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Spanish Pastry. Buñuelos. © ICEX

Spanish Pastry. Buñuelos. © ICEX

Spanish Bakery & Confectionery

Unchangeable Dough from Spain

The Moors were known for their sweet tooth and it undoubtedly left an indelible mark on Spanish traditional patisserie and confections. Their recipes combining ingredients such as honey, sugar, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, spice, dates, and other dried or crystallized fruits are behind Spanish turrón, marzipan, alfajores, panellets, garrapiñadas, almond and pine nut dragées, and many other sweets and candies.

The alfajores from Medina Sidonia, in the province of Cádiz, represent the quintessence of this tradition. They are made with honey, almonds, flour and breadcrumbs and are flavored with coriander, clove, aniseed, sesame and cinnamon. It would be difficult to imagine a combination of flavors that could better represent Arabic-Andalusian pastries.

The Moors' sweet pastries fried in olive oil served as inspiration for the popular Spanish churros, buñuelos, tortas, rosquillas and other "fruits of the frypan" (the name given in Spain to any dessert made from a fried flour dough). It should not be forgotten that the Arabs were great promoters of olive oil in Spain, now the world's leading producer, and that frying in olive oil is a culinary technique that is almost an art form in Andalusia.

The history of Spanish patisserie is indissolubly linked to that of sugar. In ancient times, cane sugar was known as an exotic rarity. Sugar cane cultivation was introduced into Spain by the Moors in the 8th century but sugar continued to be a scarce, costly product that was used very sparingly in the kitchen. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 put a stop to imports of sugar from the Orient and led to the development of plantations in Valencia and the east coast, and the multiplication of sugar refineries in Spain and other countries.

Marzipan and other PGI Candies

The city of Toledo (Castile-La Mancha), where Arab and Jewish traditions came together, is the home of top-flight, traditional confectionery, to which the local nuns and master confectioners also contributed. Marzipan is one of the most outstanding of the Toledo specialties. The Ruling on the Toledo Guild of Confectioners, approved by King Philip III in 1615, made it clear what the basic ingredients were - peeled, ground, raw almonds and sugar. In its many presentations and varieties - Delicias, Marquesas and Glorias - the exquisite Toledo marzipan is guaranteed by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Mazapanes de Toledo.

One of the best-known baked pastries in Spain is the Ensaimada de Mallorca (PGI), traditional festive fare since at least the 17th century. Sometimes the dough, which includes eggs, sugar and lard, is stuffed with pumpkin jam, known in Spanish as cabello de angel.

The recipe for the famous Mantecadas de Astorga (PGI), Astorga being a town in the province of León (Castile and León), is attributed either to a court pastrycook from there, or to the nuns at the Holy Spirit convent in Astorga. Whichever is correct, the result is a masterly combination of flour, eggs, sugar, butter and lard, resulting in geometrically-presented Spanish golden, light sponge cakes.

Cocas and Convent Cakes

Very popular in Catalonia and the east coast of Spain are cocas in which the dough is flavored with crystallized fruit, almonds, lemon rind and cinnamon. A coca is an eye-catching, oval-shaped pastry that is made especially for the St John's Eve festivities.

Huesos de santo combine almond marzipan with sweet egg yolk candy and are standard fare for November 1st. Other egg-based confections are yemas de Ávila or yemas de Santa Teresa, candied egg yolks typical of the city of Ávila in Castile-León, so delicate they melt in the mouth, and egg-yolk pudding (tocinillo de cielo). This was originally devised as a way of using up the egg yolks left over after clarifying, with the whites, the Andalusian wines from Jerez and Montilla-Moriles.

Spanish Patisserie, like other branches of culinary "art", is constantly developing. In Spain today, it features largely in avant-garde cuisine, inspiring many of the great Spanish cooks to create original ways of enjoying sweet flavors, with new shapes, textures and tastes.

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Rank of Spain in worldwide trade

Pastry: 11th (*)

Confectionery: 7th.

Source: FAO.

Total production
YearPastry Volume (tons) (*)Confectionary Volume (tons) (*)Pastry Value (thousands of €)Confectionery Value (thousands of €)
2012714.463 230.549 1.862.056 690.862 
2011676.540 226.427 1,802,739 710,291 

(*) Pastry figures do not include fresh bakery, pastry & confectionery, but includes biscuits. Confectionery figures include non-chocolate turrón. Source: Mercasa and Produlce.
Export Share/Total Production (average for the last three years)

Pastry: 28.5% (*)

Confectionery: 52.5% (*)

Source: ICEX.

Spanish Companies (approx. no.)

5,883 (Source: Alimarket)

Spanish exporters

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