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22 febrero 2024

Huesca is sweet: the successes of a province that enchants with its desserts

Brescó, Tricas, Berdún, Albás, Dueso, Vilas, Echeto, Ascaso… these are the names of some of the centenary pastry shops that can be found in Huesca. The Alto Aragonese territory can boast of an outstanding pastry tradition in Spain which, in recent years, has won several national awards. Awards that give visibility to the good work of the bakeries of the province, whose Ruta del Dulce, a tourist proposal based on flavor, allows you to travel from its classic desserts to the innovations it also offers.

One of the clearest examples of how Huesca is sweet when it comes to recognition is Raúl Bernal. This Huesca native, who runs the Lapaca pastry shop in Huesca capital, was chosen last year as the Best Master Chocolatier of Spain, a title he revalidated after winning it in 2011, and took, also in 2023, the award for the best bonbon in the country. “It consolidates what we’ve done; it’s been a pretty incredible year,” he says of the awards received.

The best master chocolatier and the best bonbon in Spain, in Huesca.

For Bernal, this culinary tradition from Huesca has a clear influence from the other side of the Pyrenees, since “France is the world reference in pastry”. Also, its geographical proximity to Catalonia, one of the most important areas of the sector at the national level, where you can find sweet culture and training. And, in this equation of Huesca’s success, he also adds the weight of the nonconformist character of its inhabitants: “Most people have moved, traveled, trained and that makes you grow,” he reflects.

The best bonbon in Spain, from Lapaca. PHOTO: Lapaca.

This master’s vision is very similar to that of the president of the Huesca Confectioners’ Guild, Jesús Tolosana. The also director of the Tolosana Pastry Shop, one of the best known in the province and recognized in 2023 with the third prize for presentation at the Salón Gourmets with its famous Almudévar braid, agrees in pointing out the French aftertaste, above all, in municipalities such as Jaca or Graus, and in classic desserts such as the Russian cake.

“But I believe that the success is due to the fact that in Huesca’s pastry-making traditionally, there has been a good base with which master pastry chefs have been trained who, in turn, have left the original pastry-making tradition; a very particular school has been created,” he says.

Tradition and new trends

A school that is now experiencing a great moment, in which to the aforementioned awards can be added others, such as the one received in 2022 at Madrid Fusion by the then pastry chef of the Tatau restaurant, the Valencian Ausiàs Signes, or the one received by Tolosana himself as the best manager of Huesca, that same year.

Almudévar braid. PHOTO: Tolosana

Among the reasons for the guild’s success, its president cites two main reasons: “One, tradition, and the other, new trends”. Thus, to the trajectory of already consolidated companies, among which there are a good number with more than one hundred years, new incorporations like Bernal are added, which open ways within this culinary universe.

A present to which they also foresee a future, as the creator of Lapaca concludes: “There are businesses that open with young people with desire and I want to think that there is a new generation. There is a good school in Huesca”. As examples he cites the Vincelle pastry shop, in Jaca, or Cristina Marco, from Postres Sin Gluten.

Tolosana also considers that there is a quarry in the province, although he points out as a difficulty the fact of finding generational relay. “Recently, three pastry shops have closed because they have not found a replacement, but four or five new ones have also been incorporated with very well-trained young people, which is a guarantee for the future,” he explains. Faced with this scenario, he believes that vocational training should be adapted to current circumstances and make it attractive to young people.

Raúl Bernal, best master chocolatier in Spain in 2011 and 2023. PHOTO: Lapaca

The Sweet Route, in Fitur and Madrid Fusion

At the moment, Huesca will attend Fitur and Madrid Fusion with the sweet and its route by flag, a tourist route through twenty traditional and innovative pastry shops that shows the richness of the territory in this field. In this way, and with the help of the Provincial Council of Huesca (DPH) and the Association of Hospitality and Tourism of Huesca, the province will put the focus on its desserts, first, at the international tourism fair, to be held from 24 to 28 January, and then in Madrid Fusion, from 29 to 31.

“This initiative will allow us above all to demonstrate the potential we have not only in the city, but in dozens of bakeries and bakeries in our villages,” explained at the end of last year the deputy of Development of the DPH, José Cebollero.

“What is special about Huesca compared to other provinces is that each bakery has its own specialty, even if it is in the same city; that doesn’t happen everywhere,” Tolosana points out. This variety is reflected in the fact that you can find a lot of difference between what the professionals of Graus offer and the specialties of Jaca, the capital or Barbastro, to give some examples.

A Russian cake.

“I think it is very good that you can find in each pastry shop a different elaboration, it makes it something different from other areas,” agrees Bernal. “When these routes are made, it means that something is there”, adds this professional who judges that, with this sweet route, the pastry from Alto Aragon is given “the value it deserves”. “I think that, in the future, it will be a good thing, I’m sure it will encourage other people to maybe start businesses,” he adds.

In that wide culinary variety, Tolosana notes that there may be some proposals better known than others, something that, in his opinion, may be due to the fact that companies have been able to leave the province, as is the case with Russian cake or Almudévar braid. “But there are other more local specialties, which have not gone to the foreign market, such as the lacitos de Jaca or the Biarritz cake, which are at the same level,” he says.

Likewise, in this range offered by the territory, Bernal notes that “there are desserts for every moment”, from pastas, to refrigerated desserts or braids, which can be adapted to every circumstance. In short, a very sweet pleasure.

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