There’s no place like home for the holidays, with chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Yuletide carols being sung by a choir and trays of Christmas cookies of all kinds ready for the taking (and perhaps, dunking in milk).
Katie Button, executive chef and owner of Cúrate, Nightbell and Button & Co. Bagels in Asheville, North Carolina, bakes fresh polvorones—a traditional Spanish shortbread cookie—for Christmastime. Button likes to thank her husband and director of restaurant operations, Félix Meana, a native of Catalunya, Spain, for the annual tradition.
“When we talk about the holidays and polvorones, Felix gets incredibly animated and excited,” she says. “There is this method of squishing them in your hand—like someone might do with a peanut butter sandwich. You ball them up and then when you put it in your mouth, they instantly fall apart again into a sweet, powdery deliciousness.”
The classic holiday cookie requires only a few ingredients: flour, almonds, lard and confectioners’ sugar. “I’m super proud of the recipe that was developed for the cookbook—the texture is just right! It’s spot on to what they should be,” says Button, proudly.
Here’s how to make them at home—and eat them however you wish.
PolvoronesExcerpted from Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen by Katie Button. Copyright © 2016 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books, New York, New York. All rights reserved.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup roasted salted marcona almonds, preferably skin on
1 1/4 cups lard (high-quality rendered leaf lard), chilled and cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups packed confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. Spread the flour on a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and bake, stirring once or twice, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 15 minutes. It will smell toasty, but have no color at all.
3. Cool completely on the pan on a wire rack.
4. Process the almonds in a food processor until finely ground, scraping the bowl occasionally.
5. Beat the lard and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until well-blended. Once the sugar is completely incorporated into the lard, add the ground almonds, cooled toasted flour, lemon zest and fennel seeds. Beat on low, scraping the bowl occasionally, until the mixture is completely blended and crumbly with a few larger clumps.
6. Transfer the clumps and crumbs to a clean work surface. Gather together and press firmly into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Flatten to 1/2-inch thickness by rolling with a rolling pan or patting with your hands. Cut into 1 1/2- or 2-inch rounds using a round cookie cutter.
7. Transfer to ungreased cookie sheets by sliding a thin offset spatula or bench scraper under each round and placing on the sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Press together, flatten and cut out the scraps.
8. Bake, one sheet at a time, until just barely starting to brown on the sides and on the bottom, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets on wire racks.
9. The polvorones can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Separate layers of cookies with wax paper, because they do crumble easily.
Photos by Evan Sung.