Food, Recipe

two uses for old bread

There are two Spanish uses for old bread that I have discovered while here in Barcelona. I think both of them are wonderful, and proof that there is a better fate for your stale bread than croutons. Not to hate on croutons. But these dishes are a little more inventive. Next time, don’t be too quick to discard your stale old bread. It is now an opportunity to try out these wonderful Spanish treats!

Torrijas are similar to French toast, but come from Spain. They are eaten around Easter time and are delicious. You’ll need thick slices of bread (I prefer a rustic loaf, but challah or white bread also works–just be sure that you don’t over soak white bread) and frying pan filled at least 1/2 inch thick with olive oil. Yes, olive oil. You can use vegetable oil, but olive oil is both authentic to the recipe and healthier. Heat the pan on medium-high flame until sizzling.

In the meantime, in a shallow bowl, combine 1.5 cups of milk with 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together 3 eggs. Dip bread pieces in the milk mixture and then the egg mixture before placing them into the frying pan. Fry the bread until golden brown on each side–about a minute or two. Then you have several options: either sprinkle bread with a mix of cinnamon and sugar, or drizzle with honey, or add a few drops of lemon juice.

Next, pan con tomate, a favorite Catalan tapa. I’m guest-blogging about pan con tomate over at The Vegetarian Salmon, a vegetarian/healthy cooking blog that I’ve followed since it was first started by a former teacher of mine from DC. I read a lot of blogs, but she was the first person I knew in real life to start a cooking blog and follow through on it, not letting it become some half-hearted whim. She’s dedicated, and the blog has really flourished, which is inspirational to me as I’m currently dipping my toes in and trying this out myself.

Food, Review

cup & cake barcelona

My goal while abroad is to visit at least one cupcake store in each city. The cupcake craze started in the United States and is fairly new in Europe. Not only are cupcakes an unfamiliar baked good compared to the less achingly sweet pastry-and-coffee culture over here, but the fetishization/branding of one select item seems to be a change from simple, homey bakeries with lots of selection. However, as I read in Copenhagen, bringing cupcake stores to Europe has resulted in success- they have almost no competition, so they can completely dominate the market share early on, and Europeans are learning to love the trend of a pretty (and pricey) little cake.

I’m currently in Barcelona, so I decided to visit Cup & Cake Barcelona, which opened in 2010. It is located in the trendy, upscale neighborhood of Eixample, near the Diagonal metro stop.

Cup & Cake is located down a smaller street containing a leafy green park, lots of children, and benches. The benches are key, as unfortunately Cup & Cake (like many cupcake stores, I’m looking at you Georgetown Cupcake) does not have a lot of indoor seating. While this may be familiar in the U.S. because people are used to taking the cupcakes in nice boxes “to go”, I was struck by this because of the Spanish tradition of sitting and enjoying a coffee, pastry, and conversation. Cafes are always sure to provide ample seating, inside and out.

Once inside, Cup & Cake is a beautiful store, with a rustic look and pastel color scheme. The menus are printed in brown paper surrounded by rope, they have traditional cake platters for serving, and the store maintains an air of daintiness even though when I visited it was packed with customers. The woman and man working at the front looked a little overwhelmed, but were very nice.

I had done some research online before I visited Cup & Cake, and am happy to report that in terms of flavors, the in-store offerings vary greatly from the online “menu.” This is probably just a product of the growth that any bakery experiences in their early years, but it also meant it was exciting for me to see so many new flavors. Besides the standard vanilla and chocolate, on the day that I visited, Cup & Cake boasted red velvet, apple cinnamon, carrot cake, banana + pumpkin, chocolate cheesecake, brownie, and chocolate coconut. I decided on a classic (red velvet) as well as an apple cinnamon. They were 2.50 Euro each.

Apple Cinnamon: The apple cinnamon cupcake had a moist, spiced cake studded with pieces of apple, and yet wasn’t overly dense. It was topped with a cream cheese frosting and a candied walnut. The frosting was a good consistency and didn’t seem too cream-cheesy–that being said, the cupcake (both, actually) could have done with a little less frosting. I am a frosting person, but I found myself trying to save some cake to avoid being stuck with just frosting at the end.

Red Velvet: After I took a bite, I realized that Cup & Cake’s version of red velvet is actually either strawberry and white chocolate or red velvet cake with a buttercream frosting. I’m not sure which, I assumed red velvet cake but the label said “fresa”, which means strawberry. Either way, it was really good, and the slight confusion shouldn’t deter you unless you are a red velvet purist. I really liked the frosting, the cake was very dense in the middle, almost brownie-like. Very sweet- perfect with a cup of coffee.

My only recommendation for Cup & Cake, besides reducing the frosting, is that they upgrade their take-away situation. Given that there is a lack of seating and people love to take cupcakes to go, it is essential to have proper packaging. Cup & Cake won’t give you a box if you order under 6, so the cupcakes are packaged in brown bags with a divider inside and a sticker on the outside. This resulted in frosting smears and bags with butter stains seeping through–not how a cupcake should be transported. Invest in some boxes! I was also disappointed to find out they don’t give forks and knives, which is arguably more eco-friendly, yet at the same time I really enjoy taking my time with a fork when I eat something as sweet as a cupcake. Cup & Cake hasn’t even been open for two years, so hopefully these are tweaks that will be made eventually as time goes on. But overall, I would recommend Cup & Cake to anyone in Barcelona. Their flavors are inventive, the staff is friendly, and the cupcakes are high quality.

Cup & Cake is located at:

Enric Granados, 145 (Barcelona), Spain//Metro: Diagonal

DSLR, Musing

collecting colors

Winter in Minnesota is pretty especially when it is new. When the first snow falls, and you remember just how eerily quiet the world can get. Snow under streetlights, sparkling, frosted branches, the purity of untouched white. Fast forward, however, and the snow piles on, melts, re-freezes, incorporating dirt and grass and sleet. The snow melts, mixes with mud, everything is gray. I left Minnesota in March and I can’t say I was too sad to go.

Arriving in Barcelona, I pressed my nose to the taxi window for the duration of the 30 minute ride to the heart of city, taking in blues and greens and golds that I had long forgotten existed in the dark monotony of winter. Spring has come early to Barcelona, and me? I’ve been collecting colors here, gleeful, greedily photographing them, tucking them away for memory, watching my own transformation as my skin tans, my hair lightens, life comes back.