A Taste of Spain

The tempting picture in my cookbook... how could I resist?

One of my favorite ways of remembering Spain (and perhaps to try and re-live it a little) is by trying to recreate some of my favorite foods from the country.  I even received a cookbook of Spanish foods for Christmas two years ago, when I came back from my trip.  I was flipping through a week or so ago and I spied one of these tasty treats, ensaimadas – little spiral pastries topped with powdered sugar.  They are light, sweet, and a delightful breakfast treat with a chocolate (hot chocolate) or café (coffee).  They’re from the region of Mallorca, but you can find them pretty much everywhere in the country (at least in the major cities).

So, I decided to have a go at my Spanish baking skills – after all, I have a recipe and everything.  It’s not a particularly difficult recipe, either, but I had never worked with yeast before so I was a little worried about messing up the cultures and ending up with flat pastries… but hey, at least they would taste good.  I admit that it was a little bit of a challenge to find all the proper cooking utensils in the dorm, but Robinson is pretty well stocked, luckily.  The only thing that I couldn’t locate was a food mixer, so I had to knead the dough by hand, which was not a problem.  I even documented my progress in this exciting endeavor:

First, before going into the oven, after cooling for 24 hours, then rising for three...

Then, after coming out of the oven, looking pretty good so far...


Finally, my proud final product, lightly dusted and tempting. Not bad!

They didn’t turn out exactly like they’re supposed to, but they were pretty close (and still quite delicious).  Success!

Cooking Adventures

One of my favorite ways to spend time with friends at Erskine is making a meal.  Although going out to get food is also enjoyable, there is just nothing like spending a couple of hours in a dorm kitchen making dinner, or even just something sweet for an evening snack.  This weekend I did this twice, first with dessert and then dinner.

My tasty final product - Tarta de Santiago.

Friday evening, after our dinners had settled, I made a Spanish cake with some friends.  La tarta de Santiago originated in the northwest of Spain, in the province of Galicia.  The capital of this province is Santiago de Compostela, location of tomb of St. James and also named for him, and one of the first cities that I visited while living in Spain.  While we explored the streets, there were tons of pastelerías selling, among other things, these tasty cakes.  They are sweet almond cakes topped with confectioners sugar, traditionally sprinkled around a cut-out of the St. James Cross.

The cake turned out very well, despite being unable to find pre-ground almonds in the store, and grinding them all ourselves!  Unfortunately, our next project on Saturday night did not turn out so well, leading to lots of adventures.

Last night we attempted to make a tortilla de patata, a delicious egg, potato, and vegetable dish commonly used in picnics in Spain.  I was excited for another delicious Spanish dish, and everything went well at the beginning: peeling, dicing, and partially cooking the vegetables, whipping the eggs. . . until we got to cooking the entire thing.  After combining the vegetables and eggs, we put it all in a skillet, and started frying.  Shortly, we knew something was going wrong.

Although the eggs were setting properly, there was a mysterious steam coming from the bottom of the pan, but since it didn’t smell like anything was burning we let it continue and hoped for the best.  Bad idea.  Turns out the oil did not do its job, and the eggs on the bottom were sticking (and starting to burn) to the bottom of the pan, so when we went to flip over the tortilla a bunch of the vegetables on top came off onto the pan and the eggs stayed!

Long story short, it turned out to be a mess of eggs, potatoes, onion, and tomato that was more like an omelet than my beloved Spanish dish.  After several minutes of fiasco trying to save the dish, several students and our resident director coming in to make sure we hadn’t started a fire, we ate the misshapen dish, finishing the meal off with some of the leftover cake from the day before (at least the dessert turned out well!).  Despite the small calamity, it was a fun two evenings of cooking and fellowship, and it sure makes a good story.