The donut that almost became the official dessert of Hanukkah—if the economy hadn't gotten in the way.
A regional Mexican specialty rapidly fading from collective memory. And a ubiquitous Christmas cake tradition in a country that’s less than 1% Christian.
These are the dessert origins and quirky backstories that we found when we asked writers, cookbook authors, and community members to help us paint the pictures of what's baking in many corners of the world.
Here are all 16 1/2 stories. (Oh, and that half? A lovable so-much-cream-it's-basically-dessert cocktail). Actual illustrations by the talented Julia Rothman.
Malva pudding is a South African favorite: It crops up in cookbooks well-known and obscure, in restaurants large and small. Families speak of recipes passed down through generations. But for all of the origin theories behind this iconic, deeply-rooted dessert, it turns out that it's probably younger than you—and almost definitely younger than your parents.
Food of Oman author Felicia Campbell writes of Shab-e-Yalda, when Persian families celebrate the longest, darkest night of the year by gathering at the oldest matriarch's home. This year will be her first, full of fortune-reading, dancing, and feasting on Ajil-e Moshkel Gosha, or ”problem solving nuts"—good luck to anyone who eats them.
Why is this regional specialty—an ethereally light cousin to tres leches—rapidly fading from collective memory? Michael Snyder travels to Mexico to find out, and brings us a recipe passed down from 86-year-old local Mimy Aguilera Contreras (pictured above).
The Lunar New Year, which culminates with the Lantern Festival, is the biggest holiday celebration of the year in China. And eating tang yuan is a crucial part: The chewy dumplings in a mildly sweet broth symbolize togetherness—and then all but disappear from the streets when the festivities end. Laura Shunk tracks them and their story down in Beijing.