Funny factura names (and their origin)

Would you eat a friar’s balls?

Probably not unless you are in Argentina and have a sweet tooth.

A pair of friar's balls: custard and dulce de leche

Facturas are, hands down, the most popular pastries in Argentina. They come in different sizes and shapes and with different fillings – dulce de leche, quince paste (dulce de membrillo) and custard (crema pastelera) are the most popular. People buy them by the dozen from their local panaderías (bakeries) for breakfast and for their mate break in the afternoon. Panaderias do a brisk trade on Sunday mornings, as many people follow the same ritual: get up, get the paper, buy facturas, put the kettle on for mate (or coffee) and sit down to a leisurely breakfast.

Almost every kind of factura has its own, self-descriptive name, like medialuna (a sweeter, denser, smaller croissant) or pancito de leche (milk bun).

However, some factura names have very interesting origins. In the late 19th century, a few European anarchists fled persecution and hid in Argentina. Some joined trade unions and started to spread their ideals, which wasn’t exactly met with alacrity by local authorities. The bakers’ trade union found an ingenious way to fight back. They came up with new names for facturas to ridicule the power elites.

Thus, bolas de fraile (friar’s balls), sacramento (sacrament) and suspiro de monja (nun’s sigh) were aimed at the clergy (extremely influential at the time), vigilante (watchman. It has a rather derogatory sense nowadays) was for the police and  bomba de crema (cream bomb) and cañoncito de dulce de leche (dulce de leche cannon) was for the military.

Medialunas

 

17 Comments

  1. Katie

    I love the names of the pastries here! You did a nice job of linking historical events with the food. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some coffee and friar’s balls waiting for me. 😉

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Thanks! Food and history are intertwined, don’t you think?
      Enjoy your balls :)

      Reply
  2. Robert

    A long time ago, someone also told me that the vigilante received its name because it has the same shape as the nightstick or baton that policeman carry. Pretty funny now… although probably not so much during the heyday of the Liga Patriótica Argentina :-) Nice post!

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Hi Robert. That sounds like a plausible explanation too, who knows what the actual origin is, right?

      Reply
    2. Dan Perlman

      The story of the vigilante: http://www.saltshaker.net/20110627/along-came-paula (down at the bottom).

      Reply
      1. Ana

        Hi Dan :) Thanks for stopping by and for the link. I looooove postre del vigilante, especially with batata con chocolate. The factura called vigilante looks like a bread stick covered in membrillo o pastelera (or both!)

        Reply
  3. Claudia Gibson

    Me encantó la historia de las facturas!! Además qué ricas que son y las de Buenos Aires sobre todo! Un abrazo y felicitaciones!! :))

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Gracias, Claudia. Viste lo ricas que son? Ahora me comeria un par :)

      Reply
  4. Andrea Schwartz

    Oh gods Ana! Rebecca Caro’s blog linked me to yours, and now I am wanting to take an airplane back to Buenos Aires to have some bolas de fraile with cafe con leche. AAAAGH!!! 😀

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Andrea, welcome to my blog! That’s not a bad idea, flying to BA for a cafe con leche con bolas de fraile. I’m drooling already.

      Reply
  5. GusF

    Makes me long for some of them! Wished we had a south american pastry shop near by.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Hello Gus. Where do you live? There are a couple of panaderias argentinas here in Dallas but I don’t know if they have bolas de fraile :) .

      Reply
  6. Country Skipper (@countryskipper)

    I want some! They look delicious!!

    Reply
  7. thatbackpacker

    ‘Vigilantes’ are my favourite! And I also really like ‘rejillas’ with dulce de membrillo. Mmmmm 😀 Now I’m craving facturas!!!

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Paraphrasing Shakespeare: “My kingdom for a factura!” :)

      Reply
  8. mariela

    Hi Ana,

    I understand the facturas you’re referring to are not called ‘bolas de fraile'; but borlas de fraile (with R), referring to the tassel or pompom that hangs from the friar’s cord; not to his b*lls! ha ha…

    Reply
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Hi there! I appreciate your comments and questions.