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Santiago A Passion For Sweets

Holy Week is a festivity accompanied by a long culinary tradition, among other things. Some of its hallmarks include confectionery and desserts, which adopt a host of guises across the geography of Spain. Not to be outdone, Santiago de Compostela, a city of fine food, has its own versions, as evinced in the gems created by different local religious orders, those inherited from the city’s long chocolatiering tradition and imports from the Americas, which have spread all over Europe via the Road to Santiago.

In an effort to keep this tradition alive and provide enjoyment for locals and visitors alike, the second edition of a gastronomic event catering to the sweet-toothed known as Santiago Paixón Doce will be held from 7 to 17 April. For the duration of this festivity, some 29 venues, notably bars, cafés and restaurants, will be offering a special menu laced with traditional Holy Week fare, among which confectionery features prominently. Highlights include torrijas (a kind of French bread), leche frita (literally, “fried milk”), buñuelos (fritters), rosquillas (a ring-shaped pastry), melindres (buns), roscas (a kind of doughnut), “passion chocolates”, cakes and other confectionery typical at this time of year. Check out the list of venues taking part in this tasty experience here.

Eight Delicacies in the Compostelan Holy Week

For those not familiar with Santiago de Compostela’s Holy Week culinary tradition, we have drawn up a selection of the confectionery you simply must taste on your visit to the city. Take note!

1. Concha de Santiago (St James Shell)
This is a veritable tribute to the city of Santiago de Compostela, as it features its paramount symbol, the pilgrim’s scallop shell or viera worked into a delicious chocolate figure. One of the many establishments where you can taste the concha de Santiago is the Chocolat Factory, located in the Praza do Toural.

2. Tarta de Santiago (St James Cake)
With its origins going back to the 16th century, the tarta de Santiago is unquestionably the most popular cake in Santiago de Compostela. Needless to say, you  can find it in all the city’s pastry shops and bakeries, from Las Colonias – with its long-standing tradition – to Á Casa Mora, said to be the artificers of the Cross of St James having been incorporated into the cake.

3. Chocolate a la taza
As mentioned earlier, Santiago is a city with a long-standing tradition of chocolatiers. One of the local favourites is “chocolate a la taza”, which is thick hot chocolate for dunking churros (fritters) in. A classic spot for savouring this wonderful delicacy is the Chocolatería Metate (Rúa do Preguntoiro, 12).

4. Monastic Delights
In bygone times, it fell to the religious orders to introduce foreign traditions to Compostela, including the recipes using almonds and egg yolk, which had a marked influence on local confectionery and ended up spawning both the tarta de Santiago and almendrados (macaroons). There are currently two convents in Santiago which still make their own confectionery. One is the Antealtares Monastery, where the Benedictines make almendrados, tarta de Santiago and cookies, all of which are available on a daily basis, and brazo de gitano, a kind of Swiss roll which is made only to order. The other is Belvís Convent, where the Dominicans make bespoke batches of almendrados, mantecados (a kind of shortbread made with lard)and tarta de Santiago, as well as selling freshly baked cookies.

5. Cheese and Chocolate Cakes
We recommend you drop in on the Airas Nunes Café, which specialises in homemade cakes and tortiñas (milk tarts).

6. Assorted “Pecados” (Sins)
The Cantón del Toural is home to the so-called Pecados de Compostela (Sins of Compostela), a unique type of candy wrapped in seven forms to match the seven deadly sins, one for each day of the week. Be a daredevil and try them!

7. Xacobea
Despite having very similar ingredients to the Easter cake known as the rosca de Pascua,the Xacobea is moister as it contains syrup. Available in numerous pastry shops dotted about the city, notably La Estrella (Suevia).

8. Rosquilla
The rosquilla, also known as a melindre, typically eaten at traditional shrine festivals in Galicia, is also a classic of Holy Week and Easter in Galicia. Sold at a host of venues in Santiago de Compostela.

Text and photos by Turismo de Santiago