Let’s talk about bakeries, pastries and desserts, shall we? A bit inspired by Cinnamon’s post yesterday with her photo of her local bakery. I’ve probably done this post before, maybe more than once, but fingers crossed your long-term memory isn’t that much better than mine.
On trips abroad, my traveling companions (if there are any) are often experiencing the country through the museums, local churches, etc. and okay I’m doing that too, I’m not a total philistine. But I’ve laughed in the past when my traveling companions are, you know, sampling all the local fine wines, or smoked meats, or cheeses, although I wouldn’t say no to a cheese tour. Hell, I’d go on a cheese tour … where were we? Oh, yeah, pastries and desserts. If you want to find me, you should probably look for the nearby bakery. I mean, I might be at the patisserie, or the boulangerie, or the chocolatier (gotta love a country that splits all those things out). But maybe I’m just standing right over there, in front of the street cart selling some kind of sugared dough.
I lost my group in Galway because I got distracted by the churro cart (“wait, what? Churros in Ireland? I must sample them!!”) How were they? They were … not amazing. But I was cold, and some hot churros sounded just the thing. I know I’ve mentioned before that I wandered across much of Italy on a caffeine and sugar buzz. Highly recommend, 10/10 would do again.
I spend a lot of time here in the local panaderias, buying pastries I don’t know the names of, filled with things I don’t recognize. Is that … quince paste? (No.) Is the topping on this thing … literally a schmear of sugar butter? (Yes. I think.)
Then there are items I’m way too lazy to make, but will immediately grab from a bakery if I get the rare opportunity. Kouign-amman and sfogliatelle are both at the top of that list. There was an Italian bakery at the farmer’s market where I used to live, and about once a month they had sfogliatelle, and I was in sugar-dusted heaven.
There are things I’ve burned out on, too. Macarons used to be a treat I’d enjoy on the rare occasion I saw them someplace, likely in New York City or Paris. I used to drive 40 minutes in D.C. to this one French bakery for a macaron. Now they’re everywhere. They’re the new donut. I can walk to
three four different places that sell macarons, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I haven’t had one in eons. Maybe scarcity is part of the pleasure?
I think I’m going to make a Basque cheesecake – that less-sweet, burnt cheesecake. (In fact, I think people often call them “Basque burnt cheesecake.”) As much as I love cheesecake, and I loooove cheesecake – have I mentioned my NYC cheesecake tour years ago? I’m sure I have — anyway, Basque burnt cheesecake would probably be everything I love in a cheesecake, since I always pick the tallest, most overly browned slice I can find. I know I can buy a Basque burnt cheesecake for many dollar$$$ on Goldbelly but tbh it doesn’t look that hard to make. I mean, the end product looks like someone forgot it in the oven, and then dropped it while pulling it out.
Is there a dessert or pastry or bakery item you love so much you’d travel for it, or search it out when you’re in a particular place? Is there something you’ve never even tried, that you pine for? Do you have a favorite dessert country? Do you think I am out of my gourd and you’d be perfectly happy with a plate of fresh fruit and cheese? I remember how disappointed I was decades ago when I realized my mother-in-law, who expected us for dinner regularly, thought that was dessert. And to give credit where it’s due, she upgraded that option when she got to know me and started buying desserts from the fancy Watergate Bakery nearby. An act of love, from a woman who didn’t throw those around like they were nothing.