Snapshots from Spain - How to Breakfast like a Spaniard
What's the most decadent breakfast you can imagine? Along with the English fry up and French chocolate filled croissants, the Spanish tradition of churros and chocolate must be right there at the top of the list. It's not just for tourists, I saw many a local happily dunking away. The trick is to have your churros in the morning, like a true Spaniard. If you aren't into sweets for breakfast, the somewhat more virtuous option is a tostada, aka, toast. Just take one crusty roll, add a drizzle of olive oil, a smear of crushed tomato, perhaps a slice of ham, and you've got breakfast. Over the course of my stay in Andalucia, I indulged in both breakfasts several times.
Unlike most churros you find in the states, the plain Spanish versions aren't covered in sugar or filled with cream. But they do come in several shapes and sizes, though they're always fried in a circle, then chopped into dunkable sticks. Churros range from a half inch to two inches thick with variations in texture and density. The ones in Sevilla and Granada have a smooth surface and chewy bouncy texture that can be ruined if they sit too long in their own oil. The fresher the better! The doughnuts' internal hole structure allows hot chocolate to seep right in when dunked.
My last stop in Spain was Madrid, where I sat down for more churros and chocolate at the famous Chocolatería San Ginés. Conveniently, the cafe was just steps from my hotel and they serve their specialty all day long. So I ignored my advice of morning churros only, and indulged in a late afternoon snack. Unlike the churros pictured in this post, San Ginés churros are denser, the dough extruded through a star tipped tube to create a narrow, ridged doughnut. Chocolate clings like a dream to the exterior ridges, making it the slightly superior dunking apparatus.
And what about the chocolate? All the mugs I tried were just barely sweetened and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. They weren't quite as creamy and thick as the decadent drinking chocolate I sampled at Cacao Sampaka in Barcelona, but they were all much richer than typical American hot chocolate. I had my first mug at La Centuria Cafe in Sevilla, beneath the shadow of Las Setas, where the chocolate was lighter and very drinkable, a little milkier than later versions. I accidentally ordered a full portion of six churros, far too many for one person. Make sure to ask for a half order if you're on your own.
The photos in this post come from Gran Cafe-Bib Rambla, in Granada. It's centrally located, just under the Cathedral. And like Chocolatería San Ginés, Bib Rambla is famous for their churros y chocolate. You'll see an order on almost every table. Their hot chocolate is dark and just a little sweet. My favorite spoonfuls were near the end, when the chocolate had begun to cool and firm up, resulting in pockets of semi-solid chocolate that melted so nicely on my tongue. I also ordered a fruit skewer, thinking it would help balance out the decadence of the rest of my order. Don't bother. The skewer contained four bites of barely ripe orange and melon and cost more than my cup of coffee.
And speaking of coffee, if you're not up for indulging in chocolate straight away in the morning, cafe con leche is the perfect alternative. Cafe con leche is steamed milk poured into a large shot of espresso and it's just as good as chocolate for dunking churros. It's usually served in a small mug, but you can also order the drink 'en vaso,' and it will arrive in a little glass cup. I noticed that women seemed more likely to order their coffee this way, though I haven't quite determined why. Like churros, Cafe con leche is typically consumed in the morning so don't be surprised if your waiter gives you a funny look if you order it past lunch time. Just make sure to enjoy the pour, it's awfully pretty, especially when performed by a handsome young Spanish waiter.
I was going to attempt to balance this post out with information on a more wholesome Spanish breakfast of tostada. But I've already written way more than I intended, so that will have to wait for another post. For now I'll end with a few photos of Granada, from the lovely San Cristobal Mirador in the Albaicin neighborhood. That's where I headed directly after finishing my churros y chocolate for some fresh air and plenty of hills and hiking.