Journalist and photographer, I was born in Alella, but whenever I can I escape to the Pyrenees and Empordà.
Our region has kept many sweet traditions alive and intact to this day
Okay, we confess. Travelling across Girona in search of the tastiest pastry shops and sweets is one of our guilty pleasures. There’s something for everyone! A good way to keep your energy up while wandering around the villages of Cerdanya is to nibble on some cerdans. These sweet, crunchy pastries are made with whole hazelnuts and a touch of aniseed and cinnamon. You can buy them in small bags in local confectioners’ shops like Gil de Llívia.
Meanwhile, up in the Ripollès mountains, when it comes to sweets, they are all about Birba. The products made by this company at the end of the 19th century were so popular among tourists from Barcelona that they created an easy-to-carry product: biscuits made from sugar and almonds. They still follow the same recipe today, which is all natural and contains no preservatives or additives.
If you’re on a Sunday stroll in Garrotxa, queue up at Can Carbasseres in Olot. They make entorxat, sometimes also referred to as the wheel of fortune. This is a ring-shaped aniseed cake, a legacy left by the Jews who resided in the town. Nowadays, it’s mostly eaten by godchildren when their godfather gives it to them on Palm Sunday.
In Alt Empordà, make sure to try the taps de Cadaqués, a cork-shaped pastry made with sugar, eggs and flour and drizzled in syrup, perfect for a sweet afternoon snack. Although if it’s Lent and you’re in Figueres, ask for brunyols, a ring-shaped pastry flavoured with lemon zest, aniseed or brandy and coated in sugar. They are said to be an invention of the old Empordà friars and are irresistible when washed down with a DO Empordà Grenache wine.
If you’re looking for something completely different, try bisbalenc, a long puff pastry covered with pine nuts and filled with pumpkin jam, which shares its fame with the ceramics made in the town it takes its name from: La Bisbal d’Empordà (Baix Empordà). You can find one at Pastisseria Sans, where Modest Sans created it upon his return from Paris in 1927. We completely agree with Dalí and Pla, who both sang its praises! And if you find time for a visit to Calella de Palafrugell to listen to some havaneres music while sipping on a warm spiced rum drink known as rom cremat, you’ll complete the experience.
For the chocolate lovers out there, make sure to visit Pla de l’Estany, where you’ll find the Xocolates Torras chocolate factory. Founded by Dolors Torras in 1890, the company now exports its products from Cornellà de Terri all over the world. You can tour the factory and take some of its products home with you. The challenge will be choosing from among the upwards of 100 varieties on offer, some as original as chocolate with goji berries or with seaweed and black fleur de sel.
You may have eaten xuixos elsewhere, but if you’re in Girona, try the real deal. This sweet pastry is filled with crème pâtissière, rolled up, deep-fried and coated in sugar. It was first made here circa 1918, apparently on the advice of a French pastry chef. It’s said that the best of the best is now made at Can Castelló. Before heading out of the city, stop by any of the establishments belonging to Jordi Roca, chosen a few years ago as the best pastry chef in the world: the Rocambolesc ice cream parlour, and the Casa Cacao chocolate factory and shop. You’re sure to fill up your bag!
If you’re looking for a sweet souvenir to take home, make your way to Selva for a visit to the Trias Biscuit Museum in Santa Coloma de Farners. For more than a century they have been making an assortment of biscuits using the same recipe of almonds, sugar, eggs and flour, but with a variety of names, tastes and shapes that will make it hard to narrow down your choices: teules, barrets de capellà, torpedos, virolets, crocants, ametllats and pralinets. With a small glass of ratafia liqueur they will make for an everlasting memory!