Living in London is great for many reasons, one of the main ones that you are exposed to a world of cultures without even leaving the city. You can practically find at least one person of each country you can think of, and this means that you get used to any dietary requirements of those around you very fast.
Where I come from, however, people love eating and dietary restrictions have traditionally been something imposed (generally by a doctor) rather than a personal choice. As such, they are still a mystery to most.
My family is rather unusual… My mum was born in San Sebastian but my dad in Moskva (Moscow) to Basque parents. My brother and I were born in San Sebastian but we both married citizens from outside Europe. My husband, as I’ve said before, is Japanese and my sister in law is Ugandan.
In our family, although I have to admit that we all are very acutely aware of our social responsibilities; individuals choose their own spiritual paths should they feel the need to. As such my nieces and nephew have been raised in a multicultural family where everyone looks different and has a different life experience to bring to the table, and where (most importantly) everyone’s opinion is as valid. Nobody has told them who they need to become and when the time comes, they should decide their own path. Meanwhile, and because of their mom’s, my sister in law’s, upbringing they do not eat pork.
Nobody has told them who they need to become and when the time comes, they should decide their own path. Meanwhile, and because of their mom’s, my sister in law’s, upbringing, they do not eat pork.
Now, let me tell you that this is a challenge in modern Europe and more so when you live in Spain… As you are probably aware, even the sweets often use pork gelatin as a thickening agent and many companies don’t feel the need to disclose this.
In the UK something-free diets are less unusual, and as such, foods are labeled in a detailed manner, but in Spain, it is mainly healthy products that feel the need to declare what they are made of.
Things are changing (only last weekend my sister in law told me of a butcher who has created a “halal chorizo” made out of beef meat instead of pork) and I am sure that in a few years time, it will all be clearer, but for now, I was keen to find a recipe for polvorones ( our Christmas sweets) that did not contain pork fat, for my nieces to be able to enjoy . (My nephew is allergic to nuts so, the poor little man has other challenges to deal with)
I found the original recipe in a blog called El monstruo de las galletas (the cookie monster), and as ever, I made some changes based on research .
Cooking time: 10 minutes prep + 30 minutes chilling +10 minutes prep + 12 minutes bake
Quantity: This mix makes 16 polvorones
1. The times have been calculated assuming all polvorones are baked in one go in a flat biscuit tray with no deep edges. If you don’t have one of those, flip yours upside down.
2. Goes without saying but remember to use unsalted butter
- 235 ml of clarified unsalted butter
- 200 ml of Caster sugar
- 400 ml of flour
- 235 ml of ground almonds
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Icing sugar or cocoa powder for dusting
To clarify the butter, you can do it through a bain Marie in which you melt the butter and skim the lactose that will go to the surface.
Once you have done this (I removed the top layer twice because the first time, some of the white bits fell to the bottom), whisk in the caster sugar until smooth and let the mix cool down for half an hour in the fridge.
In two roasting tins, spread the flour (tin number 1) and the ground almonds (tin number 2) evenly and roast lightly (6 minutes at 150-degree celsius/ gas mark 2). This will enhance the flavors and bring the natural oils of the almonds. Let both trays cool down.
After the half an hour, place the mix in the mixer bowl and whisk it again before adding the rest of the ingredients with the processor.
A bit like the shortbread, the heat from your hands will be necessary to bind the mix together, so keep an eye on the mixer to understand when it has mixed enough (the texture will be like wet sand) and you need to take over.
The original recipe called for rolling the mix to a thickness of 0.7 cm and making the shapes with a cookie cutter but I prefer dividing the mix in 16 parts (first in half (2), then each half in half (4) etc) , and making a ball with each piece in the palm of my hands and then pressing it to the shape you see on the picture.
Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, at 150-degree celsius/ gas mark 2 , when you should see the edges of the polvorones turning gold.
You can then take them out of the over and place them in the cooling wire. Dust them with sugar of cocoa and serve.If you prefer, cut squares of tissue paper (roughly 3 times the diameter of the
If you prefer, do cut squares of tissue paper (roughly 3 times the diameter of the polvoron ) and wrap each polvoron in the traditional manner (steps 1, 2, 3) to give as a seasonal gift to your friends or family.
Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Original Recipe by El Monstruo de las Galletas, modified by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
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