Hump Day | Torrijas in Spain, Semana Santa Sweets

This year marks my second Easter in Spain, and I admit as an American accustomed to the 10 day-a-year vacation schedule, I continue to marvel at the holidays, festivities and traditions I encounter every month. Not to mention that every community, province, sometimes even pueblo, has different things to celebrate and different ways to do it. That being said, during this year's holiday I found fewer Cadbury eggs and more pastry shops filled to the brim with delicacies and arse-increasing treats. Did that stop me from enjoying? No way Jose--or Josep if you happen to buy your mona de Pascua in Barcelona.

Personally, I was most drawn to the torrija, a typical sweet of Semana Santa (Easter) or Cuaresma (Lent) found throughout Spain. The association with these pastries and religious celebrations came to pass because the church forbade people to eat meat during the 40 days of Lent. The shape of the torrija, cut into rounds from the baguette, is similar to that of a piece of meat. Nowadays, less Spaniards are true to their Catholic roots and the torrijas are eaten for pure gluttony....oh, and because they taste great.

At first site, these little fritters reminded me much of French toast, at least how we call egg-and-milk-battered fried bread in the US. I suppose like French fries, neither are they French nor called by that name in France. In fact, they are quite an international dessert (or breakfast or snack); England, Portugal, Mexico, the list goes on. However, in the early 20th century it was common to find people eating torrijas with stout glasses of wine (chatos) in the local Madrid taverns. I happened to be in Madrid for Easter Week when the window displays became too much to handle and I had to try for myself the sopping sweet and cinnamon sprinkled temptresses.

To adequately absorb the milk, the best torrijas are created with day old (or more) bread. A dash of lemon zest, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar (I suspect lots) are added to the milk before it is boiled, giving a surprising and aromatic flavor when the milk cools off. I also gather that, like in most Spanish dishes, the introduction to frying something in quality olive oil makes anything superior.

By chance we found the bakery Pasteleria Gomez, Madrid, España and were quite pleased with the outcome, although initially surprised by the price of 18 euros per kilo-- honestly who would have thought for milk, old bread and sugar?! But the richness, softness, melt in your mouth texture was enough to make me wish we could celebrate Año Santo. But have no fear...the next fiesta is around the corner with a new dessert to catch our attention and taste buds. 

*La Mallorquina is also a great spot in Madrid's city center to grab traditional Spanish pastries and seasonal sweets.

So sweeeeet, soooo soft, so good!

There are torrijas - YES!!!


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