Christmastime in Spain is a gastronomic explosion as pastry shops stock their shelves with traditional Spanish sweets like mantecados and polvorónes. If you can't make it to Spain this holiday season, you can make your own Spanish cookies at home for the next best thing.
Spanish Christmas cookies are simple, time-honored sweets. They tend to be made with almonds, honey, and anise and all pair nicely with coffee, espresso, hot chocolate, or liqueurs. Bake up a batch or two for some extra-special treats this holiday season.
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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 airy they will literally melt in your mouth. They have a delicate anise flavor thanks to anís liqueur, but you could substitute vodka mixed with a little anise extract if needed. In Spain, these rich and crumbly cookies come wrapped in brightly colored wrappers. Follow that tradition to make them extra special for your guests and family.
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Polvorones are very traditional Spanish shortbread sweets that have not changed in centuries, except for the use of a modern mixer to whip up the batter and substituting shortening or butter for pork fat. Polvo means powder or dust in Spanish, and the cookie is tied to the days of the Spanish Inquisition. These soft, crumbly cookies are made with almonds and cinnamon for a lightly sweet taste.
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They look like doughnuts, but these little anise-flavored ring cookies made with white wine are something totally different. Rosquillas de vino are baked, not fried, with a light texture. The Spanish eat them with a glass of anise liqueur, but they are equally delicious with a cup of hot tea or coffee. The airy treats are often eaten at Christmastime but can be enjoyed year-round.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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The traditional Spanish version of these cookies are cylinders called alfajores de Medina Sidonia and are covered in syrup and powdered sugar. They originated in southern Spain, which was under Moorish rule for centuries. This South American sandwich cookie version has a similar texture and flavor and is sure to make your holidays special. Add some ground anise and cinnamon to make them more like Spanish alfajores.
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This version of polvorones adds coconut to the mix for extra flavor and texture. All of the dry ingredients are toasted in the oven before mixing, even the flour. This gives the delicate cookies their signature crumbly texture and a toasty flavor. Serve with coffee, tea, or a liqueur to wash them down or give as gifts.