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The only thing that comes close to being as satisfying as desserts are facts about desserts! Want to know why Buenos Aire’s facturas have evocative names like nun’s sigh or friar’s balls? If you’re keen to hear about the cultural context of Argentinian desserts, this informative post by Glutton Guide Buenos Aires will satisfy your cravings.
Ever thought of eating a friar’s balls (bolas del fraile) for breakfast? In typical lunfardo fashion, words have an often-ironic double meaning. In the late 19th century, Italian anarchists (some of whom also happened to be bakers) hiding out in Argentina started organizing anarchist resistance groups and published the newsletter El Obrero Panadero (The Bakery Worker). As a form of resistance against the government, police and Catholic Church, they started giving sarcastic names to their baked goods to taunt the powers they protested. Which is why no porteño will think twice about asking the baker for a nun’s sigh (suspiro de monja) to accompany his café. Facturas tend to be quite heavy and sweet – many are sugar glazed and/or filled with pastry cream, dulce de leche or membrillo (quince paste). The rebellious bakers have long since gone but the names have stayed.
Some of the most common factura names include:
Bolas del fraile (friar’s balls): pastry balls filled with dulce de leche or pastry cream
Cañoncitos (little cannons): puff pastry tubes filled with dulce de leche
Medialunas (half moons): small, dense croissants (but don’t call them that!) that come in two varieties (medialunas de manteca, a flakier version made with lard, and medialunas de grasa, made with butter and topped with a sweet glaze), which are sold plain, made into sandwiches or stuffed with dulce de leche or pastry cream
Moño con membrillo y crema pastelera: “bow ties” with quince paste and pastry cream
Pañuelitos de grasa (fat wipes): layers of puff pastry
Suspiro de monja (nun’s sigh): pastry balls filled with pastry cream and covered with sugar
Tortita negra (small black pastry): small round pastry covered with dark brown sugar vigilantes: long, thin puff pastry with a sweet glaze
The thought of anarchist bakers is simply intriguing (as are the pastries themselves.) If you want to find out for yourself what they taste like, or if you want something savory beforehand, check out Glutton Guide Buenos Aires! It will steer you in the right direct and ensure that you’re having only the best friar’s balls.