During his recent extensive tour of Spain, the restaurateur and chef Rick Stein witnessed how much the Spanish value their local bakeries.
Rick has spent his life enjoying the bread of Spain and spoke enthusiastically about it in his four part television series for the BBC, that is now available on DVD.
Rick Stein loves his Spanish bread.That became clear as he ate it all over the country.
He first went to a bakery in Orzales in Cantabria where he watched the bakers at work.
He said: “I think that bread in Spain is an understated marvel. I cannot recall ever being disappointed by it.
"It is rough, unrefined and full of wheaty flavour. It epitomises the straightforwardness of Spain as a country.
“As I drove around Spain in my camper van I noticed lots of signs for artisan bakers, especially in Cantabria and Asturias. Everything there is done by hand.
"I sincerely believe these bakeries will not die out because people in Spain believe in their bread.”
Rick Stein stood, watched and admired how lifelong bakers made the bread.
He said: “I was fascinated watching the whole process. They first make a dent in the middle to identify the bread as theirs.
“The bakers in Spain are craftsmen. Bread is the centre of their and our existence.
"When you think of jobs like this you realise how much these bakers are worth. They have been baking bread all their lives and doing it so well.
"People in Spain would be sadder without their local bakery."
But that's not all a baker makes, as Rick discovered.
He says: “They also make empanadas there, filled with bacon and chorizo. They are fashioned very much like a pasty.
“I wouldn’t mind betting that the Cornish pasty is somehow linked to the empanada.
“Earliest records show these little pies date back to the Moors invasion of Spain. They had similar looking pastries filled with chickpeas.”
In Santiago de Compostela Rick Stein got up early to see how empanadas are made from scratch by a lady called Trinidad. She has been making them by hand for years.
Rick explained what he saw: “She covers the pastry with a sauce made from softened onions, peppers and garlic. She uses loads of oil.
"Then she puts in strips of conger eel. A smattering of tomato sauce and even more olive oil. Only then, and finally, does the top go on the pastry or empanada.
“It is not a short crusty pastry. It is made more like a bread dough and, because it is made with oil, it has an elastic quality to it. Then it goes to a local oven.
"The most popular filling in Santiago de Compostela is fish, including the typical Galician favourite of Octopus.”
It was clear to the millions who watched the Rick Stein television series on Spain that he is both a big fan of the country and a devotee of its food. Especially the Spanish bakery.
He said: “It is one of life’s pleasures to taste a freshly baked empanada or freshly baked Spanish bread.”
Summing up his culinary cruise around Spain in a van, Rick Stein said this: “I would like to say cheers to Valencian Paella cooked over orange wood. Thank you to the black pigs of Extremadura
for the wonderful ham. Cheers to Spain for its fat plump olives bursting with oil, the garlic soup of La Mancha and the famous Manchego cheese.
“I left Plymouth on my culinary odyssey to discover great food in Spain, and I did just that.”