Professional Spanish confectionery has undergone a huge transformation in recent years, as a result of the work of several masters and their protégés. This is a look at some of the most outstanding chefs on the dessert and confectionery scene in Spain today.
Torreblanca arrived in Paris at the age of 12. "My father sent me to work at the home of Monsieur Jean Millet, the best baker in France," he says.
His stint there instilled in him a work philosophy that he has been practicing for half a century, and now teaches to students at his school. There, with his son Jacobo, he endeavors to pass on "a love for the profession, for the highest quality raw ingredients, and a desire to reinvigorate flavors.In other words, it is the essence of traditional pastry-making, reinvented, while remaining true to its roots."
His impressive use and knowledge of raw ingredients, and his refined techniques, have enabled him to create a repertoire of cakes, desserts, ice creams, and even breads, combining both innovation and quality.
"We value creativity, quality, excellence, and teamwork. Every day, we are open to new experiences, and to working with and trying new products."
At Espaisucre, the concept of a restaurant dessert has been reimagined as a dish with its own personality and signature, both when the place operated as a restaurant, and after it became a pastry school.
"We see pastry-making as a continuous learning process in terms of technique and taste. It must always be approached with an innovative attitude, but with a respect for tradition at the same time. This is an essential ingredient in order to develop," says Butrón.
Since 2000, Jordi has been making carefully crafted, creative, and surprising desserts that work in harmony with the rest of the menu at the award-winning restaurant in Girona.
Among his most high-profile creations are desserts made with the essence of iconic perfumes, his "Orange Colorology" (whose name hints at the importance of the final appearance of his creations), and one of his most recent, called "Anarchy."
Alongside the sweets and desserts he creates for El Celler, Roca runs another project with his partner, Alejandra Rivas: the Rocambolesc ice cream parlors. Established in Barcelona, Madrid, and Alicante, they specialize in creative ice creams, offering flavors such as dulce de leche, guava jelly, and cotton candy.
It was there, in Cala Montjoi, Roses, that he came up with the idea of replacing the dessert cart with "plated desserts" that followed the same concept as his other culinary creations. These would be cutting-edge recipes (some mixing sweet and savory) made using solid ingredients, foams, ice creams, soups, jellies, and more.
Albert Adrià's creations can be now enjoyed at La Dolça, the "dessert space" at the Tickets restaurant in Barcelona.
There, you can enjoy anything from chocolate cremoso with passion fruit and hazelnut ice cream, to Stracciatella di Bufala ice cream with tomatoes in vanilla and strawberry water, and a balsamic vinegar reduction.
At Moulin Chocolat in Madrid, he has reinvented classic French cakes and pastries with techniques he thought up himself.
His first macaroon, with Manjari chocolate cremoso and pineapple macerated in vanilla, marked the beginning of a career brimming with delicious creations. He has become particularly well-known for his truffles, pastries, and chocolate concoctions, which have earned him the nickname, "The Cocoa Chef."
Despite being self-taught, Sáenz managed to make his "torrijas" (a Spanish equivalent of French toast) an essential dish at his family's restaurant.
In 2002, he opened the DellaSera ice cream parlor in the heart of Logroño with his partner, Angelines González. They also opened the Obrador Grate, which is where they make the ice cream that they sell in store and distribute to restaurants.
Fig-leaf ice cream and lemon cream with Alfaro oil are just some of his original creations, which can be eaten in a cone or a tub.
Some examples of his haute-cuisine creations include a pea-pod water sorbet with chive oil to go with lobster, or a cauliflower, whiskey, coffee, and cream ice cream as an accompaniment to pigeon. Both dishes were thought up by the chef Eneko Atxa.
Born in Gijón, Blanco learned the basics of pastry-making from a local baker at the age of 16, and later with Torreblanca. In Italy, he discovered panettone and learned how to make it.
At his two Pomme Sucre stores—the original one in Gijón, and another in Madrid—you can find high-quality pastries that are made mainly in Gijón and shipped to Madrid within a few hours. You can also take a seat and enjoy a coffee or tea.
He recalls how he used to make traditional desserts with his grandmother when he was just 8 years old. "Ever since I was a child, I have been drawn to pastry. Not just because of its flavor and color, but because of the secrets behind how it is made and the research it takes to get the best texture, smell, sensation, and delicacy."
Even at catering school, she was clear that she was going to focus her attention and training on desserts, which she saw as being "complex and difficult."
A student of Paco Torreblanca, Abellà has been at the head of the game at the Santceloni restaurant in Madrid since 2001, where she likes to showcase pure, authentic flavors.
Among her favorite ingredients are olive oil, salt and pepper, and seasonal fruits. Her creations are light and have very distinct flavors that combine innovation and creativity.
"Desserts pose a great challenge. They mark the end of the gastronomic experience, and must be in perfect harmony and balance with the rest of the menu."
Text: María García.
Image: "Dulce” [Sweet] Book (Published by: Planeta Gastro).
Acknowledgements: Rafael Ansón, president of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy; Elena Rodríguez, director of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy; María García and Caroline Verhille, contributors to the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.
This exhibition is part of the Spanish Gastronomy project jointly coordinated by Google Arts & Culture and the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.