Sweet Indulgences in León: Mantecadas, Nicanores, and Rosquillos
by Sylvia Jopillo, r.a.
The Spanish poet Ónega accusingly pointed to the Leónesa pantry as the root of the sin of gluttony! With its vast land area and variety of produce, León’s gastronomy has great diversity linked with its long historical tradition. The pastries found over the 211 towns comprising the Castilla-León are proof of this incredible living tradition.
The care the Leónesas muster to put the best on their table shows in traditional pastries and desserts such as the Mantecadas de Astorga. They make them from a batter of refined wheat flour, chicken eggs, cow’s milk butter, pork lard, and sugar.
The Mantecadas de Astorga has a protected designation of origin (PGI) status and are made solely in the towns of Astorga, Brazuelo, San Justo de la Vega and Valderrey. The pastry is sweet, light, and fluffy and is very popular.
The locals say that the recipe dated back two centuries ago! You can buy or ask for this anywhere in León as the annual production of this pastry is at 225,000 dozens from its six bakeries. Great for dessert with coffee or tea.
Two other creations belong to the family of hojaldres or puff pastry: the Nicanores de Boñar and Lazos de San Guillermo. A baker created these in Boñar in 1880!
The Nicanores de Boñar is a daisy-shaped hojaldre that is buttery, flaky, and lightly dusted with confectioner sugar. The Lazos de San Guillermo (or ties) is a cream-colored pastry coated with glazed sugar and bits of almond. Its essential ingredients are good butter, flour, and eggs. It quickly becomes an addiction for those with a sweet tooth!
Another famed pastry is the Rosquillas de San Froilan. Typically served during the fiesta of San Froilan, it looks like a tiny doughnut but is not spongy.
They make it from milk, salt, butter, eggs, flour, and a dash of rum. They then cover it with a white sugar glaze that makes it perfectly crunchy with a sweet taste.
Hundreds of cookies like the Palmeras (palms) are crunchy and sweet, and the pastries from the various monasteries spread all over Castilla-León.
The monastic pastries are often made from obleas or wafers and layered with cream or topped with almonds. The variety is overwhelming!
In my visits to the pastry shops and bakeries abounding in León, I met a self-confessed pastry chef who learned baking from her mother.
Her shop is tiny and unassuming from the outside. Still, once inside, I was overwhelmed by the arrays of trays laden with cookies, pastas (sandwich cookies), roquillos de vino, Cabello de angel (a hojaldres filled with caramelized shredded squash!), and more!
The smell was heavenly, and I became a pastry fan after the first bite! We became instant friends as she shared the wonders of hojaldres and how easy it is to shape them into whatever one’s heart and taste buds desire.
As I took my leave with my choice of pastries, she gave me a scarf printed with her shop logo, and I left her my blue cap.
Sweet things form instant friendships! And I realized how the Leónesas love keeping their traditions alive and, of course, having a perfect pastry as a dessert or pairing it with a cup of coffee to complete a fantastic meal!
Other Posts on Spain Worth Visiting: