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Greek Bakeries - What to Know Before You Visit!

Are you planning a trip to Greece this summer? Do you love learning tips and tricks about Greece? Here is some helpful information that can help you navigate the many wonderful bakeries the country has to offer.

A couple sitting on a bench in front of the Papagiorgis Pâtisserie in Corfu (Kerkyra) enjoying ice cream.
Kosta and me enjoying an ice cream at the famous Papagiorgis Pâtisserie in Corfu (Kerkyra), Greece.

Fournos versus Zaharoplasteio

One of the main concepts to understand about Greek bakeries is that what most Americans think of as a "bakery" might not be the same type of establishment in Greece. (Remember, I'm writing from the perspective of someone who grew up in the US :) ). While most of North America might think of a bakery as somewhere to pick up freshly baked bread or perhaps cake, cookies, or other dessert... in Greece things might look different. There, a "Fournos" (Φούρνος), which translates to oven, is a place where you can find freshly-baked bread and other savoury products like pites, paximadia, or croissants. In contrast, if you are in Greece and looking for a place to purchase sweet treats like traditional syrup-based desserts (think baklava, kataifi, touloumbakia, etc.), cakes, ice cream, you would want to look for a Zaharoplasteio (Ζαχαροπλαστείο), or Patisserie.


While there is definitely a distinction between the two, you'll probably find that some of the products overlap depending on where you are in Greece. If you're looking for a sweet treat and the only business near you is a fournos, it's still worth a visit in case they do have some sweets available.


Fournos


A photograph depicting some of the food items one can expect when visiting a Greek bakery - breads, koulouria, pites, etc.
Prozymi, Syros, Greece

Some of the most common dishes you can find at the fournos include a variety of freshly-baked breads, koulouria, pites, bougatsa, and peinirli.


The fresh breads come in a variety of sizes from baguettes to whole grain to smaller round breads. You might be wondering what the rest of the items are, so I hope you find this guide helpful! Koulouria - round, circular breads that are baked into a shape similar to that of a bagel. They are often either filled with cream cheese or not filled, but decorated with sesame seeds on the outside. As the day goes on, they tend to harden up and are often enjoyed for breakfast or dipped into coffee.


Pites - small savoury "pies" usually filled with vegetables or meat filling and commonly made with either phyllo pastry, which is thin and crispy, or with puff pastry. While the most classic pites are probably spanakopita (spinach pita) and tyropita (cheese pita), there are other common flavours including cheese and ham, leek, spinach and cheese, and chicken.


Bougatsa - similar to a pita, this is a combination of phyllo pastry and a sweet custard semolina cream best topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Commonly enjoyed for breakfast, there are also savoury options similar to pites which can be filled with feta, spinach, or minced meat.


Peinerli - this bread-based savoury bite is often shaped like a boat and filled with a variety of tastes from ham to vegetable and most commonly made with a yellow cheese. They are similar to a pizza or flatbread.


Zaharoplasteio


Photo of a display case at a Greek zaharoplasteio.

Just as there are common foods to expect at the fournos, you'll notice common sweets sold at most patisseries. There are variances among different regions of Greece though, so you can't expect each one to sell the same items. There are so many amazing Greek sweets that I've got to write another post on it, but if you want to learn the more common ones, keep reading below.


Pastes - smaller versions of cakes, these are essentially mini cakes made with layers of sponge cake alternated between whipped cream or custard. These are often purchased in groups so as to create a box with a variety of different flavours, which vary from chocolate hazlenut to black forest, red velvet, and tiramisu. Pastes are commonly offered as a gift when visiting someone’s home or when you are buying a variety of sweets to suit multiple people - they're perfect for sharing!


Cookies - there are commonly many types of cookies on display. Some of the most common are petit fours, koulourakia, and butter cookies. I'll probably do another post on this at a later date!


Syropiasta (Syrup-Based Pastries) - I could write an entire post on this subset of Greek desserts, but some common items are baklava, kataifi, ekmek kataifi, galaktomboureko, touloumbakia, loukoumades, and cakes sold by the slice like orange cake (portokalopita) and nut cake (karidopita).


Ice Cream - it's common to find a wide variety of ice cream served in bowls or with cones as well as mini ice creams on a stick (similar to popsickles) or a cone, called pagotinia.


Cakes - full cakes are often on sale for people to pick up. While you won't find the buttercream icing common in the US, you can expect a whipped cream like consistency as topping on the cake. Common flavours include nut-based, chocolate cake (sokolatinia), and cakes decorated with fruit.


What are your favourite items to order? Is there anything you recommend?

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