christmas baking: mantecados (spanish shortbread biscuits)

mantecados (Spanish sweet lard biscuits)
If you don't or can't eat lard, or perhaps you are on a diet, then please look away now!

This is a recipe for the crumbliest shortest biscuits that you will have ever had the good fortune to taste, all thanks to the fat of the ever generous pig.

Mantecados are a Spanish shortbread biscuit, traditionally served at Christmas. You've probably seen these little biscuits wrapped in pastel coloured tissue paper and wondered what they were. I was inspired to make them after reading one of my favourite food blogs, written by Rupert, who is the owner and chef at Casa Rosada, a smart B+B on the Algarve in Portugal

Rupert blogs about the food he buys and cooks at his site o cozinheiro este algarve. I enjoy the way he infuses his blog with the history and culture of Portugal and I
love his recipes; they are so evocative of sunshine and good tastes, drawing on his English and Scottish roots. Rupert's writing also makes me laugh at turns, while I am also salivating over his food. I am left both hungry and filled with envy for his lifestyle!

Like many people at the moment, I am in Christmas baking mode. So when Rupert posted this recipe for mantecados, I just had to try them, despite the fact that they have anise seeds in them (only because I am a little wary of strong aniseed flavours). But the seeds (which I crushed lightly, worked brilliantly with the cinnamon and almonds).

Slow cooking dries the mantecados out. I wouldn't be tempted to shorten the cooking time at a higher temperature as I suspect they will completely fall apart. These biscuits are so light and crumbly that bat an eyelid and they will collapse in a fragrant mound of soft crumbs! Rupert says that in Spain and Portugal:

The trick is that when they are wrapped you squeeze them in the paper in the palm of your hand and then very carefully unwrap them and eat them out of the paper as if it was a napkin.
So what did I think of them? I am the giddiest of giddy aunts. They were absolutely melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous - possibly one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth!

Sheer, unadulterated heaven. (Thanks, Algarve!)

  • Replace the anise seeds with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
  • Add a little lemon zest.
  • Dust with a little icing sugar


o cozinheiro este algarve said...

Oh my giddy aunt!!!
Bless you for your very kind words.Your result looks absolutely spot on- beckoning off the blog post and towards our greedy mouths.I am going to bake a batch tomorrow.

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

The texture was absolutely amazing, they just dissolved on the tongue. Fabulous. I'm a fan of shortbread anyway (something to do with Scottish genes perhaps?), but these were something else. God I love the pig!

SaritaAgerman said...

these sound incredible. I'm sure I've tried these before when I was a child and I loved them! Can't wait to do some baking now!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Sarita, they were a delight. And I look forward to you sharing some of you Italian baking experiences!

belleaquablog said...

I am drooling and it is only 10am!