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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.
Spicing up Konafa with brand new fresh and creative fillings has become a common Ramadan trend in all the pastry shops and bakeries across Cairo – think of it as this generation’s contribution to Ramadan tradition. We’ve seen the infamous Nutella infused konafa, the viral red velvet and konafa topped with meringue, dates and fresh cream – the list goes on.
There’s certainly plenty out there, but experience has shown us that not all of these Frankenstein creations work;which is why we were thrilled with how heavenly – yes, heavenly – Tortina’s Mango Konafa turned out to be.
Paying a visit to Tortina’s Maadi branch, we were immediately struck by the succulent selection of crisp, amber-colour konafa dishes with more toppings and fillings than the mind can comprehend.
Tortina’s konafa specialties include Konafa Mars Cheesecake, Black Forest Konafa, Nutella-layered Konafa Bowl and a rather tempting Strawberry and Cream filled Crispy Konafa.
One of the pleasant staff members recommended the Mango Panna Cotta pyrex (210LE) – Tortina’s signature dessert dish this Ramadan comprising of konafa, fresh cream, Panna Cotta and fresh mangoes. Naturally we dared not say no, because, well, you try saying no that.
While the combination of konafa with cream and/or mango is one of the more widely accepted of these Ramadan variations, this one had one intriguing addition; mango flavoured panna cotta.
So, here’s how it goes; a layer of fresh cream anchors the creation, which is topped by a layer of fresh mangoes; on top of that is the konafa, while on top of that, is the panna cotta. While panna cotta’s jelly-like consistency may not be the first thing you’d want to pair with konafa, the whole thing works. So fresh, so smooth and so flavourful, the panna cotta instantly melted in our mouths, though, overall, the dessert needed a few more mango slices.
In addition to konafa, Tortina also offers a wide selection of traditional Egyptian sweets and desserts, including basbousa and katayef available in different sizes and prices— 55LE for small platters, 65LE for medium sized ones and 75LE for bigger platters.
Many bemoan these kooky twists on traditional favourites and few execute them as well as Tortina has this year. They haven’t simply bunged a load of ingredients on a konafa; these creations have been though through, they’ve been crafted and, maybe most importantly, they’re unique.