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The Perfect Drink to Pair with Buttery Pastries

The Perfect Drink to Pair with Buttery Pastries

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Buttery pie dough, tangy cream cheese, honey, and figs are all you'll need for these delightful pastry pockets!

This post is brought to you in partnership with Diet Coke.

We recommend that any home cook have a few cheater dessert recipes up their sleeve. And of course, something delicious to pair with them!

Lately, these simple honeyed fig bites have caught our attention and we’ve started to make our own version. The only ingredients you need are cream cheese, honey, figs, and pie dough and you’re well on your way.

Pairing the pastries with something bubbly and refreshing is a great idea as they’re rich and buttery. We tried these with Blueberry Acai Diet Coke and the contrast between the rich fig bites and fruity Diet Coke was the perfect balance. It’s a new flavor of Diet Coke we’d never tried before, but it’s become an office favorite!

Making the Fig Bites

If you can, make homemade pie crust for these guys so they’re super flaky and delicious. We’d also recommend using 4-inch squares to make sure we had plenty of room to fill them.

And as for honey, we dialed it back to 1-2 teaspoons so it doesn’t just overflow out of the pastry.

Serving the Fig Bites

These little dumplings went fast in the office, and while we love warming one for breakfast with coffee, serving them in the afternoon with a bright, bold, and fizzy Blueberry Acai Diet Coke really hits the spot.

Get the Recipe!

Mix It Up: Alcoholic Drinks & Dessert Pairings

When a consumer chooses to dine out, it is important to not only provide a delicious dish, but also to ensure the visit is unique and memorable. This can be achieved in many different ways, but an original and tasty dessert to conclude the meal is imperative to leave a lasting impression. Recent trends point to the desire to enjoy a sweet bite that perfectly completes the dining experience. While the idea of drink and food pairings is not a new one, the trend of creating special alcoholic drink and dessert pairings is catching on and taking off. There are many possible avenues to take when creating delectable drink-dessert pairings to add to menus. As Katzie Guy-Hamilton, executive chef and director of food and beverage at Max Brenner, states, “There are so many opportunities out there, and if you’re not afraid to fail or afraid to learn [then] you can accomplish a lot.”

Wine, beer or a custom cocktail can be utilized to suit the mood, occasion and flavors on the plate. This is where the fun starts, because there is such a broad range of beverage options boasting a myriad of personalities just waiting to find the perfect dessert to complement.

Wine: There are three main factors to consider when pairing wines with desserts:

  1. Acidity – acidic wines pair best with fruit dishes which also have a natural acidity.
  2. Intensity – the more intense the flavors of the dessert, the more intense the wine.
  3. Sweetness – a dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert itself.

Beer: A few things to keep in mind from since pairing beer and desserts can be a bit tricky:

  1. Sweetness – the sugar in your dessert can affect the perception of the beer, throwing the dish off balance. Be sure to choose a beer as sweet or sweeter than its accompanying dessert to avoid disastrous taste interactions.
  2. Intensity – it is best to pair desserts with beers that have a bit less bitterness and alcohol than might seem appropriate. A beer that is too aggressive and bitter will dominate rather than complement.
  3. Chocolate-based Desserts – stouts and porters complement very nicely, yet don’t forget about the sweetness factor which would keep dry stouts and porters from pairing well. Another less obvious, yet good option would be beers with fruity or caramel flavors to complement without mimicking the chocolaty flavor.
  4. Fruit-based Desserts – yeasty beer offers a lot of fruity flavors that connect beer to fruit-based desserts really well. And of course, there are always fruit beers that make for great dessert pairings.

There are endless options when it comes to pairing cocktails with desserts, as they can be invented and tweaked until they match a dish perfectly. Do take into consideration the sweetness factor, however, and follow standard flavor pairing guidelines.

When it comes time to create delicious drink and dessert pairings keep a few other things in mind. Top mixologists Audrey Saunders and Ryan Magarian offered the following advice in the article “Dare to Pair Cocktails and Food” on

  1. Use Logic – if the flavors don’t complement each other then it’s not a match.
  2. Compare and Contrast – choose a drink that complements a dessert by either matching or contrasting its flavors for example, pair spicy with cooling flavors or sweet and fruity with a fruit-flavored dessert to amplify the flavor.
  3. Add Herbs – herbs are not only an excellent way to bond a drink to the dessert by matching similar flavors, but they can also add an extra layer of complexity.
  4. Enhance, Don’t Compete – choose a drink that enhances and complements the dessert rather than something too bold or overpowering.
  5. Ease Up on the Alcohol – when pairing a drink with a dessert that has subtle flavors, it is smart to also choose a subtle drink rather than a particularly alcoholic one (remember: sometimes less is more).
  6. Consider Body – it is important to pay attention to mouthfeel as well as flavor.
  7. Keep an Open Mind – sometimes unconventional combinations result in amazingly delicious pairings, so don’t always go for the “safe” and classic combinations, rather play a little and get creative.

While not all trends are worth jumping on the band wagon for, providing unique and delicious dessert pairings can set businesses apart from all the others. Every sip a customer takes should balance and complement the dessert after all, when a meal finishes on a sweet note you can guarantee that they will be back for more.

How to Make the Best Ultra-Buttery Croissants

Christina Holmes

Baker Chad Robertson does two things to croissants better than anyone in America. First, he effortlessly deploys the French cwa-ssahn pronunciation without sounding pretentious. But more important, he serves 200 perfectly crisp but chewy croissants a day fresh, within an hour of leaving the oven, to the bakery’s ravenous fans. They’ve been snaking around the block of his original San Francisco bakery for two decades and his new location, Tartine Manufactory, for a little over a year. “Croissants are an impressive feat of engineering,” Chad explains, while tending to loaves of sourdough in the massive oven that sits front and center of Tartine Manufactory. “For ours, we strive for a moist center and caramelized crust. When you bite into one, it should have some weight but also just shatter.”

The croissant’s perfection is twofold: an interior of infinitely spiraling paper-thin layers and a shatteringly flaky crust. Christina Holmes

Tartine’s weapon for nailing these contrasts is its master dough, which Chad and his team are constantly perfecting. They found that laminating with high-quality, high-fat butter helped prevent the pastries from cracking in the oven, while adding richness. “People think the flavor just comes from butter, but a lot of the flavor in croissants comes from fermentation,” Chad says of the process by which yeast converts sugar to carbon dioxide and flavorful acids. The Tartine team relies on a preliminary fermentation called a poolish that uses packaged yeast along with quickly developing flavor, the technique makes the dough easier to roll. “By fermenting this kind of dough, you can do almost anything,” explains Fausto Echeverria, who leads the team responsible for all viennoiseries, pastries made using yeasted doughs. “This fermented dough is much easier to form into shapes,” Fausto says. “It also tastes neutral, so you can add sweet or savory ingredients.” The same dough they use for croissants is molded into eggy breakfast buns and their beloved orange and cinnamon-scented morning buns.

That’s to say by rolling out, beating, and laminating your own pastry dough at home, you aren’t just rewarded with a fun project that brings folks together in the kitchen and decadent croissants that have seemingly endless layers. You’re also creating a buttery blank canvas for other baked goods. Use it for display-ready pinwheel danish topped with seasonal fruit, extra-flaky pigs in a blanket, or one of the following recipes, developed for us by the pros at Tartine.

The French Connection

Tartine’s Chad Robertson Christina Holmes

“Americans think there’s this thing called a ‘French croissant’ but the truth is there are thousands of varieties and characteristics throughout France. Some are denser, some are flakier, some are lighter or darker and crispy with a chewy texture inside. And when they’re great, they’re so decadent and satisfying you don’t even want another. I’m not an advocate for the Parisian binge-eating-croissant vacation.” —Tartine’s Chad Robertson

Piquillo Pepper and Almond Morning Buns Christina Holmes

How to Bake like Tartine at Home

A 15-year employee of Tartine, Fausto Echeverria started as a dishwasher and worked his way through all of the stations in the kitchen before heading up croissant production at Tartine Manufactory. His team turns out over 200 of their signature croissants a day with the help of futuristic Swedish ovens, a mega-size spiral mixer, and a dough sheeter. When baking with his young kids at home, Eche­verria makes pastries that are almost as perfect by following these steps.

Check Your Proofs Professional bakers often let pastries made with yeast-leavened dough rise in warm, humidified cabinets known as proof boxes. If your kitchen is cool and dry, fake your own by setting your tray of shaped pastries in a large cooler or covered plastic bin beside a dish of hot water. This will prevent the surfaces from drying out and cracking and allow the tender dough to stretch evenly as it rises. Don’t overproof if the pastries have fully inflated and started to fall again, they will bake up flat and misshapen.

Optimize Your Oven Tartine bakes in a rotating convection oven that eliminates the need to open the oven to rotate during cooking. Echeverria re-creates the convection effect at home by adding a low, wide dish of water on the floor of the oven during preheating. The rising steam encourages heat and air movement and ensures a more even bake. The other key to consistency: Leave the door shut until the pastries have a good amount of color. Otherwise, they tend to fall before their shape is set.

Keep Things Fresh By Tartine’s standards, croissants have an extremely short window of acceptable freshness. At home, Fausto proofs and bakes only what he intends to serve that day. Unproofed, raw pastries can be frozen and packed in resealable plastic bags. The night before you plan to bake, transfer the frozen pastries to a parchment paper–lined sheet tray, tent loosely with plastic wrap, and thaw in the refrigerator.

Get Scrappy

Extra dough Christina Holmes

Don’t let an inch of dough go to waste. Instead of smushing the scraps together to form wonky croissants, turn them into these cheesy twists. Cut the trimmings from croissant dough into rectangles, spread one side with crème fraîche, and slit down the middle. Flip one short end of each rectangle through the opening twice. Proof just like the other danish, sprinkle generously with Gruyère, then bake at 400° to a crispy, golden brown.

Get the recipe for Tartine’s Croissants » Christina Holmes Get the recipe for Baked Egg Danish with Kimchi and Bacon » Christina Holmes Get the recipe for Piquillo Pepper and Almond Morning Buns » Emma Star Jensen Get the recipe for Sour Cherry and Pistachio Danish » Christina Holmes

These 13 Baked Goods are Perfect with a Mug of Coffee

Ingalls Photography

You may not always have time to indulge in a full-on, crazy-extravagant breakfast in the morning. Sometimes, what you want—or, depending on your caffeine dependency, what you need—is just something to go along with a good strong cup of coffee in the morning (heck, you can even try some of these with a strong cup of tea, if that’s more your thing). We’re right there with you. That’s why we’ve come up with this list of breakfast pastries that make a perfect pair with a hot (or iced) cup of joe. Make a batch one evening, and you’ll have breakfast for the next week. From simple biscuits and the best croissants to every kind of sticky bun, here are our favorite pastries to match your favorite morning beverage.

Brown Butter Tart with Blackberries

Melt butter in the oven for a fast, versatile tart crust with intense nutty flavor that pairs beautifully with pastry cream and fresh berries. For easy serving, prepare the tarts in individual aluminum cups. Get the recipe for Brown Butter Tart with Blackberries »

Treated like puff pastry, the dough for these buttery biscuits is rolled and folded several times to create multiple flaky layers. Get the recipe for Nancy Silverton’s All-Butter Biscuits »

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Calzone

The classic combination of bacon, egg, and cheese gets folded inside flaky pastry for a breakfast variation on the calzone. Get the recipe for Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Calzone »

Hazelnut Cream Sandwich Cookies (La Deliziosa)

These crumbly, buttery cookies are filled with a luscious hazelnut-flavored pastry cream. Get the recipe for Hazelnut Cream Sandwich Cookies (La Deliziosa) »

Bacon and Egg Pie

This New Zealand combination of flaky pastry, canary-yellow yolks, and salty bacon has cross-cultural appeal. Get the recipe for Bacon and Egg Pie »

Almond-Cream Tartlets

Frozen raspberries or lingonberries top whipped cream and an almond pastry crust for these delicate, bite-sized tartlets. Get the recipe for Almond-Cream Tartlets »

Small Pastry Puffs with Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

Don’t let the appearance of these cream puffs intimidate you this dessert is both fun and easy to make at home. Get the recipe for Small Pastry Puffs with Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream »

Sarikopitakia (fried mizithra cheese pastries)

These savory fried cheese pies are named for their spiral shapes. Sariki, a Turkish word meaning “turban,” is also the name of a traditional headdress still worn by Cretan men at celebrations. Tsikoudia, a grape-based spirit from Crete, is used in the dough, likely for making it easier to roll out into thin sheets. Get the recipe for Cretan Fried Cheese Pastries (Sarikopitakia) »

The croissant’s perfection is twofold: an interior of infinitely spiraling paper-thin layers and a shatteringly flaky crust.

The croissant’s perfection is twofold: an interior of infinitely spiraling paper-thin layers and a shatteringly flaky crust. Get the recipe for The Best Croissants »

Get the recipe for Sour Cherry and Pistachio Danish »

Layers of buttery, flaky laminated pastry are swirled around a lightly spiced, pleasantly gooey cherry compote, then brushed with orange liqueur and sprinkled with pulverized pistachios after baking. For an alcohol-free alternative, swap out the liqueur for a mixture of honey and fresh orange juice. Get the recipe for Sour Cherry and Pistachio Danish »

Sweet Cream Scones

These delicate pastries start with butter and flour, then get a hit of cream for a sublimely tender morning treat. Get the recipe for Sweet Cream Scones »

Sage and Coconut Caramel Sticky Buns

Jonathan Brooks of Milktooth bakes these extreme pecan sticky buns atop a caramel sauce made with coconut milk, ale, coffee, and barley malt syrup—the bitterness of the sauce balances the sweet buns. Get the recipe for Sage and Coconut Caramel Sticky Buns »

Pecan Sticky Buns

Three types of sugar sweeten this recipe for sticky buns swirled with cinnamon and drizzled with pecan sauce. Get the recipe for Pecan Sticky Buns »

How to Pair Desserts and Drinks, a Q&A With the Owners of Butter & Scotch

In its inexorable march across the food landscape, there's precious little that theartisanal movement hasn't reclaimed as its own. Once Pop Tarts have been given thelocal/organic treatment , where else is there to go?

For Allison Kave and Keavy Blueher, it's behind the bar and out of the oven. That'swhere they're headed with Butter & Scotch , a combination dessert and cocktail bar they'replanning to open in Brooklyn this spring. The idea came about when Kave, theproprietor of First Prize Pies , and Blueher, the owner of Kumquat Cupcakery ,decided to join forces and realized there wasn't a place where, as Blueher puts it,"I could have a slice of pie and a glass of wine as a nightcap." The pair debuted thepop-up iteration of Butter & Scotch earlier this fall at the Brooklyn Flea, where theyserved morsels such as tequila chile caramel corn and doughnut holes piped toorder with bourbon caramel sauce. Always inspired by the marriage of sugar andbooze, we were curious to learn more about how to take the two beyond the classic,no-brainer pairing of a glass of port and a square of exceptional dark chocolate. Sowe asked Kave and Blueher, and they obliged in expert fashion.

What are the general rules of thumb for making alcohol and dessert play welltogether?
Allison Kave: You need to pay attention to the fact that in general, alcoholic beverages tend to be very strong, and can blow out your palate a little bit. So you're looking fordesserts that have a real presence of their own, a real strong flavor that balances outthe cocktail. Like something with salt, like salted caramel, or generously seasoneddesserts. Salt makes you want to drink more and helps to activate the palate, andcan counteract some of the effects of the heat of the alcohol. But you can also usealcoholic beverages that aren't as strong. Like this time of year, it's nice to do thingswith toddies or cider or mulled wine. They'll warm you up, but it's not like drinking aManhattan or martini where it's just booze and will take a hammer to your tongue.

Keavy Blueher: If you have a heavily spiced dessert you might want to go for a cleaner cocktail.

AK: You could do a heavily spiced gingersnap cookie and pair it with Limoncello tocleanse the palate.

What about pairing less assertively flavored desserts like, say, a lavenderpanna cotta?
AK: There are a lot of things to pair with that. You could go heavy on the drink--Icould even see a port go well with lavender--or a lighter dessert wine.

KB: Or something a little more effervescent, even though it's light. Panna cottais so creamy and rich, so youɽ want something that would have a little more sugarand bite to it.

On the less elevated end of the spectrum, there's perhaps the most classicalcohol and dessert pairing of all, the Jell-o shot. Any pointers?
AK: We already talked about doing Jell-o shots--but doing them well. We want totake it to a crazier level and do Jell-o shot cakes. But to make them better, you canget unflavored gelatin, which works just like Jell-o, and real fruit juice, and foodcoloring. One thing I've seen before that's so cool looking is you take a lemon orlime or any citrus fruit, pull out the fruit, and use the peel as a receptacle for the Jell-o. You can actually slice it so it looks like grapefruit or lime wedges. They're greatcolors and fun, but they're so dangerous: it's so easy to keep picking up pieces offruit.

Another much-maligned--and seasonally relevant--member of the boozydessert family is eggnog. Any advice?
AK: If eggnog is done well and correctly, it can be a beautiful thing. It really lendsitself to dessert applications because of the creaminess of it--we've been talkingabout doing an eggnog cream pie, and you could also do a cupcake or sundae ormilkshake. If you're having a holiday party and don't want to put out a whole punchbowl, make eggnog cupcakes or frosting.

Can you pair something really acidic, like a pickle back, or is that inadvisable?
KB: We've already been talking about doing cool backs. We're obsessive aboutpickle backs. I've been thinking of shrub backs.

AK: Pickles are a little bit difficult, but I've been given new perspective from mymom [
Rhonda Kave, the owner of Roni-Sue's Chocolates ]: she doesa pickle truffle. Either dill or bread-and-butter pickles because they have a naturalsweetness would be easier to chase with something. To me, the classic combinationis pickles and beer, so something malty and yeasty.

KB: In terms of cocktails, if you were doing a pickle back, you would go with adessert with no acidity.

AK: Like shortbread--something rich and buttery and salty that's not competingwith the acid in the pickle. Trying to pair something with lemon or fruit would bekind of weird.

Are there any desserts you wouldn't pair with alcohol, or vice-versa?
AK: Two things that are really, really sweet. It's coming up with that balance. Butin terms of kinds of alcohol, I can't think of anything. Even something like a bloodyMary, which is kind of a meal in itself, could pair really well with a little bowl ofcandy, like caramels or petit fours would work really well. It would also go so wellwith the tequila chile corn we're making. I think the sky's kind of the limit as long asyou know the ingredients and techniques and range of desserts and ingredients thatare at your disposal.

20 Recipes That Are Perfect for an Elegant Afternoon Tea Party

A previously elegant social event that is now a gathering for all, the tradition of serving afternoon tea dates back to the 1840s in Britain. While it's hard to pinpoint exactly when, or why, the tradition of afternoon tea started, many reports link it to Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess was said to have had mid-afternoon hunger pains and wanted to fill the long period of time between lunch and dinner with small bites such as finger sandwiches and sweets, as well as tea. Within a few decades, the event became a parade of pageantry, where hosts could show off their impressive collection of china, fine linens, and exquisite taste in the form of pricy teas and dainty fare.

You don't need to be a duchess to take afternoon tea. Grand hotels offer it, so do some restaurants and cafés, but we think this grand tradition is best enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. In addition to serving a selection of teas, a variety of small foods, both savory and sweet, are essential. Our recipes will give you a sense of what to serve at your next afternoon tea.

Considering the British history of this event, scones are must. Rhubarb-Buckwheat Scones and Herb-Cheddar Scones offer something for everyone. And what's afternoon tea without cucumber sandwiches (the two are practically synonymous)? An open-faced Scandinavian Shrimp-and-Cucumber Sandwich has a gorgeous mix of bright colors and Vegan Cucumber Tea Sandwiches won't make the dairy-averse feel left out.

Care for something sweet? Rose Raspberry Macarons, while technically French, are a delight to eat. Other special occasion sweets include Polka-Dot Petit Fours, Orange Madeleines, and Mini Chocolate Cakes with Dark-Chocolate Ganache. Set a couple of hours aside in the afternoon to enjoy tasteful blends of tea and treats (oh, and keep those pinkies down&mdashit's an antiquated habit!).

Features & guest posts

Can you remember a time when hummus didn&rsquot fill the end of every supermarket aisle and come in ten different flavours? Now Middle Eastern influences in food are ubiquitous and restaurants abound, but what should you drink with a Middle Eastern meal?

Typically you&rsquoll be served a wide range of mezze to start, from creamy, smoky baba ganoush, lemon-sharp tabouleh with fresh herbs, a fattoush or bread salad dusted with tangy sumac, vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, earthy hummus, delicate pastries stuffed with cheese, spinach or meat, spicy chicken livers and fried kibbeh coated in crunchy, cracked wheat with a lamb and pine nut filling. Some restaurants may even serve raw mezze such as finely minced spiced raw lamb kibbeh or cubes of uncooked liver eaten with garlic sauce and mint leaves.

The mezze course is usually followed by grilled meats, cooked over charcoal, which means an array of lamb chops, kebabs both with cubed meats and spicy, minced kofta, chicken and beef. So given this vast array of flavours, what would be a good choice of wine?

It&rsquos quite a good rule of thumb that local food and wine go together. Regional cuisine has often evolved alongside wine making Chianti complements the roast tomato-based dishes of Tuscany, for instance, and think how well a crisp Riesling cuts through the heaviness of a wiener schnitzel.

If you are looking for a local match (and don&rsquot have the pleasure of sitting down to eat this spread in one of the countries of the Middle East that serve alcohol) then many winemakers in the Levant export widely Chateau Musar from the Lebanon is probably the best known, with other Lebanese wines such as Chateau Kefraya, Chateau Ksara and Massaya following suit. Domaine de Bargylus is still managing to produce and export fine wine from Syria. The excellent St George wines of Jordan made by Zumat rarely make it outside the country. Morocco has the most established and extensive wine industry in North Africa with fourteen appellations, and Algeria is the biggest producer so there could be some interesting developments there when the local situation stabilises.

Don&rsquot expect unusual grape varieties however. Although there have been vineyards in the region since biblical times (the Persians were making wine 7000 years ago) modern wine-making techniques, styles and grape varieties from other regions have been adopted across the board.

So what should you choose with a middle-eastern feast? Here are my top tips:

Reach for something pink

Choosing a wine to match this huge array of tastes and flavours could be a challenge, but my first choice would be a rosé. Altitude Rosé by Ixsir, a new winery in the Lebanon, is reminiscent of the fresh, crisp, dry styles of Provence, is one I&rsquod recommend, and the spicy note in Ksara Sunset Rosé, made from Cabernet Franc and Syrah, goes well with mezze like muhammara (a red pepper and walnut dip).

Otherwise I would generally look to Southern France - you want a wine with enough fruit flavours but avoiding anything that&rsquos sweet. Of late I&rsquove tasted some refreshing rosés from English vineyards such as Sharpham and wonderfully versatile Blanc de Noirs from South African Boschendal that I&rsquod be happy to drink with a table of mezze.

Forget your ABC

Forget the buttery, rich, over oaked style that led to the ABC movement (anything but Chardonnay). A well-structured white from Burgundy could keep you going throughout the meal a Rully would offer enough complexity but an entry-level white such at Drouhin&rsquos La Forêt would do very well. The new world has learnt its lesson &ndash look for wines that are unoaked and from cooler climate vineyards, for example Adelaide Hills in Australia and Walker Bay in South Africa.

Herbal essences

A wine to balance the intense flavours of the parsley and coriander in tabouleh or the mouth watering lemony acidity of fattoush is a tall order. I haven&rsquot tested this match but I&rsquom wondering if the herbal notes of Gewurztraminer might be the perfect foil? I&rsquom a big fan of Vina Esmeralda from Torres, a muscatel/ Gewurz blend which makes very easy drinking. Don&rsquot be put off by the green bottle which looks like it comes from the Wizard of Oz. A &lsquodry as a bone&rsquo well-chilled fino sherry would be fantastic with the vine leaves and mezze containing pine nuts. Another wine to try would be an herbaceous New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

A savoury red from the Mediterranean seems the best place to start when looking for a match for the meat course. Over seven hundred years of Arab occupation affected Spanish culture profoundly including their cuisine. There&rsquos a cultural continuity in choosing a Spanish wine.

I&rsquod choose a spicy Rioja Crianza which would be versatile enough to go with chicken and dark meats but not overwhelming. For something with more body, I&rsquod try a Nero d&rsquoAvola from Sicily, another part of the world where an Arab presence in the first century is still evident today in the distinct food of the island. This dark, inky wine is laced with black cherry and tobacco flavours, matching the charcoal smokiness of the food.

The family behind Domain du Vieux Télégraphe invested in Massaya and there&rsquos some Rhone spiciness in Massaya Silver Selection that makes it a great match for grilled meats and one my favourite Lebanese reds.

I tasted many of the wines at an Arabic meal in Dubai with Ramzi Ghosn of the Massaya winery the evening proved conclusively that these wines travel well. Rhône grape varieties (Cinsault and Carignan) also lend spice and fragrance to the deep berry flavours of Cabernet Sauvignon in Chateau Musar red the 2004 vintage is drinking well now.

A spirited alternative

Food writer Anissa Helou confesses that she abandons wine altogether when she is in Lebanon and drinks the local aniseed spirit arak with water instead.

While mint tea or coffee is usual with sweet Arabic pastries you might try a glass of Marsala. The name of this fortified wine from Sicily comes from the Arabic marsa Allah (the harbour of God).

Without alcohol

I&rsquove been lucky enough to taste some wonderful wines over the 18 years I&rsquove lived and traveled in the Middle East but of course there are occasions when alcohol is not served either due to local regulations or to respect non-drinkers with whom you are sharing the meal.

Alcohol is forbidden in a few countries in the Middle East, notably Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Yemen and Libya and may not be available in some areas. When I was hiking along the Lebanon Mountain Trail there were some valleys in the North of the country, which were alcohol free, and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates is completely dry.

Wherever you are in the Arab world, water will usually be brought to the table without asking. In this part of the world where water is often in short supply it is prized if you are dining with someone of importance, it is the done thing to fill up their glass with water. Fresh fruit juice will also be readily available - watermelon and pomegranate juices are particularly refreshing. I would avoid mango juice with a meal though as it can be very filling.

Sherbets are a cooling fruit juice cordial which are very popular in Egypt, but variations such as Sekanjabin (a Persian vinegar and sugar syrup) exist throughout the region. Laban or ayran is a popular yoghurt drink but not usually with lunch or dinner.

Mint tea or infusions are popular throughout the Middle East, usually served in small glass cups and with sugar. Coffee, which was first roasted and traded from Yemen (via the port of Mocha) is served in very small handle-less cups and can be mixed with different spices, usually saffron and cardamom. If you are at a gathering and would like a refill, keep the cup still tip the cup from side to side if you do not.

Middle East Matching

As with all food and wine pairing, there is no right or wrong match and with such a wide array of tastes and textures in a Middle Eastern feast, discovering which wine works best for you is part of the fun. If you do get to taste the food in its country of origin, it's always worth trying the local wine.

Sally Prosser, the author of, a food and wine blog that was listed in The Independent&rsquos top 50 food websites, has lived in the Middle East for 18 years, currently in Dubai, UAE. During this time she&rsquos tasted coffee in Libya, champagne in Saudi and Kuwait, wine in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Oman and Jordan and a cocktail made with edible gold in Dubai! She&rsquos furthered her interest in wine throughout this time (she took Jancis Robinson&rsquos wine course book to Saudi Arabia) and gained Wines and Spirits Education Trust Advanced Level.

If you found this post useful and were happy to get the advice for free perhaps you'd think about donating towards the running costs of the site? You can find out how to do it here or to subscribe to our regular newsletter click here.

The nuts

Although most sources agree that it’s probably Turkish in origin, baklava spread throughout the Ottoman empire, and can be found as far afield as Albania and Azerbaijan – with a similar spread of fillings. Nuts are the one constant, credited in the Oxford Companion to Food to the Persian influence on the regime’s kitchen. Walnuts are popular, especially in more northern climes, with almonds and pistachios appearing further south and east – Roden notes, in her Book of Jewish Food, that “the pistachio filling was considered the grandest”. She allows for any of the three, while Seal specifies walnuts in her book The Islands of Greece, as does Arto der Haroutunian in his classic Sweets and Desserts from the Middle East.

Sabrina Ghayour uses a mixture of ground almonds and slivered pistachios in Persiana, and Sally Butcher (who wins my trust in Snackistan by admitting that baklava is “kind of addictive . Quite a lot of self-confessed diabetics come into the shop to buy it, assuring us that they will just fiddle with their meds to compensate”) suggests ground almonds, but mentions that one could also use cashews, walnuts or pistachios. As I haven’t seen cashews mentioned elsewhere, I decide to give them a try in her recipe.

The great Claudia Roden’s version of the sticky treat. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

The choice of nuts is down to personal taste (and budget – pistachios are still far more expensive than any of the other nuts). I like the slight bitterness of the walnuts as a base, mixed with sweet ground almonds and a few pricey pistachios, both for their lovely flavour and the crunch they bring. Cashews, while nice, are too subtle to stand out here.

Roden adds melted butter and sugar to her nuts, and Seal, Butcher and Ghayour mix in sugar (Der Haroutunian leaves them au naturel). I like the richness the butter brings to potentially dry ground almonds, but given the drenching of syrup that’s coming I’m going to bypass the extra sugar.

10 Most Decadent Pastries Ever Conceived

Step aside, top chefs! Pastry chefs are the new rock stars. With pastry cream and spun sugar in hand, these cake-baking, dessert-creating fiends are taking their places in the spotlight! And in honor of these brave bakers, we've put together a list of some of the most decadent pastries ever conceived.

You won't find plain old vanilla cupcakes or chocolate chip cookies on this list. No, these 10 desserts trump those old standbys. Get ready to drool and kick into a sugar high as you click through the following pages. Bon appétit!

Currently enjoying a popularity surge in the United States, macarons are a staple in French pastry shops. Many confuse them with macaroons, which, while also delicious, are made with coconut and are chewy. Macarons are made with egg whites (meringues), ground almonds and sugar. These petite treats are a favorite snack to pair with a mid-afternoon cup of coffee or tea.

Macarons sort of look like tiny hamburgers -- two pieces of sweet meringue glued together with a creamy center. Pastry chefs get very creative with the fillings. You'll see chocolate ganache, lemon, pistachio, fruit purée, violet, and even off-the-wall fillings like violet or foie gras. Macarons really allow a baker to be inventive!

You might know profiteroles by another name -- the cream puff. These miniature treats are made from choux pastry, which is a simple, light, round pastry that's relatively easy to make. Profiteroles are decadent confections you can make at home. The choux pastry is cut in half, and sandwiched in between the two halves is whipped or pastry cream. Sometimes, it's filled with ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce. Yum! By the way, the word "profiterole" comes from the word "profit," which means "to derive benefit from." We completely agree with that sentiment!

New Orleans is famous for all kinds of food and drink, but one of its most celebrated treats is the beignet. The beignet is sort of like a doughnut, but if you've ever had one, you know that it's much more than that. A beignet is yeast dough, raised, fried and then liberally dusted with powdered sugar. And unlike the doughnut, it doesn't have a hole, which is just fine with us -- more beignet to eat! The New Orleans coffee shop Café du Monde is a well-known spot to stop for chicory coffee and fresh, hot beignets. You'll find hungry tourists and locals there at all hours.

Who doesn't love a chocolate éclair? Like the profiterole, an éclair is made with choux pastry. But unlike a profiterole, which is round, an éclair is long and thin. The hollow inside is filled with pastry cream or custard and topped with a frosting -- usually chocolate. Food historians actually don't know a lot about the invention of éclairs. But they believe these rich desserts were created in the late 1700s to the early 1800s, probably by a French pastry chef to royalty. The éclair is definitely a confection fit for a king.

"Mille-feuille" is French for "a thousand leaves." These stacked pastries are also known as Napoleons. Mille-feuilles are made of many layers of puff pastry alternating with pastry or whipped cream. The top is glazed with icing, traditionally in combed white and brown chocolate. When making mille-feuilles, chefs generally use long pieces of pastry and then cut them into individual serving sizes with a serrated knife. You can also find savory mille-feuilles, filled with things like cheese or spinach instead of cream. We'll stick with the sweet ones, though!

Very popular in India, gulab jamun are little balls of fried dough soaked in sugar syrup. The dough is made with khoya, which is thickened fresh milk. Sometimes flour is added to the dough to make it easier to roll into balls. The sugar syrup is usually flavored with cardamom and rosewater, but is sometimes paired with saffron or honey. Gulab jamun grew out of an Arabic dessert called Luqmat Al-Qadi. Traditionally, gulab jamun is served at festivals or celebrations like weddings.

The croissant amande, or almond croissant, is a classic French pastry. Traditional croissants are delicious enough -- so buttery and melt-in-your-mouth. But croissants aux amandes take it a bit further. Filled with almond cream, they are extremely rich. Croissant aux amandes were originally devised as a way to move out day-old croissants from French bakeries. Bakers take the croissants, fill them up with a delicious almond cream (made with almond powder, sugar and eggs) and sprinkle the tops with sliced almonds. The croissants are baked until the cream is set and the edges are crispy. We're drooling just thinking about them!

Any Italian bakery worth its weight in salt (or sugar?) carries dozens of mouth-watering cannoli. Cannoli are so rooted in Italian culture, they even get their own shout-out in the famous film "The Godfather," with the line, "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." Cannoli are tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, piped full of a rich cream that contains ricotta cheese. You'll find lots of variations, including chocolate-dipped pastry shells, pistachio nuts, citrus peel or candied cherries.

Did you know: The singular form of cannoli is cannolo. But who can eat just one?

Opera cakes, much like their namesakes, are works of art with several acts. To wit -- an opera cake contains the following wonderfulness:

  • Three layers of almond cake, each layer soaked in coffee syrup
  • One layer of espresso-flavored buttercream
  • One layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache
  • Topping of chocolate glaze
  • "Opera" written across the top in sugar

If that's not decadent enough for you, each piece of opera cake is finished with an edible, shiny gold leaf. The cake debuted sometime around the early 1900s, named after the Paris Grand Opera. We're pretty sure this confection will make your taste buds sing!

We don't think desserts get more decadent or fun than a traditional croquembouche. Croquembouche is a pyramid of profiteroles -- as you remember, profiteroles are small balls of choux pastry stuffed with pastry cream. The pyramid is held together with a caramel glaze and is usually decorated with spun sugar. Traditionally a French wedding cake, "croquembouche" means "crack in one's mouth" because of the crunch you get from the hardened caramel. Some people also drizzle warm dark chocolate over the pyramid. The traditional way to serve croquembouche at a wedding is to whack it with a sword, and the bridesmaids catch the pieces in a tablecloth. Festive!

So, have we awoken your taste buds? For more about baking and pastries, check out the mouth-watering links on the next page.

15 Cookie Butter Recipes You've Got to Try Immediately

Originally a treat enjoyed just by workers at Belgian cookie factories, speculoosbutter, which turns the cookie into a spread, has taken the world by storm. Popular speculoos brand Biscoff's spread can be found in many larger supermarkets, but some stores, like Trader Joe's, sell their own. And while eating it from the jar is always a good activity, cookie butter is pretty delicious when you use it in other things too. From sandwiches to muffins to brownies and beyond, there are dozens of uses for this miracle of modern industry.

1. No-Bake Speculoos Granola Bars

Let's face it, when the temperature cracks 90 outside, there's no way you're turning on that oven. Luckily these simple cookie butter granola bars let you enjoy their deliciousness while keeping the kitchen cool.

2. Cookie Butter Crunch Cups

This is basically a homemade Reese's cup with a crunchy cookie butter filling. The only drawback is that no one is going to believe you actually made these yourself.

3. No-Churn Cookie Butter Ice Cream

If you've been saying you can't make your own ice cream because you're averse to churning (or don't have an ice cream maker), you are out of excuses. Get into that kitchen and make one of the best ice creams you've ever tasted.

4. Speculoos Milkshake Ice Pops

This one takes a little willpower. First you make delicious cookie butter milkshakes. Then take whatever you don't drink right away and make splendid ice pops for later.

5.Speculoos Granola

Full of sweet, creamy cookie butter, this granola is really more of a dessert than a breakfast. But if you do eat it in the morning, no one needs to know.

6. White Chocolate Chip Speculoos Cookies

You know what makes white chocolate even better? Speculoos, of course. Make your own white chocolate and speculoos chips, then make white chocolate speculoos chip cookies, and then inhale every single one. Or maybe just a few, if you're into moderation.

7. Homemade Speculoos Spread

No cookie butter at your favorite grocer? Don't fall into a deep melancholy and curse your very existence. Simply make your own following this easy recipe.

8. Speculoos Mousse

Working cookie butter into a fluffy mousse is the perfect union of everyday and special occasion. Like kicking off your heels and dancing on the lawn at a wedding. But in dessert form.

9. Salted Chocolate Cookie Butter Bark

Sweet, salty, chocolaty &mdash this cookie butter bark's got it all. And then some.

10. Speculoos Banana Bread with Speculoos Cookie Streusel

This soft banana bread has just a tiny bit of cookie butter in the topping. So it won't be overkill when you slather a slice with it too.

11. Cookie Butter Doughnuts

Cookie butter deserves a spot at your breakfast table. It's earned it, don't you think?

12. Speculoos Toffee Ice Cream Cake

Cookie butter. Toffee. Ice cream. Cake. If you have any reservations about this, it's probably that it's too much. But there can be never be too much. Believe it.

13. Speculoos-Filled Brownie Bites

Let's say you want something rich and sweet, but you also want something adorable. You don't need to be paralyzed with indecision &mdash just make these.

14. Speculoos Marshmallow Pie

Light, sweet, and custardy, this cookie butter marshmallow pie is poised to be the breakout pie of 2014. Get in on the ground floor. Get the recipe from Beyond Frosting.

15. Cookie Butter Chip Muffins

With chips made from cookie butter instead of chocolate, these muffins are full of melt-in-your-mouth gooey goodness.

Elizabeth Stark is a food writer with a passion for seasonal food, great desserts, and inadvisable wine pairings. Read more on her blog, Brooklyn Supper.



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