Will travel for cookies! For the diehard baker, the aspiring pastry chef or the confection-obsessed, there are a few cookie capitals that cannot be missed on a true European pastry tour. Follow this sweet itinerary for a treat-filled trip that really takes the biscuit!
Begin your cookie tour in France, where the title of “pâtissier” is earned only after years of training in the art of pastry. It is here that you can indulge in the quintessentially French macaron: a meringue-based cookie made with almond meal, filled with ganache and arrayed in every colour of the rainbow. The battle for best macaron wages endlessly, but you will not be disappointed in the selection at Ladurée, one of Paris’ finest pâtisseries. Be sure to get a box of madeleine cookies while you’re there, you’ll recognize them by their hallmark shell shape.
Then pop over to Italy for a veritable cornucopia of cookie options! Perhaps one of the country’s most famous desserts, tiramisu, is built on a bed of soft, flaky lady’s finger cookies soaked in espresso – a bite of cookie in every spoonful! Cannolis are the cookie from Sicily, where they prepare tube-shaped pastry and fill it with sweet ricotta or mascarpone filling. If you’re looking for something simpler, why not enjoy a biscotti or a pizzelle with your coffee? Find them at Florence’s Secret Bakery, located at the end of a dark alley on Via del Canto Rivolto (lurk around at night looking for someone with a pastry, then ask in a whisper!)
Germany is famous for its pfeffernuesse: “pepper nuts”, small round cookies often made with nuts. More recognizable than pfeffernuesse, though, is the spritzgebäck cookie – buttery, delicate cookies that have been squeezed through a cookie press (“spritzen” means literally “to squirt” in German, but try not to think about that.) For a taste of these delicacies, head to Bäckerei Balze in Berlin. This family-run bakery opened in the 1920s and offers some of the best pastries in the city.
Now that you’ve toured the cookies of the Continent, sail the English Channel and make your way to Scotland for the world’s best butter shortbread. While highland toffee deserves an honourable mention as a delicious, cookie-like treat, shortbread is the real star and it’s worth the trip to Edinburgh’s Shortbread House bakery to try some. This family-run establishment makes their shortbread by hand with a small team of bakers and the highest quality ingredients.