Spanish Christmas cookies are simple, time-honored sweets made with almonds, honey, anise, sugar, and fruit. Bake up a batch of several of these recipes for some extra-special treats this holiday season. Get ready to put your diet or carb-counting on the back burner for just a bit. These tasty morsels are worth it.
Christmastime in Spain is a gastronomic explosion and pastry shops stock their shelves with traditional Spanish sweets. If you live outside of Spain, you can make these at home rather than relying on finding imported cookies.
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Mantecados are synonymous with Christmas in Spain. The Spanish word for lard is manteca, and this traditional recipe calls for lots of it. In fact, mantecados are so soft and creamy they will literally melt in your mouth. They're light with a delicate anise flavor, and words don't do them justice. The recipe uses Spanish anis liqueur, but you could substitute vodka with anise extract. In Spain, these small, rich and crumbly cookies come wrapped in brightly colored wrappers. Follow that tradition to make them special for your guests and family.
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Polvorones are very traditional Spanish shortbread sweets that have not changed in centuries. The exceptions of the use of the modern mixer to mix up the batter and substituting shortening for lard (the use of which is tied to the days of the Spanish Inquisition). These flaky, soft cookies are made with flour, shortening, powdered sugar, and cinnamon. (Polvo means powder or dust in Spanish.) The dough is refrigerated, then rolled out, cut, and baked. There are also crisper versions of polvorones.
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They look like doughnuts, but these little anise-flavored ring cookies made with wine are light and delicious. They are baked, not fried. The Spanish eat them accompanied by a glass of anise liqueur, but they are equally delicious with a cup of hot tea or coffee for breakfast or at tea time. You may find yourself, as the Spanish do, enjoying them all year long.
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These little cylinders called alfajores de Medina Sidonia are covered in syrup and powdered sugar. These sweet treats originated in southern Spain, which was under Moorish rule for centuries. The name is of Arabic origin and is thought to mean "luxurious." Recipes vary slightly, but the most traditional version is made from ground almonds and hazelnuts, anise and sesame seeds, cinnamon, and cloves, all held together with warm honey. Certainly these cookies lend a bit of luxury to the holiday season.