Saladitos, as the name suggests, are both savory (salado) and small (-ito). Sold by the dozen at bakeries across town, these puff-pastry bites come with a variety of fillings, including sobrasada, ham and cheese, pâté, tortilla de patata, tuna and even hot dogs (a Spanish take on pigs in blankets). Made to be eaten by hand, saladitos are usual suspects at birthday parties and aperitivos with friends.
Although they are typically ordered from bakeries, saladitos are simple to make at home with store-bought puff pastry. They add a festive touch to any occasion, even if it’s just cocktail hour for two.
Saladitos have always been on the menu at Mateo’s birthday parties. Given his October 31 birth date and my American nationality, I felt pressure (self-imposed) the first year to add Halloween-themed treats to the snack table. Although the “spooky” seven-layer bean dip topped with sour cream cobwebs went over well among our friends, it was not a hit with the kids.
Ever since, we’ve stuck with local birthday party favorites: crustless white-bread sandwiches filled with ham, cheese, chorizo or Nocilla (Spain’s take on Nutella); plates heaped with gusanitos (puffed snacks akin to Cheetos); sheet-pan pizzas from the local bakery; tortilla de patatas; empanada murciana; and dozens of assorted saladitos.
Like nearly everyone in my neighborhood, we are apartment dwellers, so we never host the party at home. The weather can be iffy on Halloween, so we’ve always rented one of the many party spaces nearby. These budget-friendly locales have two key features: a play structure for the kids, never without a ball pit, and a big refrigerator to keep the beer cold for the parents.
We of course did not host a birthday party this past fall, and I can’t say I missed it. I imagine that birthday parties around the world have a similar frenetic energy that delights children and exhausts parents. The constant whiz of primary-colored balls from ball pits flying through the air. The constant reminders that balls from the ball pit do not belong on the trampoline. Etc.
Here, birthday parties crescendo with the manic tempo of the Spanish birthday song performed by the 1980s children’s music group Parchís—the go-to soundtrack for blowing out the candles. It’s all downhill from there.
Yet I’m happy to see birthday party invitations begin to trickle in again after a long hiatus. We’re slowly beginning to gather again, in small groups, outdoors and with masks. I wonder when we’ll return to the ball pits?
In the meantime, we’ll continue to celebrate with Parchís and festive foods like saladitos.
- Store-bought puff pastry rectangular or square, preferably all-butter
- Sobrasada (see notes), sobrasada and cheese, chorizo, sausage, ham and cheese, pâté, tortilla de patata (cut into strips), tuna with tomate frito (see notes), hot dogs, etc.
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- Sesame seeds optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Lay the puff pastry sheet flat on a separate sheet of parchment paper. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut it into strips with a width of about 3 inches (8 cm).
- Spread or arrange your filling of choice down the center of each strip, then roll the strips up tightly around the filling, enclosing it completely.
- Cut each strip into 1–1½-inch (2.5–4-cm) pieces and place on the prepared baking sheet. Leave space between the pieces to allow for expansion and bake them in batches if necessary. Brush lightly with the egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and slide onto a rack with the parchment paper underneath to cool.
- Serve at room temperature on the same day.