Alcalá de Henares was full of surprises. At only 30 minutes from the center of Madrid, it boasts picturesque sightseeing, delicious free tapas, and some of the best pastries I’ve tried in all of Spain.
And I’ve tried a lot of Spanish pastries! In my experiences a lot of smaller towns have typical pastries. Prior to visiting Alcalá de Henares, I had usually found that the smaller the town the better the pastry. Some of my favorites so far have been the flaky Torta Inglesa in Carmona and the crispy Tejas del Puerto de Santa María.
Alcalá de Henares is not a small town— it has a population of around 200,000 people. But its historic center (a UNESCO World Heritage Sight) feels like any gorgeous Spanish pueblo. Perhaps because of its size and historical importance it has developed a renowned selection of pastries that any sweet toothed tourist would be crazy to miss!
Here’s what you need to try (and where!):
Almendras de Alcalá
Alcalá de Henares has a long history of preparing caramelized almonds (almendras garrapiñadas) with recipes dating back to the 1700s. In addition to these addictive sugary snacks most bakeries offer chocolate covered almonds as well. Whatever your preference, you won’t be disappointed– they are all top quality!
Where? Convento de San Diego (San Diego Convent) where the cloistered nuns sell you these delicious sweets thorough a small door (you’ll never see the nuns in person!) Callejon Santa María, 1
Rosquillas de Alcalá
These delicious yellow rings are quite possibly one of Spain’s most addictive sweets. Light and airy hojaldre (puff pastry) is bathed in creamy yellow egg yolk and a sugary glaze. Biting into one is like tasting the lightest and juiciest glazed donut you’ll ever try. Try just one Rosquilla de Alcalá and you’ll be hooked for life!
Where? Pastelería Lupe is one of Alcalá’s best… and good enough for royalty too! Read about how Lupe herself makes sweets for Princess Letizia (article in Spanish). I happened upon this bakery by chance and knew it had to be famous after tasting my first rosquilla! We made two stops in the same day– and brought some pastries home too! There are two locations: Calle Cervantes, 12 & Calle Sebastián de la Plaza, 2
This just might be the perfect pastry. It consists of layers of flaky puff pastry and sweet cream filling covered in soft meringue and finally topped with crushed sugared almonds. Every bite makes you happy to be in Alcalá!
Where? Costrada is said to have originated from the famous Salinas Bakery in La Plaza de Cervantes and it looked excellent in their window display. We tried it at Lupe’s (we wanted to sit down) and it was amazing!
Hojaldre con Mermelada
Another pastry with flaky hojaldre and delicious homemade marmalade.
Flores de Hojaldre
These flower shaped sweets made of puff pastry and dusted with sugar might not be my first choice, but they are popular with people who aren’t quite as sweet obsessed as I am. I’ve heard that they go great with coffee!
Other sweets from Alcalá that we didn’t try (this time) were their famous Tejas (I just couldn’t imagine anything better than the Tejas in El Puerto!) and Torrijas. If anyone samples these let us know how they are!
If you are anything like me and enjoy a good pastry with your cup of coffee, don’t miss Alcalá de Henares. I promise you it’ll be a highlight on any pastry tour of Spain!
What is your favorite Spanish pastry?
I had a castrada in Madrid. I just loved the meringue. I’d like to learn how to make it. I’ve made the baked kind of meringue before but never the soft type that’s part of this dessert. Where do I get a recipe?
I don’t have a recipe, but I believe the meringue is simply not beaten to become too stiff.
Hi Lauren … I´m afraid I dislike costrada and other Alcalá sweets but the Tarta de la Abuela is a total exception. It´s amazing, lovely with coffee., and less dry than the other sweets. Then again I´m not really into sweet things but savoury. As always your photos are superb and you´ve done all the research so well done!
I was in Alcalá and loved ‘Rosquillas de Alcalá’. I’ve tried to made them at home and it’s very easy.
I haven’t tried them yet at home! Will do…
I tried the ‘crujientes de almendra’ in Avila and they were dusty to say the least. They are very expensive and apparently there aren’t too many people to buy them. It was one of the worst culinary experiences, even though they looked so good in the pastry shop’s window… They should have at least cover them with something for the dust not to set down on them…
Ah! That sounds so gross!!! I’ve had the best version of this type of sweet in El Puerto de Santa María. Their Tejas are to die for and definitely not dusty!
After being to Madrid a few times, when I am back there soon I will make it a “must” to visit Alcalá and try more Spanish sweets! I enjoy how Spanish sweets incorporate almonds into the recipe. It is no wonder when I asked a small Sicilian pastry shop in a beachtown of Italy what a certain pastry consisted of, she could best describe it as “Spanish sugar”. When I bought it, it was marzipan =)
You should definitely check it out. Almonds are amazing, especially in Spanish sweets. Toledo is famous for their marzipan candies too!
Hands down, my favorite dish is ponche segoviano. A good one is from Pastelería Limón y Menta right next to the cathedral in Segovia. If you get a chance to head over there, try it if you haven’t!
Mmmmmm I love rosquillas!! These look soooooo good. I love trying out new Spanish pastries, especially since they vary soooo much from region to region!
The pastries look yummy. I enjoyed my visit to your site.
Kaley [Y Mucho Más]
Totally agree that the smaller towns usually have better pastries. There are so many names, though. I’ve never heard of costrada. Like Mo, I’m not much of a sweets person, so I might never try it. (Shock!)
Typical Zamoran pastries I’ve tried: aceitadas (not a fan of anise), huesos de santo, and el bollo de coscarrón–none of which I liked that much. Oops!
Hi! How could I not comment? I´m not really a sweet-toothed person ( and I flat out dislike costrada) so your informative and very well-photographed post is really helpful to those who must have something sweet! Glad you did some research I´ve never done. If I have pastries they tend to be the very ordinary and ubiquitous “napolitanas” or the “tarta de la abuela” which is almond-based. Having said that, hubby got me chocolates for Valentine´s so…..off to stuff my already chubby face!
Ahh! I can’t believe you don’t like costrada! Tarta de la Abuela sounds yummy, I’ll have to try it next time. And chocolates are always delicious… I’m eating some right now!
Life is so cruel…I can’t fit into my traje and you’re posting about sweets!
I can’t fit into mine either… direct result of the sweets!
You’ve got me so excited for a visit to Alcalá! And after your posts I’m going to be way more prepared for a day trip than I ever have been before haha 🙂
Yay! You have to go to Lupe’s…!