Tuesday 29 October 2013

Panellets (Catalan sweets)

Panellets are a traditional sweet from the Catalan countries. They are typically eaten during these days of october, specially the 31st of october and the day after, when we celebrate the "castanyada", which would be the equivalent of All Saints night or Halloween, Magosto or the celtic (also celebrated here in Ireland) samhain.  It seems they were made to be eaten for the All Saints night, when everybody joined to pray for their died relatives and friends. It used to be a cold night, so they prepared high calorie meals to fight against the low temperatures.

Panellets, as well as chestnuts and sweet potatoes, were the main protagonists of the day. Nowadays, Halloween has also arrived to Catalan countries, and it is a cultural fight to avoid the disappearance of the typical "castanyada". If you visit Barcelona these days, you will find some women selling roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes on the corners of the main streets. It is a wonderful time there, despite the high temperatures they are having, because the smell of the burning wood fills the streets of the city. And yes, I loved autumn in Barcelona.

Panellets are small pieces of marzipan, savoured with different ingredients, such as chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, lemon or the most traditionals, made with almonds and pine nuts. It is a quite simple recipe. I would really like to encourage you to try them.

Let's start making the basic recipe. The base of panellets is the marzipan, so we'll need to make the marzipan before adding the rest of the ingredients, which are going to give savour and flavour to this base.

Basic panellets base (marzipan)
Serving 20 pieces of panellets.

- 200g almound flour
- 130g granulated white sugar
- 1 egg white. (reserve the yolk, we'll use it later

In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour with the sugar. Once combined, add the egg white and stir with a fork, until mixed. Place on the working surface and start kneading for five minutes, until it is soft and an heterogenic dough. Some recipes ask to reserve this dough for a few hours in the fridge; if you don't have enough time you can do it, but it is not necessary here.

Once we have the base, prepare the ingredients. In this case, we'll need a tablespoon of chocolate powder, lemon zest, cinnamon and chopped almonds. Cut the dough in four pieces, one for each of the flavours we want to use.

Lemon panellets
- Marzipan base
- lemon zest.

Add the lemon zest to the marzipan base and knead until well combined. Roll the dough into a tub and cut into small pieces. Place into the baking tray and bake for 8 minutes at 200º.

Almond panellets
- Marzipan base
- chopped almonds

Make small balls with your hands. Place the yolk of the egg we've used before and dip the small marzipan balls into it before placing into the almond bowl. Make sure they are totally covered with chopped almond. Bake for 10 minutes at 200º, or until the almond is lightly brown.

Chocolate panellets
- Marzipan base
- chocolate powder

Combine the marzipan with the chocolate powder and knead until well combined. Cut into small pieces, decorate as you like and place into the baking tray. Bake for 8 minutes at 200º.

Cinnamon panellets
- Marzipan base.
- Cinnamon

Procede as said above and sprinkle the panellets with chopped almond. Bake for 10 minutes at 200º or until the almond is lightly brown.

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