Yesterday, around 1 a.m., I felt like having some chocolate. I walked around the block and stepped into a confitería, conveniently promising 24 horas de tentacíon. I was welcome by trays and trays of small cookies and simple pastries, as well as huge creamy cakes behind a glass window. In front of me, a father with a young kid was picking several medialunas with dulce de leche, and the little girl was bouncing all over the place. Sugar rush? The scene made me smile. I can’t imagine Canadian parents hitting the bakery with their kids at 1 a.m. But this is la hora argentina, where you eat dinner late and bedtime isn’t strictly enforced.
Argentinians like their sweets, and they are very different than the ones we enjoyed last year during our holidays in Mexico. And boy, did I enjoy Mexican bakeries! In sunny Mexico, treats were very similar, in a way, to those we find in North America: banana bread, donuts, cheesecake, etc. In Argentina, they are more similar in size and in taste to European pasties.
Here, there are ice cream parlours everywhere, as well as panaderías and confiterías. Pastries or facturas are usually presented in trays and sold by the dozen—they are small, two- or three-bite pieces of sweet bread usually topped with a bit of custard, jam (strawberry or apple), sugar or dulce de leche. Medialunas (litteraly “half moons”, basically croissants) are the most common pastries, some are savoury (de grasa) and some are sweet (dulce). A typical breakfast is a latte with two medialunas. Another version comes topped with powdered sugar and a spoonful of dulce de leche, Argentinian’s Nutella: it’s a kind of sweet milky caramel, although not as sticky, made with condensed milk.
A popular pastry is the alfajore, a better and improved Oreo sandwich: the two buttery cookies are held together with, again, dulce de leche or jam, and can be covered with chocolate for, you know, added sugar, or even coconut.
Other popular items seem to be butter cookies, “palm leaves” pastries (known as orejas in some Latino countries, made with phylo pastry) and simple pies, usually just a layer of jam over a crust.
I like the fact that facturas are small, it’s easier to sample a bit of everything. The downside is that they get your fingers (and your toddler, if you have one…) very sticky.
I’m so used to these small pastries that I had a shock when looking at “regular” size treats at Starbucks the other day. They looked huge!