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Picos y Bread

Long history of bread…

An ancient land like Cadiz can only reflect its appreciation for one of the most ancient products of man. Indeed, the bread of the area is well appreciated, and a taste for rustic-type bread has reached our days. However, the most successful bread products in the area are those from “dry bakery” or breadstick-type products, known locally as Picos de Pan (with many variants), whose origin lies precisely in the bakeries of the area, although, interestingly enough, perhaps almost by accident.

According to one local entrepreneur, it seems Cadiz bakers began making small rolls with the dough that was left over from making their bread; they baked it for a bit longer, creating crunchy bread sticks, which they gave to their children. And thus they began to develop a specific product line in local bakeries which eventually turned more than one of them into a true industry.

On the other hand, it seems logical that the production of similar products may have begun in more remote times, bearing in mind the advantages of such a durable and useful food product, easily produced by baking such basic ingredients as diverse grains with very little water.

From past to present

Whatever their origin, these "pieces" of crusty bread are an extremely versatile product, and in recent years have achieved a very different status from that of their origins. In fact, they’ve gone from being considered a most common local product, without special interest in quality, to being treated as a gourmet item, served at the finest tables.

Picos and all their variants are an almost indispensable accompaniment to the well-known tapas that Spain has managed to export and make so fashionable all over the world. They are the perfect complement to such iconic Spanish products as Ibérico ham, cheese, chorizo, tortilla de patatas (potato omelet), ensaladillas (potato salads), boquerones en vinagre (marinated anchovy fish) and so on. They last much longer than normal bread and can be kept readily available at home, as a convenient alternative.

Furthermore, with industry growth and changes in market trends, picos are expanding their culinary uses. Leaving behind the concept of mere accompaniment, they’ve also become an attractive snack or meal in themselves, a natural and healthy way to eat between meals. Some are made in the form of bars, others imitate small pizzas, but ultimately, the use of basic natural ingredients like olive oil, grains, and seeds, has largely succeeded in arousing the interest of a demanding and knowledgeable consumer that appreciates quality.

Variety as a hallmark

It is amazing to observe the wide variety of breads that have been created from a few basic ingredients, but indeed, each region has developed its own type of bread throughout its history, serving not only as basic food but also as a unique and characteristic element of its food culture.

Variety is one of the hallmarks of the bread industry in Cadiz. Producers are eager to maintain traditional forms in these dry breads, which receive a variety of names (picos, picos camperos, pulguitas, duros, palitos, bolitas, rosquillas, regañás, etc.) but they are also taking advantage of the resources in basic ingredients to create all sorts of variations: normal or wheat, artisan, organic, with virgin olive oil, ajonjolí (sesame seeds), oregano, basil, thyme, sea salt ... the list is virtually endless.

The following description could be made of some of the most characteristic references, although there are significant variations in the products of different companies, depending on the recipe applied by each:

•    Picos (standard): short stick shape, medium to fine thickness; light color, and hardness that varies according to type, slightly crunchy bite.
•    Picos artesanos o camperos (artisan or country-style): slightly curved, irregular, rolled dough shape; light colored, not too dark, and medium hardness, mildly crunchy bite.
•    Picos duros (hard): stubby, half-stick shape, medium thickness; pale color, very hard, very crunchy bite.
•    Regañás (flat): flat and rectangular shape, golden color and crunchy texture, but little resistance to breakage in the bite.
•    Rosquillas (rings): ring shaped, medium to fine thickness; golden color, crunchy, but little resistance to breakage in the bite.

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