There is nothing like the flakes of a buttery pastry. It’s the perfect way to start the day, accompanied by a cup of coffee or tea. The experience of biting into fresh pastries is so universally loved that countries around the world have developed their own interpretations of the combination of flour, butter or shortening and water in both sweet and savory varieties. And while not all pastries stick to a strict recipe – some use custard, others use raisins, some are loaded with meat – all undoubtedly capture the flavors of their surroundings and make breakfast something to look forward to. Here are 14 breakfast pastries from around the world to start the day off right.
The term pan dulce refers to a variety of sweet breads served in panaderias and eaten for breakfast or as a snack in Mexico. Some popular variations of pan dulce include concha, a bun with a crispy, shell-shaped sugar crust on top, besos – meaning kisses – which are dense breads that sandwich jams and marmalades, and orejas: flaky “elephant ears” which are very similar to the palm tree of France. That being said, there are dozens of different types of pan dulce that can start your day off right, and all of them are delicious.
Pain au chocolat is a French pastry that is very much like a croissant in that the dough is rolled, which creates flaky and buttery layers. The center of the pain au chocolat contains, unsurprisingly, chocolate; traditionally, a piece or two of dark chocolate is placed in the center, where it comes out melting from the time in the oven. Some flaky croissant doughs, such as those used to make pain au chocolat, may contain up to 80 diapers and are a painstakingly difficult process to maneuver and perfect, but the effort is well worth it for the ultra flaky and buttery end result.
Pastelitos are Cuban puff pastry stuffed with both savory and sweet fillings. The most common variations include a pastelito with guava and cream cheese, a sweet with dulce de leche, and a puff pastry pie with picadillo – or minced meat. Meat-filled pastelitos are often compared to empanadas, as they are two dough-based pastries that wrap the fillings, but the main differences include the size (pastelitos tend to be smaller) and the fat content of packing paste. The sweeter variants are usually rectangular in shape, with exposed cuts that reveal the filling.
Boh Loh Bao
Boh loh bao, or pineapple buns, are a Hong Kong specialty. This sweet bread actually doesn’t contain any pineapples, but is named after the sugar crusted filling that looks a bit like the crisscross pattern of a pineapple. Boh loh baos can be eaten plain or sliced and served with a knob of butter. They also often pop up at yum cha, or dim sum, brunches as a sweet dessert to all heavier, protein-rich dishes like shu mai and slow-cooked pork ribs. Eat them with heavily brewed Hong Kong milk tea for a true Hong Kong experience.
Ensaymadas are sweet butter and cheese pastries that originated in Mallorca, but were popularized in the Philippines in part because of Spanish colonial rule. Brioche pastry is often rolled in sugar and served at Christmas with hot chocolate and strawberries. For an extra layer of flavor, some bakeries in the Philippines garnish their ensaymadas with salted eggs.
Deblahs are beautiful pastries not only because of their delicate, syrupy flavor, but also because of their flower-like shapes. Deblah dough is made from egg whites, flour, baking powder, and water and rolled thinly – often using a rolling pin – to create ribbons that emerge like fragrant, fried dough flowers. . They are usually garnished with sesame seeds and glazed with a citrus syrup before being served with tea.
Known for their delicate braids, koeksisters are braided and deep-fried South African candies dipped in a sticky syrup. The dough is similar to that of American donuts but the frosting is totally different. After being deep-fried, the confectionery is submerged in a lemon-ginger-flavored syrup which is refrigerated until glazed, resulting in a crisp, sweet coating and a syrup-soaked interior.
Korea’s sweet and savory nature gyeran-ppang, or egg bread, makes it the perfect breakfast snack. Often sold as a street food, gyeran-ppang is made from a soft pancake-like bread base with a whole egg cooked on top or in the middle. Oblong-shaped bread varies in toppings, which can include cheese, ham, bacon, and chopped parsley.
Hot pâté, sometimes called bánh patê sô, is a Vietnamese meat-filled pie with French influences. Meat pie has a light puff pastry exterior and is usually filled with pork, although beef and chicken are sometimes swapped. Depending on the seller, the hot little pies can be round, hexagonal, triangular or even rolled into small puffs filled with dough.
Macheteadas are shallow, flattened, fried discs made in Honduras from leftover baleadas or flour tortillas. In terms of flavor, the dough is not inherently sweet; to enhance the taste of macheteadas, it is usually spread with butter and drizzled with honey or maple syrup. Machetes are served with coffee or milk and have a crispy exterior and a slightly dense center.
Dutch stroopwafel, which aptly translates to syrup waffle, is a marvel of pressed dough and caramel. What might be the most impressive thing about the stroopwafel is the fact that the cookie is not made of two waffles, but one, half impressive despite its thinness. Typically, these flat discs of sugar, butter, and whatever tastes good are served over a hot cup of coffee or tea, where as the steam rises, the cookie-waffle hybrid softens, this which gives a sticky and pleasant paste.
Some say it scone, rhymes with tone. Others declare it as a scone, as a party. Regardless of the divisive pronunciation, scones are a British treat often served for breakfast or during afternoon tea. Scones are most often slightly sweet and are often sprinkled with dried fruit, chocolate chips, or citrus zest, but they are sometimes made with savory elements, such as cheese, rosemary, and chives. To fully enjoy the scones experience, it is best to garnish the crumbly dough with curd cream and jam, and eat them in a good cup of tea.
Although it looks a lot like the French croissant, the Italian cornetto has less butter, less rolling, and a more cake-like texture. The dough is enriched with eggs and contains more sugar than a regular croissant; it is also often lightly scented with citrus. It’s a common breakfast pastry that is eaten with coffee and can be sold plain or served stuffed with jam, custard and Italians favorite hazelnut spread, Nutella.
Austrian National Tourist Board writes that, “a piece of marbled Gugelhupf, generously dusted with icing sugar and served with a dollop of whipped cream, this is Viennese coffee culture at its best.” Although there are arguments about the origin of gugelhupf, the yeast cake, baked in a Bundt pan, is one of Austria’s most beloved treats. Gugelhupf are often filled with dried fruit, nuts or brandy, and dusted with icing sugar or cocoa. It can also arrive marbled with cocoa infused paste or iced in syrup. It can be consumed in the afternoon with tea or served for brunch on weekends; whatever the time, when it comes to gugelhupf, you certainly don’t need an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.