One of our staff, Alicia, recently travelled around Europe and wrote a blog post about her experience with cookies in other parts of the world. Check it out below!
I recently took a 3 month backpacking trip around Europe, and was lucky enough to sample all kinds of delicious pastries and baked goods (obviously including many, many cookies). In this post I will share my thoughts on the differences between cookies here in Canada and cookies throughout the European countries I visited.
Something you should all know about me is that I love everything about baking. I love making delicious creations, and I absolutely love eating baked goods. Right before I left for Europe, I was working at Confetti Sweets, a fabulous little bakery that produces and sells seriously addicting cookies. My time as an employee at Confetti Sweets made me fully realize my passion for baking. And meanwhile, my sweet tooth seemed like it had doubled in size (if that’s even possible!). So it seems fairly logical that, based on those facts, after a little while in Europe I was craving good cookies. Hardcore.
Now before I continue, you need to understand that I am in no way complaining about the quality or variety of pastries and baked goods in Europe as a whole. I was pretty much in pastry heaven during my whole trip! I had the most delicious chocolate fudge cake in Newcastle-upon-Thyme. It was chocolate gooey perfection. Belgium quickly became one of my favourite countries because of its excellent supply of beer, chocolate, and waffles. Denmark has what feels like an endless variety of almond pastries, all of which are simply great. And when it comes to French pastries…where to start! I’m pretty sure I ate either a croissant or pain au chocolat (or both) every single day I was anywhere in France. I sampled countless flavours of macarons. In Lyon, I ate too many praline baked goods (in this region, praline means candied almonds that become pink/red in colour). And in Lille, I had the most delicious cake/macaron/cream/raspberry hybrid (I still dream about it). The list goes on for ages!
My biggest qualm with the European baked goods I sampled is their cookies. The quality and selection of cookies (aside from macarons) was really disappointing to me! My description of a good cookie is this: soft and delightfully chewy (with maybe a tiny bit of crunchiness on the crust), moist, buttery and sweet, yet balanced, and some sort of addition to make it more interesting (whether that be cinnamon, chocolate, nuts…the possibilities are endless!). Now I realize these are very high expectations. I like to think I am a fairly reasonable and understanding person, so I by no means expect every cookie in the world to possess ALL of these qualities. I love cookies so much I am usually easy to please. Just tell me it’s a cookie, and I will eat it and be happy. But 95% of the cookies I was able to find on my journeys are what I would call biscuits. Quite dry and crunchy, a very one-note texture, and often lacking in flavour. Think pre packed and processed cookies, like Chips Ahoy or something of the like. Now these types of cookies are fine every now and then, and are the perfect thing to dunk in a hot cup of coffee or tea. But as someone who was used to at least having the option between dry biscuit cookies and soft and chewy homemade-like cookies, the sudden bombardment of dry, sandpaper cookies was an unwelcome change.
I went on the hunt for a real cookie, not just a biscuit. I searched throughout my entire trip, and I am sad to say I did not find any cookies that ever fully satisfied my craving. I did find a lot of pretty looking cookies, and some very delicious biscuits, but no chewy, rich cookies. Any cookies I did find that were not meant to be biscuits ended up being a sad imitation of cookies as we know them; they were never buttery enough, too sweet, and dry like biscuits.
My solution? Baking my own cookies, of course! I made cinnamon oatmeal cookies in Newcastle for a friend’s sister who is also from Canada. When I voiced my cookie woes to her, she fully agreed with me! She had also been struggling to find non-biscuity cookies since she moved to England. The two dozen cookies I made were devoured within 2 days. My craving subsided, but I was still determined to find soft cookies somewhere. I continued to search for another few weeks and had had no luck. A girl from Venezuala I stayed with in Nice told me that she did not like the cookies she had eaten in France because they were too dry, and that her favourite cookies were from Subway. I assured her that cookies were not dry and crumbly everywhere in the world, and that Subway cookies were a decent representation of good cookies, but not the best. What better way to help her understand this than to make her cookies? I made some oatmeal cookies again, as well as some double chocolate cookies. Her and her roommate were delightfully surprised that cookies could taste so good. So my craving had subsided again, and I was just generally happy to be baking again.
My trip continued on from there, as did my search for delicious cookies. There had to be some somewhere in Europe, the statistics that there weren’t any were highly unlikely! And yet, sadly, I never did find any. That’s not to say they don’t exist, I’m still convinced they do, I was just unable to find them. I’m still kind of shocked about it; I was eating some form of baked good every day, what are the chances?! As I stated above, I have no complaints about the variety and quality of baked goods that I enjoyed on my travels. Everything (aside from cookies) was so delicious and now that I’m back in Canada, I miss the food I got used to eating every day in Europe.
Now let’s talk macarons. These tiny delicious meringue-like sandwiches of fluffy delight are magical. Macarons are often classified as cookies partially because they slightly resemble cookies, but I suspect mostly because they don’t really properly belong in any category of baked good. They are unique. They are special. Which is why I left macarons until the end of this post, because in my opinion, cookies and macarons are separate (although I’m sure others would disagree with me).
In Paris, macarons are all the rage. You would have a hard time walking a few blocks without seeing the familiar rainbow of macarons in a store window. Of course I ate tons of them, and tried as many flavours as I could, but when it came to macarons, I decided to take it to the next level. So I took a macaron making class while I was in Paris. It was great fun, and I met some very nice people. After taking this class, I discovered that making macarons is really not as difficult as one might expect. As long as you have some patience and precision, you can have your own homemade macarons in a matter of hours!