It's only natural to start craving polvorones once the holiday season comes around.
Many of us dearly remember the succulent smell of these traditional almond shortbread cookies wafting out of the kitchen all throughout the winter months.
But finding a recipe for authentic polvorones is hard; with their increased popularity, these delicious sweets are now mass-produced and shipped all over the world.
While any polvoron is a good polvoron, there's something about shortbread in a plastic wrapper that just doesn't feel right.
Learn how to make your own authentic polvorones with this comprehensive guide.
What is Polvoron?
Polvoron is a traditional type of shortbread originating from Spain.
Unlike other types of shortbread that are baked in one large loaf, polvorones are broken up into small, bite-sized cookies before they are sent into the oven.
Many in the Latin world associate these shortbread cookies with the holiday season even though nowadays polvoron is available all throughout the year.
It's believed that the original recipe for polvoron was brought into Spain during the Moor invasion that began in the early 700s AD.(1)
According to Wikipedia, the traditional Spanish recipe for polvorones is believed to be derived from the Levantine sweet known as ghurayba.
These delicacies became popular with all of the different groups living in Spain at the time and their popularity even survived the fall of the Arabs and the rise of the Spanish Inquisition.
During the Inquisition, however, the recipe for polvoron was changed to include pork fat as a devious trick to root out secret Jews and Muslims in Southern Spain.
The conquering Spaniards brought the recipe for polvorn with them to their colonies all throughout the world.
Though the majority of polvorones are still made in the Andalusia region of Spain, variations of polvoron remain popular in former Spanish colonies in Latin America as well as in Cuba and the Philippines.
The ingredients used in polvoron vary depending on which regional recipe you are using.
While Spanish polvoron recipes still call for pork lard, for instance, Filipino polvoron bakers have long preferred butter instead.
And while the polvorones you'll find in Spain contain ample amounts of ground almonds, polvoron in the Philippines usually contains toasted rice instead.
In one way, however, polvoron recipes from all around the world are the same: they all call for large amounts of tasty sugar.
How to Make Spanish Polvoron
If you're hankering for authentic polvoron made in a traditional fashion, then Spanish polvoron is the only way to go.
While there are many ways to make Spanish polvorones, we've chosen a recipe by Chichi Wang that most closely mirrors the version of the delicacy enjoyed hundreds of years ago by the people of medieval Spain.(2)
Here is a homemade recipe:
The ingredients you'll need to make Spanish polvoron include:
Follow these instructions:
Once you've assembled all of the ingredients, follow these simple instructions to make your own traditional Spanish polvorones:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the flour and the almonds and arrange the mixture on a clean baking sheet.
- Insert the baking sheet into the oven once it is preheated. Leave the baking sheet in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the ingredients smell toasted.
- Remove the sheet from the oven and allow the flour and the almonds to cool. It's normal for the mixture to clump together to some degree.
- Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour and almonds with the sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
- Add your pork lard by slowly pouring it into the mixture while stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Add the orange zest, the egg, and the brandy and stir the mixture until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
- Form the dough into small balls around 1 inch in diameter. Place the balls about 1 inch apart on a clean baking sheet.
- Bake the polvorones until the bottom of the cookies are lightly browned. This usually takes about 15 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and lightly dust the polvorones with powdered sugar. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow them to cool.
- If you don't eat the polvorones immediately, remember to store them securely in an airtight container.
While Spanish polvorones are traditionally enjoyed during the holiday season, you can follow this recipe to enjoy these authentic Latin delicacies any time of the year.
How to Make Filipino Polvoron
With the Spanish conquest of the Philipines came the introduction of polvoron to an entirely new audience.
To a native Spaniard, however, the polvorones you'll find in the Philipines may be entirely unrecognizable.
While a lot of the basics stay the same, the Filipino take on polvoron calls for very different ingredients and a unique method of presentation.
Spanish polvorones are generally presented as small cookies, but Filipino polvorones are wrapped in rice paper for a more candy-like appearance.
Both types of polvoron are equally delicious, and we suggest that you try this recipe by master Filipino chef Mae Magnaye Williams.(3)
Here is a Filipino Polvoron recipe:
The ingredients that you'll need to make Filipino polvoron include:
Optional ingredients for flavoring include:
Follow these straightforward instructions after you've assembled all of the ingredients:
- Toast the flour in a large pan over a heating element. Stir the flour frequently until it is a golden brown color. Transfer the flour to a clean bowl to allow it to cool.
- Add the powdered milk and caster sugar to the flour and stir until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
- Add any optional ingredients like pinipig or peanuts.
- Add the butter to the mixture and carefully wash your hands. Then, use your hands to carefully distribute the butter throughout the mixture until it is evenly mixed.
- Place the mixture on a clean pan and use your polvoron molder or cookie cutter to separate the dough into small bite-sized shapes.
- Place the polvorones on top of the rice or tissue paper and wrap the paper around the cookies. Twist at both ends to create a seal.
You may notice that the Filipino recipe for polvorones does not include any baking.
This is intentional as these delicacies are meant to be eaten in their doughy form. Some recipes other than Mae's call for freezing the polvorones before separating them into their individual wrappers.
However, this step isn't strictly necessary.
By reading this guide, you've probably been made aware that there are a wide variety of ways to make polvoron.
In many ways, the different types of polvoron are different treats altogether even though they share the same name.
To make matters even more diverse, in Cuba polvoron is enjoyed as a flavor of ice cream rather than a cookie or candy.
This sort of diaspora is what happens when you take a traditional recipe and spread it all across the world.
The original idea of what a polvoron is supposed to be mixed with the culinary traditions of the indigenous people living in Spanish colonies and entirely new forms of the delicacy sprang up.
Since everyone has different ideas about what makes the perfect polvoron, don't be afraid to experiment when you make these treats for yourself.
There's no right or wrong way to make polvorones, so if you don't feel like following the traditions of any culture, feel free to pick and choose from the different available recipes and come up with a tradition of your very own.
Whichever method you choose for making your polvorones, just remember that these succulent morsels are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family, so give everyone something to celebrate with a plate of your very own polvorones.
[accordion title=”References” load=”hide”](1)www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/spain_1.shtml