Torrija with meringue icecream from Restuarante Bole, Zaragoza
by Margaux Cintrano
Firstly, most Iberian Peninsula sweet tooth pleasures originated in convents and monasteries under the reigns of Isabel and Ferdinand, known as The Catholic Monarchs, in 1492, Emperor Carlos V ( 1515) and his son Felipe II, all devout Catholics.
The favored traditional Lent and Easter sweet tooth pleasure is in actuality a bread pastry called torrijas, which was first documented in the convent of Saint Theresa in the XV century, and later in 1607 by historian and cookbook writer Domingo Hernández de Maceras who published Libro de Cozina and later, once again, in 1611 by writer Francisco Martinez Motiño.
Torrijas have had a strong influence from England´s royal families, called Poor Gentlemen of Windsor, which actually is a famous brunch and breakfast dish called French toast. The main difference between French toast and torrijas is that the latter have always been sautéed in olive oil and the former is sautéed in butter. The other key difference is that in the convents and monasteries, torrijas had been marinated in red wine and sugar not milk or cream. French toast is marinated in egg and milk or cream.
In Venezuela, torrijas are called tacones, in Argentina and Uruguay torrejas, and in France pain perdu.
I have here a torrijas recipe which is prepared with a special Lent bread called Pan de Torrijas. There are numerous variations on the recipe, from region to region, family to family, bakery to bakery, convent to convent and tavern to tavern. This recipe was given to me by well known Basque Chef of T.V. and Book fame Karlos Arguiñano.
12 thick slices of day old bread called Pan de Torrijas sold in bakeries throughout the Peninsula
2 glasses of red wine
150 grams of sugar
The zest of 1 orange of choice
Ground cinnamon to sprinkle
Evoo (extra virgin olive oil), preferably 100% Hojiblanca Light
All purpose flour for dusting
To accompany: Rasberry, blackberry, currant and / or strawberry preserves or marmalade
• Slice the bread in thick slices and place in a large glass casserole with 1 glass of red wine and ½ the amount of the sugar for 3 to 4 minutes
• When the bread slices have absorbed the wine and are tender, but not mushy, remove them
• In a glass bowl, whisk the eggs and add the minced orange zest from 1 orange
• Heat 2 tbsp of Evoo in a skillet, and sauté the bread slices dunked in egg until golden on each side in the Evoo
• Remove and place on a platter and tent to keep warm
• Dust each slice with sugar and ground cinnamon and serve on plate accompanied by marmalade of choice and a great cup of coffee.
In the XX century, torrijas have first started to become a very popular tapa during the Lent Season.
Both exemplary bakeries in Madrid, José Fernández´s Nuno´s located at 63 Narvárez in the Goya neighborhood and Vait Pastelería at 54 Calle Alcalá in the Banco de España neighborhood, have told me that they cannot prepare enough torrijas to fill the requests for both eat in on premises and take home purchases. José Fernández has created a Torrija Tapa by placing Jabugo Iberian ham slices on top, an egg on top, an omelette slice on top, smoked salmon on top, and they have become the 21st Millennium tapa of Easter, largely appealing to the new generation Madrileños .
Featured image/Mover el Bigote, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
Other torrijas/supplied by Margaux Cintrano from Vait Restuarant, Madrid
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