In Bilbao this tradition remains surprisingly present in the lives of its citizens. Its traditional pastries, with around half a dozen "must-haves", have not yielded an inch to the onslaught of industrial confectionery or the war on calories.
With its coffee tradition, the city is full of cafés and bars where thousands of people take a daily break to enjoy a café (with a strong coffee and concentrated milk) with one of the iconic pastries. The patisseries are filled day after day with elegant businessmen, hordes of housewives and even teenagers on their school breaks who take one or a thousand pieces for their individual or collective enjoyment.
It could be said that patisseries have always been, in Bilbao, what pintxos have aspired to be for not so many years: haute cuisine in daily doses and within the reach of everyone.
This meringue pie is as peculiar as it is ubiquitous. It has a shortcrust pastry base, some "michelines" of soft meringue and two decorations, one on each side, of egg yolk and chocolate. It is one of those sweets that seldom achieves in taste and aroma what its appearance promises.
As its name suggests, this pastry does not contain a single grain of rice in its preparation. It is a tartlet of something between shortcrust pastry and puff pastry filled with a spongy cream halfway between a pastry cream and a cheesecake.
This other cake with a woman's name is essentially a Swiss roll, with sugar sprinkled on top, sometimes toasted. It must be accompanied by a large glass of strong café au lait or hot chocolate.
It is the undisputed king of Bilbao's everyday pastries. Something as simple as a Swiss roll opened in half and filled with whipped pastry butter (nothing like the butter we are used to buying, this one is much creamier, something halfway between "normal" butter and whipped cream). Almost every pastry shop in the city, and an endless list of cafés, bars and shops, offer this sweet.
The Jesuita is a triangle of puff pastry covered with royal icing. They can be filled with custard or "angel's hair" (cabello de ángel). Delicious.
Its traditional patisserie has
not given an inch in the face
of industrial confectionery
or the war on calories
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