlova has a crunchy outer shell and a soft, light centre. It is usually topped with whipped cream and fruit after baking.
- 4 tsp cornflour
- 6 eggwhites
- 1 1/3 cups caster sugar
- 1 tsn white vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 200ml cream
- Fruit of your choice
- Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F) . Draw a circle about 24cm in diameter on some baking paper. Put paper on a baking tray with the pencil side down. Dust using 1 teaspoon of cornflour.
- Use an electric mixer to beat cream of tartar and eggwhites in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until thick and glossy. Add 3 teaspoons of cornflour with the last tablespoon of sugar. Fold through the vinegar and vanilla.
- Spoon the meringue mixutre onto baking paper. Shape into a circle using the pencil mark. The edges should be slightly higher than the centre. Reduce oven to 100°C. Bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until crisp. Turn off the oven and open door. Leave in oven to cool down (pavlova may sink during cooling).
- Place pavlova carefully onto a serving plate. Spread with cream and top with strawberries, kiwifruit, passionfruit, or other fruit of your choice. Enjoy!
Also known as Tuscan Trifle, this Italian dessert contains an array of exciting ingredients, including liquor, cocoa and mascarpone cheese. There is little information regarding its origin, with speculation that it may have started as a variation of another dessert. Tiramisu now has many variations of itself, from puddings to cakes to trifles.
Tiramisu translates to ‘make me happy’. It is delicious and floats over your taste buds and most importantly it lives up to its name.
- 8 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 lb Mascarpone cheese
- 32 ladyfingers
- 2 cups Espresso coffee (cooled)
- 2/3 cup brandy
- 2 ounces grated dark chocolate
- Cocoa powder
Using an electric mixer, mix sugar and egg yolks until they are a pale yellow color. Gradually add the Mascarpone cheese to the egg yolk mixture, mix until smooth, then set aside.
Using a separate bowl, beat the cream until stiff peaks form and put aside.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and put aside.
Fold the whipped cream into the egg yolk and sugar mixture, then fold in the egg whites.
Spread about 1/3 of the cream mixture onto the bottom of a serving bowl (this bowl should hold about 8 ladyfingers per row, flat side down)
Combine the coffee and brandy in a mixing bowl. Dip half of the ladyfingers into this mixture and then place them in the serving bowl on top of the cream mixture, flat side down,
Add the remaining cream mixture to the top.
Repeat this process to make another layer of ladyfingers and cream mixture. Sprinkle with grated chocolate and sifted cocoa. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Tocinillo de Cielo (Spain)
This rich, custard-like dessert is not nearly as popular as it should be. Once you’ve tasted it you will want to eat the whole thing. Strangely though, its name translates to ‘bacon from heaven’. Although the Spanish love their pork, this dish contains no pig whatsoever.
The wine making process in early 20th century Spain used a lot of whites. Something had to be done with all the left over yolks, and luckily for us the Tocinillo de Cielo was created.
- 2 cups water
- 2 1/2 cups white sugar
- 12 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 medium lemon peel
Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C)
Use a baking dish of about five cup capacity, or individual, ovenproof cups.
Heat 1/2 cup of sugar in a pan at medium-high heat until it starts to melt. Stir constantly to stop it from burning.
The sugar will melt to form a syrup with a light brown color. Quickly remove from heat and pour into your flan dish or into each your individual cups. Swirl around to cover the bottom and sides. The syrup will harden as it cools and form a shell on the bottom. During baking, this shell will transform into a delicious caramel syrup.
Combine 2 cups sugar and water in a three-quart saucepan. Add the lemon peel and boil on high heat, stirring occasionally until the syrup reaches exactly 220° F (105°C). Remove from heat and let cool until warm. Remove lemon peel.
Beat egg yolks manually with a whisk. Gradually add cooled (slightly warm is ok) syrup and vanilla. Blend until smooth, don't over whip!
After all of the ingredients are combined, place the mixture in the caramelized dish or individual cups.
Next, place the baking dish or custard cups in a water bath (Baño de Maria). Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. To check if it is ready, poke a fork or skewer into it; it should come out relatively clean.
After the tocinillo is done, set aside and let cool. Refrigerate for at least three hours.
When ready to serve, run a knife around the edges to loosen it. Place a serving platter over the bowl or pan and flip it upside down.
I know I already included a dessert from Spain, but churros are way too popular (and delicious) to leave out. Believed to have originated a long time ago in Portugal, churros are now a popular dessert all over the world.
Churros are fried and served hot, often with a chocolate sauce, and are often sold on the street or in coffee shops.
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Sugar to sprinkle on top
Pour vegetable oil, such as canola or corn oil into a frying pan. Make sure there is at least 2 inches of oil in the pan to cover the churros. There should be enough oil so that the churros will float while frying. Put the pan aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup water to the boil. Add 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, salt and sugar and stir continuously while heating.
While waiting for the water to boil, measure out 1 cup of flour. Put flour into a mixing bowl, add the baking powder and stir until mixed thoroughly.
Once the water boils, remove saucepan from heat and begin heating oil in frying pan.
Slowly and carefully pour boiling water from into flour mixture. Stir constantly until it is a smooth dough with no lumps.
The dough should not be runny, but rather smooth and sticky.
Immediately place dough into a churrera or pastry bag.
Carefully squeeze the dough into hot oil 350° F (180°C) and fry until golden brown. Remove with a spatula or fork. Place on some paper towel to soak up the oil.
Cut into desired lengths, sprinkle with sugar and serve by itself or with chocolate sauce.
Gulab Jamun (India)
Gulab Jamun is a traditional Indian dessert, but is also popular in many other nearby countries such as Pakistan and Nepal. These sweet, spongy little balls are served hot or cold and often with ice cream.
- 1 cup Milk Powder
- 1/2 cup flour
- Whole milk - enough to make the dough
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
For the Sugar Syrup:
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups Sugar
- Oil for frying
Add 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of water. Add about 5 crushed cardamom pods and few pieces of Kesar/Saffron. Mix using a spoon, then place on medium heat until sugar is all dissolved in water. Do not heat for too long or the sugar turn to caramel
Pour the hot syrup into another dish and place on the stove to keep warm.
Combine milk powder, flour, baking soda and butter and mix to make a dough. Add whole milk as required to make a moderately hard dough. Divide the dough into about 20 parts.
Make balls by gently rolling each portion in your palms into a round ball. Place these balls onto a plate and cover with a kitchen towel to stop them drying out.
Heat the oil on medium heat. Place the balls carefully into the hot oil from the side to avoid splashing the oil. Gently shake the pan to help the balls brown evenly on all sides. After about 5 minutes, the balls will rise to the surface of the oil. They should rise slowly to the top. Gently and continuously move the balls so that they brown evenly.
If the oil is too hot the gulab jamuns may break, so adjust the temperature so prevent them from breaking or cooling too quickly.
Place the fried gulab jamuns in the warm sugar syrup. For best results leave gulab jamuns in the syrup overnight. They can be heated to serve warm or served at room temperature.
These are some of my favourite desserts from around the world. With a little bit of practice and patience you will be able to enjoy them at home too. If you end up trying any of these recipes feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to know how you go and which recipe is your favourite. Good luck and enjoy!