So, let’s talk about Europe.
It’s the best! Biking through the countryside, drinking a cappuccino in a sidewalk café, wandering from boutique to boutique, the flowery languages, the smiling people… Europe’s the best. This past week, my family ventured across the Atlantic Ocean to Amsterdam and Brugge – two different, yet equally lovely cities!
Amsterdam is an incredible city. It has stunning canals and rustic windmills, but is also a booming metropolis! From fields of flowers and historic buildings to countless shops and busy streets, we had the chance to experience all of the beauty of Amsterdam. What I was most surprised about there was the sheer number of bicycles! Almost every resident there has a bike, and uses it to get around everywhere! My family went on a 16-mile bike tour of the city and countryside, and I have to say, it was pretty nerve-wracking. In the city, bikes weave in between buses and cars and pedestrians – I wouldn’t have been able to ride through those busy streets without a tour guide. Once we got out into the countryside, though, the chaos definitely calmed down and we explored lovely parks and bridges, and met some cows along the way! We stopped at a local cheese farm and saw how it was made – more complicated than you would think. I’ll always remember seeing Amsterdam, and I’d recommend visiting to everyone!
In addition to all of Amsterdam’s attractions, the city is full of sweet treats!
The sweets in Holland were lovely. In almost every bakery we headed into, I was surprised to see macarons – a French cookie – because they’re not native to Holland, but I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted them! They were just as good, if not better, than traditional French ones. I noticed other international treats in Amsterdam, like French éclairs and profiteroles, and American apple and berry pies and tarts. It was like the dessert melting pot of the world, and I wasn’t complaining! Although many of the sweets were not traditionally Dutch, the pastry chefs there did put their own twists on them. I noticed lots of Dutch apple pies – an American idea, but with a Dutch spin. They’re much more cake-like than what we would call an apple pie, but still cinnamon-y and sweet! One of the desserts I found in almost every bakery was a palmier. These, like macarons, are traditionally French pastries, but boy, the Dutch know how to make them, too! In the U.S., they’re often called elephant ears – you can see them in the two top right pictures above. They’re a flaky, croissant-like pastry folded into a rounded heart shape. The far right photo of them is from a bakery called Juliette’s! It would appear that Juliet(tte)s like me are baking all around the world 🙂 All in all, the Dutch bakers definitely know how to put their own spin on international classics.
After a few days in Amsterdam, we headed over on a train to Brugge, in Belgium. This city is so unique! It has cobblestone streets, dozens of museums, a medieval moat, and tons of cute shops and open-air markets. We walked everywhere, and rode bicycles around the square, too. We went to tons of museums in our stay in Brugge. Although we were only there for two days, we filled each day to the brim, seeing countless paintings by some of the world’s most renowned artists, like Rembrandt and Van Eyck. Everywhere you turn in this charming city, which dates back all the way to medieval times, there’s another astonishing piece of history. If you’re a history lover, like myself and the rest of my family, Brugge is the perfect city for you!
Like Amsterdam, the sweets in Belgium are amazing… It’s the chocolate capital of the world! I ate a ridiculous amount of chocolate, with crunchy walnuts and pralines inside, gooey caramel, and sweet strawberry and blueberry jams! In the top right photo you can see giant slabs of chocolate sitting on shelves in a shop. The chocolatiers melt that down to make all different shapes, like shoes or soccer balls, or sell it just like that. In the right picture in the middle row, there’s a heart-shaped box from a chocolate shop called Mary. It’s named after the first female chocolatier in Europe, and has some of the loveliest, most ornate boxes I’ve ever seen – not to mention the chocolate. The bottom right and the bottom center photo was taken in Mary, too. As you can see in the center row’s left photo, florentines were popular in Belgium. For those of you who don’t know, florentines are an Italian pastry made by placing nuts into a caramel disc, melting them together, and then dipping the bottom in chocolate. I saw these in almost every chocolate shop I went inside (which is about 10 out of 2,000 total shops in Belgium) and each one was better than the next. I was completely inspired to try making them, so I’ll let you know if they turn out well! However, I have to say my favorite Belgian chocolates were the chocolate truffles. The best ones were soft chocolate rounds covered in cocoa powder (you can see them in the bottom left, top left, and bottom center pictures above)! I could’ve brought home a whole suitcase filled with them! Stay tuned for a recipe…
Overall, it was a lovely trip, and I had a wonderful time sampling international sweets – I’m totally inspired! But, it’s good to be back home and baking again. I’ll be posting some new recipes this week, so check back!