Argentine Pastries

(Photo by Xiaozhuli)

We’re not sure what the consumption of medialunas per capita is in Argentina, but we’re guessing it’s pretty high and right up there with meat. So, it’s no surprise that Buenos Aires (and practically every other Argentine city and town) is scattered with panaderias (bakeries).  Of course, being bakeries, their specialties include bread, cakes and pastries, like anywhere else in the world. However, as each place has its own twist on sugar and starch we’ve put together a list of typical pastries to sample next time you’re near a neighborhood carb-dispenser.

Medialunas: Hands down, the most popular pastry is this crescent shaped slightly sweet croissant. There are two types: de grasa (made with lard) or de manteca (made with butter). The first is crunchier and thin, the second puffy and moist.

Vigilantes: These pastries made mostly from butter are generally covered with quince jam and custard and sprinkled with sugar on top.

Bolas de Fraile: The Benedictine’s came up with this pastry in the XV century after searching for a sweet representation of the absolute. Perfection however didn’t come along until the Argies filled them with dulce de leche.

Cañoncitos de Dulce de Leche: The cylindrical shaped puff pastries filled with rich dulce de leche and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar are the ultimate sugar high for those that like it really sweet.

Churros: These crunchy fried pastries are dusted in sugar, sometimes filled with dulce de leche, and occasionally coated in chocolate. They pair best with hot chocolate in winter at one of these places.

Pastelitos: Prepared for national festivities, these crunchy sweet indulgences are filled with quince or sweet-potato paste.

As a curious side fact, anarchist bakers named many of the pastries in the nineteenth century alluding to the different powers in a gesture of ridicule. Such is the case of the vigilante (which means guard), bola de fraile (monk balls), and cañoncito (cannon).

(find a review  by our friend Allie Lazar of the best Buenos Aires panaderias here.)

Typical Argentine Merienda

(Photo by amanky)

In Argentina we follow the Spanish-Italian tradition of the merienda, better known in the Anglo world as afternoon tea. It is basically a small meal between lunch and dinner. Although the culinary options nowadays have broadened and include treats such as muffins and bruschettas, classic Argentine meriendas consist of:

Cafe con leche and medialunas: A typical local staple served at all hours consisting of coffee with milk and yummy croissants made of lard (de grasa) or butter (de manteca).  In winter the coffee might be substituted by a submarino (a piece of chocolate dunked into hot milk).

Mate and facturas: Sugar and a caffeine like booster (mateine) come together in this combination of bitter mate and sweet pastries filled with dulce de leche, custard and quince jam.

Licuado de Banana and Tostado de jamón y queso: A favourite for Spring and Summer, this combination of banana and milk smoothie and grilled ham and cheese sandwich on special crustless bread, is a great afternoon energy booster.

Tea with milk and toast: The simplest version of the snacking combinations, and the one most commonly found in households. Toppings for toast are of course dulce de leche, maybe jam and for the light version cream cheese.

Buenos Aires Rama Tours and Rama Food for IPhones

(Photo by reflectification)

Rama Tours is an iPhone app for travelers offering different city tours prepared by enthusiasts and connoisseurs.  In 2010 the BBC picked it as one of the leading iPhone travel apps.

The tour on offer for Buenos Aires by Kate Stanworth is called ¨Heart of Buenos Aires¨ and is a great introduction to the city’s political and historical quarter centered arround Av.de Mayo.

Recently Rama also launched city food tours, and of course Buenos Aires had to be featured!

For breakfast and pastry lovers, Frank Almeida from Sugar&Spice (responsible for the delicious cookies at Fierro’s mini-bars) went on the quest for the best medialunas in town.

Dan Perlman from renowned closed door restaurant Casa Saltshaker was in charge of the San Telmo and Recoleta food tours featured in the app.

Finally Maria Carrá from BA Foodies prepared a tour of 5 recommended Palermo bars that due to their character have withstood the test of time as some of the neighborhood’s hottest go-to places.

The application, available from iTunes here, is a perfect way for gadget enthusiasts and people stopping for a short visit to get an overview of the city.

Medialunas

(Photo by Real Distan)

Anyone who has spent at least a day in Buenos Aires has probably come across the medialuna, a pastry commonly known around the world as a croissant, with its own local flair of course. This starchy staple is as important for Porteños as bagels seem to be for New Yorkers, and are the pillar of many a café breakfast or afternoon snack.

There are two types of medialunas; de grasa (made from lard) are thinner and crunchier, and de manteca (made from butter) are fluffy and soft.  Bakeries also sell facturas, which are sisters to the medialunas and traditionally feature dulce de leche, confectioner´s cream and quince jam fillings.

While you’re in the city, stopping at one of the traditional city cafés is a must and a coffee with medialunas, mandatory.

Those back home who got hooked on their trip, can try the following recipe for Medialunas de Manteca:

Ingredients:

(makes 3 dozen)

4 ¾ cups of Pastry Flour

1 ¼ cups Milk

¼ cup  Sugar

2 TBSP Honey

1 ½ TBSP fresh yeast

1 Egg

A pinch of Salt

7 Oz. Butter

Instructions:

1- Place ¾ cup of  pastry flour on a counter or table you can knead comfortably on. Work in the butter until the flour is absorbed.

2- Mold the flour and butter mixture into a stick of butter, wrap it in a bag or cling-wrap and place it in the refrigerator.

3- Warm up the milk and  1 tsp. of sugar until it`s lukewarm and mix in the yeast.

4- Make a mound with the remaining flour on counter or tabletop you´re working on. Mark a hole in the center and in it place the salt, remaining sugar, egg and honey. Knead very well.

5- Add the milk and yeast mixture and continue kneading. The dough should be soft and sticky.

6- Knead and bang the dough on the counter until it is very smooth.

7- Place the dough in a bowl and cover it for approximately an hour (the dough should double). Keep in mind that yeast needs a relatively warm environment to rise so in winter make sure to have the heating in the kitchen on.

8- Once the dough has risen take out the butter/flour from the refrigerator and roll it out into a thin rectangle.

9- Roll out the dough until is thin and place the butter rectangle in the center,  on top of the dough rectangle.

10- Fold the rectangles until the dough covers the butter. Refrigerate for an hour. Fold again and refrigerate for another hour.

11- Roll out the dough until it is approximately a 0.5 inches thick. Cut into triangles and chill for 20 minutes.

12- Roll the triangles from the base to the tip. Place on buttered baking trays and allow to rise until they double their size.

13-  Whip an egg yolk with some milk and paint onto the medialunas.

14- Bake for approximately 15 minutes at 410 ° F.

Buenos Aires Notable Bars

(Photo by Mellagi)

This week one of the city’s traditional cafes, the Richmond on Florida Avenue, was saved from becoming a sporting goods store. Belonging to the city’s group of 54 ºBares Notables”  the emblematic coffee shop, which has been  frequented by renowned artists, authors and political figures, was declared a historic monument. Active participants of the city’s bustling cafe life will be gathering today at 4pm to give Confitería Richmond a “hug” and enjoy a rainy afternoon of warm drinks and conversations.

The Richmond, isn’t the only “Bar Notable” to have been at the verge of disappearing, and in fact, some, like El Molino, no longer exist. Thankfully, many others do, and have become a valued part of the city. The history and the elegance of their marble and mirrors, of their white clad waiters and dark wooden furniture,  makes sitting in these bars for a break over “cafe con medialunas”  an afternoon must. Below is our pick of top notable bars.

 

Most Popular- Cafe Tortoni

Cafe Tortoni is the oldest  and most famous of the city’s traditional bars. Frequented by celebrities, politicians, locals and tourists alike, who come for coffee, history, live shows or a game of pool, fill the large lavish parlors with a special livelihood. Just a few blocks away is Cafe Los 36 Billares. Also worth visiting.

 

Most Charming- Petit Colon

Just two blocks away from the Colon Theatre and across Plaza Lavalle is the distinguished Petit Colon, a notable bar catering to an elegant crowd of theatre regulars. The ornate wallpaper and the luminous afternoon windows dote this cafe with a special charm making it the perfect place to start the evening before heading to the stately Colon Theatre.

 

For Hot Chocolate with Churros- La Giralda

A warm alternative to coffee and medialunas for winter days is hot chocolate with churros. The traditional version of hot chocolate is the “Submarino” in which you dunk a bar of chocolate into a glass of hot milk until it melts. The best place to do this is La Giralda on Av. Corrientes, or, the nearby El Gato Negro, which also boasts a large variety of spices and coffee varieties.

 

For 5 O Clock Tea- Las Violetas

An assortment of cakes, sweets and sandwiches are served on silver plates in this stunning teahouse in the Almagro neighborhood. Golden chandeliers, Italian marble floors, and stained glass windows decorate Las Violetas, a unique place to indulge your sweet tooth.

 

For Barrio Tango Spirit-Lo de Roberto

Although tango is present in most notable bars, Lo de Roberto in Almagro has an authentic feel to its late night tango gatherings in which the crowds actively participate whilst drinking beers.  Close by is another small traditional bar worth visiting, El Banderin, which has its walls covered in football flags from different times and places.

 

For Late Nights- Bar El Federal

In the heart of San Telmo, Bar El Federal is a daytime bar that becomes a lively pub in the evenings when the crowds come for a typical Fernet and some dancing. The stunning bar has a wooden arch with vitraux  details and a stopped clock immediately capturing ones attention and is an inviting place for people watching and a drink or two.

 

Local Specialties to Indulge your Sweet Tooth.

Grey cold days like the ones we’ve been having lately are great for comforting afternoon snacks in traditional teahouses such as Las Violetas in Almagro or Confiteria La Ideal downtown. Here are some local specialties to sweeten the afternoon.

Dulce de leche: Probably the most famous of Argentine sweets, this caramel cream is used in pastries, spread on toast, eaten by the spoonful and included in all kinds of desserts.

Alfajores:  A typical sandwich like snack made up of two “cookies” usually filled by, you guessed it, dulce de leche, (although there are variety’s filled with fruit jams and chocolate  as well) and covered in chocolate, confectionary, sugar or coconut. More information about alfajores is available here.

Rogel Cake: A very sweet cake made with alternating layers of puff pastry and dulce de leche and topped with meringue.

Pasta Frola Quince pie: Another typical sweet used in pastry’s and deserts is Quince paste (dulce de membrillo) and candied yam jam (dulce de batata), which are often combined with cheese for dessert. Quince paste also the main ingredient of Pasta Frola, a fruity pie that goes well with coffee.

Medialunas and Facturas: The local croissants and pastry’s come in many varieties. There are two types of medialunas (croissants), de grasa (made with lard) or de manteca (made with butter). The first is crunchier and thin, the second puffy and moist. Amongst the pastries you will find varieties with dulce de leche, with quince and yam jam, and with custard (crema pastelera).

Vainillas: These very lightweight  airy “cookies”  made from egg, vanilla and sugar are the favorite of many local children (and adults who wont admit it) who dunk them in milk as an afternoon snack.

Submarino: Another thing Argies like to dunk is a bar of chocolate in a cup of hot milk for a local take on a typical winter comforter.