Friday, December 3, 2010

Panellets- Spanish Almond Treats

This delish cookie recipe comes from Catalonia, Spain.  I don't remember seeing these when I lived in Spain, but I lived in Southern Spain, and I don't remember any pastry shops in my neighborhoods.  In Spain, these cookies are made for All Saints Day on November 1st.  I bought two Spanish cookbooks a few years ago, and have only made one or two recipes from each one.  A little while ago I decided that was almost a crime, and bookmarked a few recipes that looked yummy, had easily-attainable ingredients, and did not look too difficult. 
The description of this recipe stated that these had a marzipan-like taste, and I love marzipan.  The recipe includes a sweet potato and ground almonds.  The sweet potato flavor was not very pronounced at all, to my surprise.  I buy almonds pre-ground here (below), which makes this recipe very easy.  The flavor of these is very good, and the texture is wonderful- slightly harder on the outside, but with a wonderfully chewy middle.  And they do taste like marzipan!  The recipe I used indicated to flatten the dough balls a little, but in photos I've looked up online in the past few days, Panellets look very round.  I'm sure both ways are good.  The recipe includes both US and metric measurments- you'll need your kitchen scale to measure the sweet potato.  These kind of resemble those Italian Pignoli cookies- I love those! 

from Spanish, by Pepita Aris

115g/4oz sweet potato, peeled*
butter, for greasing
1 large egg, separated
225 g/8 oz/2 cups ground almonds (almond flour/meal)
200 g/7 oz/1 cup granulated or caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
finely grated rind of 1 small lemon
7.5ml/ 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract**
1/2 tsp almond extract
60ml/4 Tablespoons pine nuts
60 ml/4 Tablespoons pistachio nuts

1.  Dice the sweet potato, and cook in a pan of boiling water for 8-15 minutes, or until slightly soft.  Drain and leave to cool.

2.  Preheate the oven to 200°C/400°F.  Line one or two baking sheets with foil and grease well with butter.  Or you can use parchment; no need for greasing.

3.  Put the cooled sweet potato in a food processor and process to make a smooth puree, then work in the egg yolk, ground almonds, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla extract to make a soft dough.  Transfer the dough to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 

4.  Spoon walnut-sized balls (I used my cookie scoop) of dough onto the foil or parchment, spacing them about 2.5cm/1 inch apart, then flatten them out slightly.

5.  Lightly beat the egg white and brush over the cookies.  Sprinkle half the cookies with pine nuts, and half with the pistachios.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar and bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. 

6.  Cool slightly on the foil, then carefully lift off with a metal spatula.  (Don't let them cool too long on the foil or they will stick). 

*You can use one 4 oz. jar of baby food sweet potatoes; works very well, tastes the same, and is so easy!! 
**I like to use 1 tsp. vanilla extract; 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for more almond flavor.  :)
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