Christmas sweets: mantecados and polvorones

Our traditional and delicious Christmas sweets, polvorones and mantecados, are originally from Estepa or Antequera, the most important Andalusian towns in production of these sweets. It is said that in the 16th century there was an excess of wheat and lard at the beginning of the winter season and so the nuns started to sell them in their convents. Nowadays these goodies are famous all over Spain, but specially in Andalusia, and they’re available to grab from any supermarket or small store; alternatively you can keep it the old way and get them directly from convents.

The recipe is quite simple, which doesn’t mean easy: on one hand, flour and lard were mixed with almonds and sugar  and the result were polvorones. The word comes from “polvo” (dust) as they are very crumbly and only eaten during Christmas. On the other hand, mantecados have no almonds but eggs so they are more solid. For that reason they can be eaten during all the year, but specially on Christmas. The name comes from the word “manteca” (lard).

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Recently I’ve gone for a famtrip invited by #SaboresdelaProvinciadeSevilla, which is an institution that promotes the culture, and specially gastronomy, of the Province of Seville. We went to Sierra Norte, also known as Sierra Morena de Sevilla, a region which I am deeply in love with. I didn’t know there was also a factory of mantecados and polvorones in Cazalla de la Sierra called Mantecados Trigo, and, as I expected, the owner is a descendant of a family from Estepa, none other than Micaela Ruiz, nicknamed as “La Colchona”, from the 19th century, who improved the recipe by removing humidity and making then softer. Her husband worked as a shipper and he started to sell his wife’s shortbread biscuits along his way. This is how they started to be known and famous all around Andalusia.

Mantecados Trigo in Cazalla de la Sierra started its production in 1930. They only produce from September till the afternoon of Christmas’ Eve. As they are not working all year long in the factory, their employees and also the owner have other jobs, and so they make an effort to keep the tradition among generations. It is not an big industry, but homely and warm, where the production is only 40.000 k per year, a quantity that can be done in a week by big companies.

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The first workers of Mantecados Trigo in 1930

Their variety of sweets is large. Apart from mantecados and polvorones they also make chocolate varieties, roscos, oleítos, puff pastry… and their star product: ducados. The best idea is buying a 1kg package, where you get one or two pieces of each product. I got one and I am not sure wether it’s going to survive till Christmas’ Eve, they are delicious. The only recommendation I can give you is to eat them moderately, but I am not the right person to say it.

By the way, happy celebrations to everyone and I hope next year will be easier for everybody. Cheers and sweets!

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