Barcelona is noted for chocolate, the 1992 Summer Olympics (and for wanting to be a contender for the Winter Olympics a few years hence; it is building an indoor ski resort, harvesting the cold from the transport of liquified natural gas to make the snow), and Gaudi's buildings variously described as hallucinogenic, bizarre, and world treasures. It also has one of the world's great street markets all along Las Ramblas, and bakeries everywhere. Our November 2011 two weeks there had more than its fair share of rain, but plenty of chances to sample breads and pastries that could hold their own compared to any place in Europe.
My favorites were whole wheat croissants topped with toasted sesame seeds sold from Rocamora Forns, a small shop across the narrow alley from the St. Josep Market. We often were there too late to buy any -- I wasn't the only one in Barcelona who loved them. Many of the regular croissants were finished off with a sweet glaze, not to my taste. The breads were delicious too, and came in a full range from seed-chocked health foods to delicate white breads with thin crackling brown crusts.
The "peasant bread," "pan de tomate," was made with a ciabatta-like white bread, sliced thin and sometimes toasted. First, it's rubbed with a cut clove of garlic, then with a halved tomato, so that some of the pulp is left on the rough surface, and finally drizzled with olive oil. With luck, and a good enough restaurant, the waiter brings the makings, prepares the first slice before you as an example, and then leaves you to do the rubbing and drizzling yourself for the remainder. You get to do all of the eating, too. It was one of the best things in any bar or cafe, and also one of the cheapest.
Here are photos:
Escriba pastry shop on Las Ramblas, famous for its decorated cakes.
A day's haul -- cookies, a min-chocolate croissant,a roll to eat with butter and cheese.
A fruit tart, glazed, and centered with cherries.
Barcelona bakery, with a variety of naturally yeasted breads.
Presentation is all: a carrot cake; brownies, up by the peppers and potatoes on the top shelf, croissants at the lower left in a flower pot. Pastry shop in L'Eixample.
Escriba pastries -- plain croissants, filled croissants, something like palmiers.
The pastry shop in the St. Josep Market off Las Ramblas, that is home to the whole wheat croissants.
The Art Noveau (Modernisme) Wheat Goddess outside Escriba.