Sunday, April 22, 2012

Salamanca and Charming,Fragrant Spanish Lemon Butter Cakes (Spain)

Sunset  at Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain
A drummer advanced, next to a boy with a flute, as bystanders, entranced by the Piper, picked up their knees and legs to thump to the rhythm, and swirled their woolen capes from side to side. At a golden grand plaza in the center of town, the main square was wrapped in purple and pink clouds as the sun went down. It made the front of the buildings almost look like chocolate bars, engraved with a gridlike pattern formed by dozens of windows.  

At nighttime, the plaza resembled gold nuggets that shone amidst an electric blue sky. My first sobao pasiego resembled those nuggets, too; I tasted my first one in a hypermarket in the outskirts of Salamanca. It was a pit stop before my arrival to the city for the first time. A Walmart-sized supermarket held mass-produced sobao passiegos that were individually packaged like Little Debbie´s Cakes. Other interesting aisles in the supermarket were the boqueron aisles (luscious anchovies from Spain that are packed in vinegar or olive oil and eaten by the pound), the cheese aisles (overflowing with many Spanish cheeses that can´t be found in other countries), and of course the diversity of Spanish wines, and Spanish cookies/candy. 

All three pictures above (sunset, daytime, and nighttime) constitute a collection of "impressionist" views of the astounding city square. 

The oldest university library in Europe (from 1218) at the University of Salamanca
 The library above is the place where I looked up the history of this dessert (just kidding; I was only able to view the library from behind a window).
The Sobao dessert comes from the Pasieg valleys, (see a 3d recreation of the area at  which are located in the Cantabrian region, in the northern part of Spain. It used to be made with bread dough many centuries ago, but this changed in 1896, when the bread batter was substituted with flour.
Today, this popular dessert has a protected designation of origin, believe it or not! If it is not from the Pasieg valleys, it can only be called Sobao, but not Sobao Pasiego! The quality of the butter and other dairy products in this region is excellent and explains why they could protect the name of the product.

Recipe for Sobaos Passiegos, a Spanish Lemon Butter Cake

250 grams flour
250 grams butter
250 grams sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 tablespoon of rum
the zest of one lemon (I used a lime)
a pinch of salt

Cream the sugar and butter for three minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, creaming well for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and place in a mini loaf pans lined carefully with parchment paper (visible in the photos) so that the folds are creased at the corners of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or 180 degrees Celsius, for 15 minutes. The buttery cake will melt in your mouth, and the zest will color that flavor.

Sobaos passiegos set on a tablecloth from San Vicente, El Salvador


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