Friday, 15 July 2016

Foods to Eat in Spain - Madrid & Castilla y León

- Huesos de Santo - 

Huesos de Santo, translated as 'bones of the saint' is probably not what you imagine from the name alone, instead, it is a delicious sweet dessert that is thought to have originated from Madrid in the early 17th century. Nowadays, it is still most popular in Madrid and the surrounding region of Castilla y León. It is most commonly eaten in November for All Saints Day. While you may wonder as to the cause for this, there is no intriguing reason or interesting anecdote, they were eaten simply because almonds were harvested around this time, so marzipan was both cheap and readily available.

Huesos de Santo is made of 2 layers, the outer layer is made of white marzipan paste pressed into a hollow cylindrical shape which is then filled with a syrup made from egg yolk, sugar and lemon juice (as well as yellow food colouring). This together gives it some resemblance to bones, hence, the name. In Madrid, these are pretty easy to find and I recommend any of the bakeries I have mentioned before like El Riojano or La Mallorquina.

As with everything, traditional gets boring so there is constant innovation and thorough experimentation of the traditional Huesos de Santo. If you were to walk around Madrid (or any city in Spain), you can find these filled with anything from jam's, chocolate, pralines to candied coconut or even yogurt. In addition, the outer marzipan layer is sometimes replaced with a sugar glaze, chocolate or anything else that takes the bakers fancy. 

With all this variation, one must wonder, like with Theseus' paradox, how much of one thing can be replaced before it really can't be called a Huesos de Santo anymore.

Philosophical pondering aside, they are nonetheless all delicious (though they can be a tad sweet) with my favourite none-traditional one being filled with a lemon paste that had bits of crunchy mini meringues and is basically the love child of a lemon pie and a Cadbury mini roll, how could things be any better?

Clockwise From Top Left: Buñuelos (including cupcake flavour), Mini Torrijas, Dessert 'Sushi' (Such as an Orange and Rice Pudding Flavour 'Nigiri') and Huesos de Santos (Such as the Chocolate Enrobed One).
Pastelería Nunos, near Ibiza metro station in Madrid are a sleek and modern bakery which has all the classic pastries of Madrid albeit with a interesting twist. Master confectioner, José Fernández-Ramos constantly trials and tests new flavours of the old classics, often American influenced. Look forward to Huesos de Santos filled with flavours such as pistachio cream, praline chocolate, mango cream, chocolate coated and even a limited edition pumpkin pie flavoured Huesos de Santo made during Halloween. In addition, they also have many other pastries of unique and.....interesting flavours (Red Bull Buñuelos?).

Another bakery with a flair for the unusual is Horno San Onofre, which has multiple locations in Madrid. Their take on the traditional Huesos de Santo involves replacing the filling with fruit based variations, especially those that are not often seen in other bakeries as well as fillings like chestnut or sweet potato. Also as expected, they have interesting variations of other Madrilenian favorites like gold dusted Buñuelos and berry cinnamon Torrijas.

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