Where do Facturas get their names from?
There is no just denying that facturas are a way of life for many here in Buenos Aires. Flakey, buttery, sometimes gooey, and always delicious. People buy them by the dozen from their local panaderías (bakeries) to enjoy as part of the typical breakfast and Merienda (Tea Time) ritual. Alongside coffee and mate, they are also a crucial component in the mid-afternoon merienda break.
They come in all different shapes and sizes, often filled with dulce de leche, quince paste (dulce de membrillo) or custard (crema pastelera), and of course sprinkled with lots and lots of sugar. Each one has its own unique name and knowing these can be very useful. Especially if you don’t want to find yourself being that extranjero who, when stood at the counter, can only point and gesture to try and order their factura fix.
You might not have known then, that some factura names have very interesting backstories. Here, we will explore the origins of these names, and by the end of this blog you will be navigating the panadería like a true porteño!
The word factura itself, has its roots in the latin word ‘facere’ – which means (the action of) doing, making and creating. This then could relate to the idea that facturas are the result and end-product of the craft of bakers, which is a nice thought.
The names of facturas some are logical and self-descriptive, but still very charming. The iconic ‘Medialuna’ for example, takes its name from the shape of the crescent moon. ‘Libritos’ are so-called as they have layers of pastry which resemble the pages of little books! Another example is the humble ‘Pancito de Leche’, a simple translation describes it as a little milk bun.
Many pastries were brought to Argentina along with immigration from Europe. Over time they morphed into the facturas we know better today under Latin American influence. As such, they are often said to be distant cousins of the well known Danish Pastries. ‘Churros’ are a popular treat from Spain. ‘Mil le-feuilles’ from France are called ‘milhojas’ in Buenos Aires, and of course now contain copious amounts of dulce de leche. ‘Bolas de fraile’ are derived from the German ‘Berliner Pfannkuchen’, and that may be the reason why some people still call them ‘Berlinesas’.
The Panadero Anarchists
Around 1888, there was an anarchist movement spreading amongst many workers unions in Argentina. Lead by Errico Ferrer, the syndicate of los panaderos organised a strike which lasted almost two weeks. Obviously this wasn’t met with alacrity by the authorities of the time, but the bakers’ trade union found an ingenious way to fight back. They came up with new names for their facturas, having sacrilegious and mocking references to their enemy institutions.
As such, the current names for many modern day factura favourites were born. Cañoncitos (little cannons) and Bombas (bombs) were named as a dig at the army. Vigilantes, which have the appearance of police batons, direct attention towards police brutality. Sacramentos (sacraments), Bolas de Fraile (friar’s balls) and Suspiros de Monja (Nun’s sighs) are slaps in the face of the Catholic Church.
At the end of this strike, in which the bakers achieved their objectives, the new names continued to be used as convention in the bakery assortment. As mentioned, even to this day facturas are still called as such, although more innocently now, as many people are unaware of this incredibly interesting backstory!
So next time you find yourself with a pair of Friar’s Balls on your plate, just remember that they are much more than a tasty blend of ingredients. As you can see, gastronomy, history and culture all go hand in hand!
Best Top 10 Bakeries in Argentina (Panaderías)
- Reina Del Parque ( Mar Del Plata)
- Panaderia Bardepan (Buenos Aires)
- Panadería L’ Epi (Buenos Aires)
- La panadería de Pablo (Buenos Aires)
- Panadería Oui Oui (Buenos Aires)
- Smeterling Patisserie (Buenos Aires)
- La boutique de Jean Paul (Buenos Aires)
- Confitería / Panadería Sasha (Buenos Aires)
- Panaderia Co-Pain Franck Dauffouis (Buenos Aires)
- Teakery Pastry & Tea (Buenos Aires)