Halva-like almond cakes from Valencia, courtesy of Brindisa
At one point, we thought we’d bitten into and written about every almond-and-sugar based treat Brindisa has to offer—a milestone, but not one we were pleased at having reached, being hopelessly partial to that inimitable combination of buttery nuttiness and sugar.
Then we spotted polvorónes: the pale, delicate biscuits which in Spain play the same role as our dense and dumpy mince pies. Come Christmas—well, late October, for in Spain as in the rest of the western world Christmas comes ever earlier—these bites of fancy are the go-to partner for a glass of cava or sweet liquor.
“Or coffee?” we ask Stuart, conscious that the ‘tis the season excuse for liquor-induced jollity doesn’t quite stretch to 11am on a working day in early November. “Or coffee,” he smiles. “Though they are much softer than amaretti”—the Italian coffee treat. The trick is to squeeze the polvorón before unwrapping, crushing the compact powder of ground marcona almonds and fine sugar like a snow plough does freshly fallen snow.
That holds them together, Stuart explains. “Then as you soon as you bite it, it collapses and crumbles”—like a Phoenix, in biscuit form. In fact, the name polvorón comes from the Spanish ‘polvo’ meaning dust. “They are made on the east coast of Spain, in Valencia, to a traditional recipe”, one which includes pork lard, though you wouldn’t know it from the silky, blusher-like texture—or the flavour, which is definitely more cinnamon than sausage.
Fill a cafetière (preferably with something nutty and cocoa-esque from Monmouth), squidge the polvorón, then lovingly unfurl the thin, greaseproof paper—making sure to sit down before biting. Eating this standing up will result in an almondy avalanche down your top.