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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Soufflé: Zamalek Sweet Spot
A good neighbour is always available to lend you a cup of sugar. On the island of Zamalek, sweet shop Soufflé knows what being a good neighbour is all about.
While some sweet shops specialise in oriental treats, ice cream or chocolate cake; Soufflé has it all. The large shop is packed with several coolers, a central counter and shelf-lined walls all loaded with sugary delights.
One section of baskets is brimming with bite-sized goodies of both the oriental and western persuasion. Tiny, crunchy tartlets filled with cashews, little chocolate-covered sandwich cookies and petite shortbreads with gooey apricot centres are just a few of the mini-treats in this section. Sold by weight, you can mix a bunch of your favourites for a tasty and colourful cookie platter at 70LE per kilo. For bite-sized savoury snacks, take a peek behind the gateau counter, where a slew of breadsticks and crackers in varying shapes with seeded toppings go for 26LE to 30LE per kilo.
The centre of the shop is devoted to a high counter, where traditional oriental sweets are on display. Soufflé’s selection includes traditional basbousa for 30LE per kilo– expect to pay more for the crunchy nut toppings– and konafa stuffed with pistachio for 140LE.
A refrigerated display of Soufflé’s cakes and tarts showcases the shop’s gourmet side. A number of beautifully designed cakes are available, including one covered with glistening peaches (120LE). Even better is the counter just next to this cooler, where chic single servings of a variety of cakes and tarts are sold.
One in particular features a double layered crunchy crust beneath a decadently rich layer of thick chocolate mousse which is topped with a combed design of dark and milk chocolate sauce. Another delightful option had a spongy white cake base topped with mounds of pastry cream and finished with pineapple, peach and kiwi. The sweetest part about these desserts is the price. At 9LE per piece, these gourmet treats are as nice on your wallet as they are on your tongue.Soufflé delivers to the Zamalek, Mohandiseen and Dokki neighbourhoods, and although they don’t cater; they do have a nice selection of dyed, fruit-shaped marzipan and lots of chocolates and candies in elegant wrappers that would make excellent favours for a party or a wedding.
And while there isn’t a single soufflé to be found in the store, their selection is so sweet that we barely notice the misdirection.
As per the last few years, Cairo’s bakeries and confectionaries have gone all out this Ramadan in an effort to outdo each other in the creativity department when it comes to traditional Egyptian desserts and sweets – and La Poire is no different.
A giant in its field, quality has never been issue of La Poire and, this year, there’s no shortage of options, either. Visiting the one of the Maadi branches, we would challenge anyone to step into a La Poire during Ramadan and not be overcome by indecision – there’s just so much to take in.
At the time of our visit, the branch had already begun selling kahk – traditionally made by bakeries and households alike in Eid – but we were drawn almost immediately to the Nutella konafa, as well as its mango counterpart, and ready-packaged Oriental sweet boxes for just 40LE per box.
Sold only in whole, we tried the konafa with berries (150LE), which is essentially structured in two halves; the top half features berries over cream, while the lower half is where the konafa comes in, with layers of it and more cream continuing to the bottom of the bowl that it comes in. Tasting every bit as delicious as it looked, the real surprise was how fresh the cream was, as well as the pure taste of the berries. It all made for a surprisingly light and airy dessert, with the contrast in textures ensuring you go back for a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth bite.
Other traditional desserts with kooky, modern spins at La Poire include Red Velvet basbousa (160LE) – and its konafa version (150LE) – which has been the talk of the town – well, social media – as well as a particular creation that brings together basbousa, konafa, cake and pistachio. Not the faint of heart, the dessert sells for a whopping 190LE and is one of the more outrageous appropriations of classic Egyptian sweets to emerge this Ramadan. Other, simpler options include the slightly more established and aforementioned konafa with mango (150LE) and the and inevitably super-sweet and ever-so-slightly over-priced konafa with Nutella (175LE), as well as Aish Saraya cake with pistachios (150LE).
Many bemoan what was once called by our friends at Cairo Gossip “the perversion of desserts, ” but there’s an intangible thrill about consuming these quirky versions of Egyptian classics – a thrill you will readily find at La Poire this Ramadan.