Pastry and Bakery, a sweet journey

How sweets define us
Lots of Sweet Things.Illustration by Paula Piaggio. @polpiaggio on Instagram

The world is big, but as we know, it seems to shrink more and more every day. Trends spread faster and faster, and what begins to happen in a specific place moves quickly. Saying where the latest sweet craze trend began would be a waste of time; it is everywhere, ready to tempt at every turn. If this sweet tooth trend in Argentina was a problem before, it's now a constant test of will. The pastries and baked goods are not only tasty products of consumption, but are also linked to the identity of Argentina. The rites of the Argentine people are closely linked to this. Bakery techniques brought by European immigrants mixed with the products of the earth, making them inseparable. Large and small stories take place in the cafes of Buenos Aires. Some are immortalized in tango songs and others are simply lost to time. No "porteño" began his working day without stopping at a bar for a "cortado" (Espresso with a drop of milk) with croissants. So important are these bars and cafes that were the setting of significant cultural activities that they are considered "Notable" and form an official part of the cultural heritage of the city.

A few years ago, it seemed that this practice was destined to disappear. Economic issues with accelerated pace of life, the appearance of healthier eating trends and excessive industrialization of bakeries and pastry shops seemed to mark the end of an era. It was a global trend that appeared beside French boulangeries that brought new forces and temptations. This tradition of handcrafting baked goods recovered its value and was given a modern twist. Bakeries today are living in a golden era, with a global boom that would seem to indicate that no one is willing to lose these delicious and sweet snacks. Pastry fever has reached everywhere, from social media, programs and competitions on television to all types of shops interspersed throughout major cities. There are all kinds of specialties and nationalities represented: traditional Argentine, French, German, Italian and Middle Eastern Cake shops are all commonplace. There are boutique chains, fast-food-type shops, Gluten-free, kosher and vegan bakeries. No one is left out. The interesting thing about this trend is the growing perception among Argentines of the need to find and redefine an Argentine identity, led to the rediscovery of history and recovery of some products. In the history of the pastry you can see parts of the history of Argentina.

Like many things in Latin American culture, Argentinian baking developed from influences from around the world and was reformulated to create something unique. Argentina is home to many delicious natural resources like coconut, chocolate and carob flour. These ingredients have created such treats as Patay, a kind of cake which played the role of a "bread" in native peoples' diets, and the simple and typical dessert of goat cheese with honey or sweet cayote.

With vast lands, diverse geographies and climates, those products that were not native soon adapted. Spanish colonists brought Spanish pastries, made from dough always crispy, flaky and stuffed with quince or sweet potato spread. National holidays would not be the same without these treats. Others also remain popular like the pie "pastafrola", made with quince or sweet potato, which is ideal for family Sundays. But nothing beats the "alfajor", which remains the most popular sweet snack, consisting of two or more biscuits joined by a sweet filling and usually dipped in chocolate, frosting or icing. The filling is usually "dulce de leche", a sort of milk caramel jam, although there are alfajores of fruits, chocolate mousse and various fillings that vary by place of origin.

"Facturas" are made of sweet dough, were introduced by European immigrants, and eventually were adopted and popularized.  The best known Facturas are the black cakes and croissants (like the French croissant only in form, not in taste). The Facturas known as "vigilantes"( watchman), "bolas de fraile" (balls monk), "cañoncitos"( little cannons) and "sacramentos"(sacraments)  were so named by bakery worker anarchist Italian immigrants, organized by Errico Malatesta in the late nineteenth century. His goal was to satirize the various sectors of social power in Argentina. For example, the small cannon and cream pump were named to ridicule the army; balls monk and nun's sigh, to ridicule the Church, and the watchman to ridicule the police. Of course since those times, much has happened and no Christian doubts buying bolas de fraile and no police can be kept from eating his vigilante.

Argentina is one of the top cookie consumers in Latin America, and in 1980, the "chocotorta", made of chocolate chip cookies,  milk and cream cheese, was created to honor the title and cookie brand. As a cake that does not require cooking and is made with all prefabricated elements, in the modern day when time is limited, it became extremely popular. In the '80s, all the children were raised waiting to devour it on birthdays. This has not changed with adulthood. The dream of an entire generation to eat chocotorta whenever they want has come true. In recent years, it has begun to be part of the menu of many bakeries, restaurants and even boutique bakeries. Many have tried to create other cakes and biscuits, but none have reached the same level of popularity.

Today more and more new tastes and innovations, such as baking wine malbeca purple grape variety used in making red wine,  are opening the doors to many new developments. Which of them will become traditional tastes is difficult to know, but what we can assure is that even if none steal the crown from the classics, citizens will continue to enjoy sampling both new concoctions and the old.