Ring-shaped pastries (Rosquillas de Alcalá) are a confectionery product very extended in Spain, especially Madrid, and there are varied specialties: dull, smart, Santa Clara’s, French’s… The most famous Alcalá’s ring-shaped pastries have a characteristic yellow color are those called smarts.
Alcalá’s ring-shaped pastries are made by a flour dough, eggs and sugar, with a hole in its center. The pastries were originated in the Rome Empire, where bakers were forced to cook in fifty ovens a certain daily quantity of bread. Then, when their daily duty of preparing such essential food ended, bakers used the ovens which still hot to prepare roasts, pies and desserts as ring-shaped pastries.
This costume was spread all over the Mediterranean and set as a tradition in a great number of places through the Iberian Peninsula, above all in special moments, such as the Holy Week or San Isidro, in Madrid. The name Alcalá’s ring-shaped pastries could be originated—according to books of history of confectionery—in Alcalá within the sixteenth century when they were created, becoming afterwards famous in Madrid, where the Royal Court was set.
“Dull” and “Smart”
“Dull” ring-shaped pastries are made with simple baked or fried dough, and it is after such easy making that such pastries were named. On the contrary, “smart” ring-shaped pastries are those which have an added syrup or meringue covering. Santa Clara’ pastries belong to this kind of confectionery, covered by a layer of dry meringue (made by egg whites), which gives them their typical white color. They receive their name after the Franciscan nuns of Santa Clara from a Castilian monastery who made it for the first time in the fifteenth century.
The so-called “French” pastries are covered by grinding almonds and owe their name to Louise of Orléans—French wife of King Louis I the Borboun—who did not particularly enjoy ordinary or “dull” pastries, so made her cook cover them with almonds.
Alcalá’s Yellow Ring-Shaped Pastries
You can taste the pastries named after the name of the city in any confectionery of Alcalá. A special delicatessen due to its texture and flavor, the “small pastry” is called this way because of its laborious making process.
However, besides buying pastries ready to go, it is also possible to prepare it at home, homemade, a very funny experience with a really tasty result which can also be enjoyed by your friends.
Puff pastry is used as dough, the kind that slices can be put one on another, and be flattened afterwards to get it stick. The slices are cut in order to make a hole in its middle, characteristic or those pastries, and then they are introduced into the oven.
On the one hand, while they are in the oven, a light syrup is made and; on the other, several egg yolks are mixed, without the whites. When the syrup is ready, leave it to cool and mix it with the yolk without stop stirring. Take the pastries out of the oven and cover them with the egg and syrup cream and wait until it is dry. Then, mix water and icing sugar or gloss, powdered, so you obtain a white liquid, with which you will paint the ring-shaped pastries and after leave them dry upon a grille.
A valuable advice: to keep the beautiful and typical yellow color of the pastries, you should mix the yolks, not shaking them, because if not, they will turn white instead of orange…
Once they are dried, it is turn to taste them and cry out the enjoyment caused by the delicate mixture between the crunchy puff pastry and the smooth cream covering it.
As a curiosity, into Madrid’s village and court—where Alcalá’s ring-shaped pastries are famous—, there was a saying among many bakers that claims that ring-shaped denomination “of Alcalá”. Pastries are difficult to elaborate, so they are said to be the “smarts” ones, as well as people called smart Aleck, or know-all, are said to be “from Alcalá”—a popular topic that began with the city being the core of one of the most important Spanish universities.
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