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Bizcochos

Crumbling on the edges, every buttery bite of the bizcocho Cayambeño evokes Spaniard traditions kneaded by generations of hard-working Andean hands. As you drive through the Ecuadorian capital of these delicious biscuits, it seems like everyone in town makes a living out of molding dough into stocky sticks. They sell the golden snacks in little shops that endlessly line-up one next to the other.

The first Spanish settlers of the area of Cayambe were religious men who brought expert women on baking their favorite bread, which quickly became a popular recipe to throw in the wood oven. Once Cayambeños appropriated bizcochos as their bread of choice, they added the Andean touch of queso de hoja (string cheese) to accompany the biscuits and dulce de leche, as a sweet touch for children to eat. Both choices go great with the biscuit, even more so when they are served with a cup of café con leche in a cold highland afternoon.

Trains began circulating through Cayambe in 1928 and bizcochos soon gained popularity among travelers on their way to Quito, Ibarra or San Lorenzo, who wanted a snack to sustain them in the journey. Bizcochos are usually sold in brown paper bags that have thin plastic bags inside to avoid grease stains, since one of the biscuits’ main ingredients is vegetable margarine. Early in the morning bakers all over Cayambe wake up to mix wheat flour, sugar, margarine, yeast and a bit of salt. Then, they let the dough rise for about an hour before they begin kneading and stretching it to cut it into little pieces that are neatly lined on baking sheets. On average, a bizcocho shop bakes between 1,500 and 2,000 pieces a day, so you can get warm, out-of-the-oven bizcochos any time of day.

Some less traditional bakers use egg and vegetable coloring in their recipes to make the bizcochos yellow. However, after extensive, self-sacrificing taste testing, the American expert of bizcochos, Troy Shaheen, concluded traditional recipes are better. Some recommended bizcocho shops are El Rey del Bizcocho and La Casa del Bizcocho, conveniently located next to each other on the main street.

Do not forget to accompany this baked goodness with fresh queso de hoja or dulce de leche and take extra bizcochos to go for friends and family.

 










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