Pasteles to brighten up a dull day

Friday, my day off, and it is clearer than ever that winter is fast approaching. To provide some comfort from the rain and grey skies I decided to visit three of the best pastelerías (gozotegia) in San Sebastian: Otaegui, Barrenetxe and Oiartzun.

Whilst the cakes brightened up my day I have to make one observation. Pastry here just isn’t a patch on French pâtisserie. Putting aside my bias of having trained as a French patissière I still don’t think pastry-making has reached the level of sophistication here as it has done over the border. I believe this is probably because the Basque people (and Spanish) are far more concerned by savoury food and because rustic tradition is more appreciated than the refinery of Parisian pâtisseries.

That observation aside, I did sample a cake in Otaegui, the ‘pantxineta’, which was absolutely scrumptious. It’s a puff pastry cake filled with a sticky but light cream and topped with chopped almonds:


I then went on to Barrenetxe which was founded in 1699 making it the oldest of the three. I tried the ‘Txintxorro’, ‘Eibartarra’, and ‘Donostiarra’ cake. Of the three I liked the ‘Txintxorro’ the best – sponge cake flavoured with orange and topped with almonds. The ‘Eibartarra’ (a chocolate based sponge) I found overpowering and the ‘Donostiarra’ (a lemon and maraschino sponge) too alcoholic for my taste.

Finally I made my way to Oiartzun where I tried their ‘Pastel Vasco’ (a crumbly tart filled with pastry cream and scattered with flaked almonds) and a ‘yema de Santa Teresa’ (a sugary egg yolk moulded into a small ball.)  I was a little disappointed by the ‘pastel vasco’ as the whole time I was eating it I couldn’t help asking ‘Is this it?’ These tarts are everywhere but I can’t understand why they are so popular. I’ve read however that they used to be filled with fruits such as cherries and figs so in the coming weeks I hope to resurrect one of these recipes perhaps using some of those juicy figs from the market in Ordizia.

I’ve never had a whole egg yolk as a dessert before – it was surprisingly pleasant. I’ve seen a few layered cakes around that use egg yolks in a similar way so I’ll be tracking down one of those to sample next.


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