Polvorones and Mantecados

The traditional Christmas biscuits from Almería

Polvorones and Mantecados – the traditional Christmas biscuits from Almería

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, Perry Como once sang. And later Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé and almost every other singer too 🙂 .
So I suppose the time has come to bake some typical Christmas pastries.

Since we live in sunny Andalusia rather than cold, dark and rainy Northern Europe, we don’t prepare gingerbread or Christmas pudding or mince pies. Our typical Christmas cookies are a little different, but almost as sweet and heavy. Only really good eaters can manage more than two of them.

A polvorón is a rather rich, soft and extremely crumbly schmaltzy biscuit. They are traditionally made of pork fat, flour, sugar, milk, almonds and/or other nuts. Its term polvorón derives from the Spanish polvo (powder or dust). If not handled gently, the pastry already falls to pieces in your hand and not in your mouth.

Mantecados are a variation of polvorón. The main difference is that they do not contain almonds or other nuts. They also tend to be round in shape, whereas polvorones are typically more elongated to oval in shape. And unlike polvorones, mantecados are not covered with icing sugar, but are often covered with sesame seeds.

Nowadays, they also offer polvorones covered in chocolate. This at least prevents them from crumbling in your hand. Instead, you then mess up everything with chocolate … there is always something 🙂 . Mantecados are often flavoured with some spices. Lemon zest, cinnamon, aniseed and cocoa are the most popular.

Polvorón

… the original

Biscuits
preparation time

preparation time: 15 minutes
baking time: 30 minutes

about 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 150 gr ground almonds
  • 280 gr flour
  • 180 g pork fat or butter
  • 100 gr icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped almonds

The how to …

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  2. Spread the ground almonds and flour on a baking tray and let them roast in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring them from time to time.
  3. Take the tray out of the oven and let the mixture cool down.
  4. Mix the pork fat (or butter) with the icing sugar, cinnamon, chopped almonds and toasted almond-flour mixture, and knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
  5. Roll it out on a floured surface to a thickness of 2 cm and cut out round biscuits, giving them a slightly oval shape.
  6. Bake them on a baking tray for 14 minutes until golden.

Tip

Traditionally, the polvorones are dusted with icing sugar after they have been allowed to cool.
If you like it a little more chocolaty, you can instead cover them with very dark chocolate …

Mantecados

… the variation

Biscuits
preparation time

preparation time: 15 minutes
baking time: 30 minutes

about 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 300 gr wheat flour
  • 150 gr clarified butter
  • 150 gr sugar
  • Ground cinnamon to taste (optional)
  • Lemon zest to taste (optional)
  • Roasted sesame seeds (optional)

The how to …

    1. Preheat the oven to 155°C.
    2. Put the flour on a baking tray and let it roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir it from time to time so that it does not get too much colour.
      Drying the flour is optional, but it gives the mantecados their characteristic texture.
    3. Take the tray out of the oven and let the flour cool completely.
    4. Whip the fat (or butter) with the sugar until smooth. Add the cinnamon or lemon zest as well as the toasted flour and knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
    5. Shape the dough to a ball and wrap it in cling film. Now let the dough rest in a cool place for at least 1 hour.
    6. When it is time to bake, preheat the oven to 180ºC.
    7. Roll it out on a floured surface to a thickness of 2 cm and cut out round biscuits and cover them with toasted sesame seeds, pressing them on gently.
    8. Bake on a baking tray for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Tip

You can let your creativity shine and add some spices to the dough …
Add cinnamon and cardamom for an even more Christmassy twist,
Add a little orange zest and ginger for a more spicy touch,
… or add some cocoa powder for the chocolate lover.

Merry christmas! Enjoy the andalsian way of christmas bakery …

¡Qué aproveche!