Friday, 2 April 2010

Let them eat cake!

Krystina, the lady in the bread shop, appears to be trying to educate me in the noble art of bread and cakes. This morning she asked me if I had tried the Roscón de este año. Well, no, I had to admit, I had not. So along with the excellent rye loaf I had just bought she gave me a free slice of roscón. It looked very similar to the Roscón de Reyes traditionally made for the Three Kings’ celebration in January, a wheel-shaped sweetish bread/cake decorated with jellied fruit, rather like a brioche with a slight hint of anis.

What she gave me was, she said, the traditional roscón. Some people prefer a version with more egg yolk in it. And then there is the
roscón de Niza, which has ground almonds in the mixture. Cunning these French folk from Nice, adding extra ingredients. I must try to get a free slice of that one.

In return I told her about hot cross buns in England, this being Good Friday. The smell of hot cross buns is one of my Proustian memory triggers. A whiff of hot cross bun and I’m back in my childhood, going to church with my father early on Good Friday morning and returning home to a house full of the smell of hot cross buns, warmed up in the oven by my mother who had stayed home with the smaller children. Of course, back in the day you could ONLY get hot cross buns for Good Friday, not practically all year round as you can now.

Today’s free slice of roscón is by no means the first freebie from the panadera although certainly one of the best. From time to time she presses onto me magdalenas, what Proust would have called madeleines, I suppose, and the Americans cupcakes. (They’re called little buns when my grandchildren make them.) As she knows I appreciate her rye bread, she sometimes gives me a slice of a similar, much denser bread with raisins in, a traditional Galician bread that you will find on sale wherever there is a rural fair selling productos artesanos. It’s very tasty and extremely chewy and keeps very well: nice toasted!

One of the strangest free products wa
s a collection of broken bits of orejas, the very thin, very brittle pancake/pastries made for carnaval in the shape of huge ears. This is probably one of the most over-rated confections imaginable but people order them especially for children’s carnival parties, presumably for their amusing shape. Huesos de santos (yes, saints’ bones!), the marzipan “bones” on sale for All Saints’ Day (not as some people think, for Hallowe’en) I can just about tolerate. If you like marzipan, they’re all right. But orejas? Well, really I fail to see the point!

Mind you I have similar feelings about churros, the long, thin squidges of batter fried and sprinkled with sugar for consumption with chocolate caliente. Hot chocolate, yes! Boring doughnut mix fritters, er … no! Doughnuts have to be round and filled with raspberry jam and MUST be served very fresh. The packets of iced dough nuts sold on the stalls that spring up here on almost every street corner at the merest whisper of the word fiesta are most definitely not for me.

So, getting back to the panadera, her free gifts are obviously a marketing ploy and one that works. I have been back and bought some of the things she has given me as free samples. She does an excellent chocolate and walnut cake, nice and moist but not as sickly sweet as the famous “Death by Chocolate”. Excellent with a cup of coffee!

One of these days, though, I am going to be tempted to say that I don’t actually want to buy anything but would gladly just walk away with whatever is going free!

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