Adventures of a Chief Rabbi: Love of Biscocho

February 1, 2015

Love of Biscocho

There is no particular awe-inspiring structure in Montevideo. There is no site here I would tell anyone to get on a plane to come and see. I wouldn’t even tell you to come out of your way from nearby Buenos Aires. The extent of the tourist attractions can be reduced to a two-hour bus ride and even then, the “attractions” range between mildly interesting to outright boring. Mind you, not that it isn’t a lovely place to live – it’s just not a “touristy” place.

However, besides the people and the culture that I have written about at some length, that indeed makes ones stay here enjoyable, there is one treat I have yet to write about: the “biscocho”.

The biscocho is almost exactly like, but never quite the same as a variety of pastries. It most closely resembles a croissant, but that would be inaccurate. It is vaguely reminiscent of a rogoloch, but again you would be quite off.

It doesn’t have any particular flavor or at least it is more subtle than I know how to describe. So for those of you whose taste buds are dead, you will need something stronger to get your attention. When it is freshly baked it is warm and soft with a pleasant texture. It doesn’t fall apart into a million crumbs when you bite into it, nor is it particularly sticky. Biting into it is always a pleasurable sensation. It usually takes four or five bites to finish one. They come in a variety of versions, but the most common one is the plain sugar-coated traditional biscocho. While we are all fans, our son Netanel has taken a deep interest in it.

When asked what he will miss most of Uruguay, “biscocho” is his automatic reply. During the times he worked as a mashgiach (kosher supervisor) in the different Kosher establishments, he accepted payment in biscochos. During his final week in the country, concerned about his separation from what became his daily breakfast, he talked the baker into sharing with him the secrets of biscocho creation. Netanel has named this process “The Way of the Biscocho” and there is as much philosophy of life to it as there is technique.

While I don’t recall the technical details, what I do understand is that it involves a lot of waiting, a lot of patience and a lot of matte drinking. Netanel has now made plans to bring this art form to Israel and to open the first Biscocheria in Israel to service the clearly biscocho-starved Uruguayans and other Latin Americans who have been missing this delicacy in their Israeli lives. Perhaps there was something worthwhile in Montevideo after all…

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