I’ve always had a bad sweet tooth. And by bad, I mean I usually need a daily dose of my favorite coconut cookies, lemon pound cake or a creamy Lindt chocolate. I AM ADDICTED. So naturally, I knew I had to check out the dessert scene in all of the countries we visited. I found my love for tiramisu at Pane y Vino, a small authentic Italian restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. So obviously I was pumped to try all of the tiramisu in Italy.
When thinking of dessert, especially from an American standpoint, I always envision something that is decadent, flavorful, and sweet. Upon visiting Italy, the tiramisu was nothing short of perfect. The lady fingers were soaked in quality coffee, the mascarpone was generously added, and the cocoa was bold while cutting the other rich aspects of the dessert with a hint of bitterness. As our second stop in Italy was Cinque Terre, that is where I discovered the best tiramisu yet. While at a group dinner at Bella Napoli with some of my favorite girls, we ordered tiramisu and two other cakes. While taste testing them all, this made me reflect on how the Italians, like Americans, like a heavy and indulging dessert. While researching, I found that tiramisu means “pick-me-up” in Italian, for the high energetic content (eggs and sugar) and the caffeine of the strong espresso coffee. Interesting right?!
(Tiramisu: top right, Napoleon cake: bottom right, Pear cake: bottom left)
Our next stop was Greece, and I admit that I could not think of popular dessert there. As always, I was down to try anything and everything, so I was looking forward to checking out menus to see what Greece had to offer. During the cooking class that we took in Athens, I was surprised to find out that traditional Grecian desserts were quite simple, and not too sweet. For example, the dessert we made at Diavlos, was a simple mixture of authentic greek yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. How simple right?! I was blown away by how delicious it was, and I appreciated the fact that it also worked as a palette cleanser after a long traditional greek meal.
When reflecting on which desserts I like best, I was blown away by the fact that Grecian desserts are so uncomplicated, yet so satisfying. It made me realized that you do not have to have a sugar and or calorie packed confection to appease your sweet tooth. One taste test that was quite surprising to me was the “sweet pie” that we tried on our food walking tour of Athens. This dessert was also known as Bougatsa, and the best way for me to describe it is a light, flaky pastry filled with a sweet custard.
As this is one of the most popular greek desserts, I also learned that some people make the same kind of pastry, but just a savory version with a cheese filling. Yum!
It was out of this world and I can even admit that I enjoyed it more than tiramisu. It was quite interesting to me so see such opposite spectrums of the dessert world. When speaking to one of the bakers making the bougasta, he told me that the secret to Grecian desserts is, “Simplicity is everything. This allows one to appreciate the two or three aspects of the sweet.” Looking back, I think that was nonchalantly one of the best pieces of advice I have gotten. This allowed me to take a step back and realize that we all need to appreciate the little things in life.