What are polvorones?
Polvorones are soft shortbread cookies with a crumbly texture that are prepared with flour, sugar, milk, and nuts (generally almonds). These delicacies that are dusted with powdered sugar are popular in Spain, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries including Cuba and the Philippines.
What is the origin of the word polvorones?
Polvorones are also called pan de polvo (powder bread or dust bread), a name that is probably due to the fact that they are so brittle that they could be reduced to powder with a single tap between two fingers.
Those polvorones biscuits can obviously be found in Spain, but also in the Philippines and South Texas where they are strangely called “Mexican Wedding Cookies” but the strange thing is that in Mexico, these shortbread cookies are not served at weddings but for Christmas! Actually, these cookies were originally holidays delicacies in Spain and were mostly produced between September and January, but are now available year-round.
The Puerto Rican version of polvorones called mantecadito or polvorones puertorirqueños includes sprinkles or guava paste, and is a traditional Christmas cookie.
How to make polvorones
Polvorones are primarily made with lard and occasionally with butter or peanut oil.
These cookies are often called mantecado or mantecaos in other region of the Iberian Peninsula. They take these names from the Spanish word manteca, which means pork fat.
Actually, during the Spanish Inquisition, a decree was passed that asked for polvorones to be prepared with pork fat as a way to detect secret Jews and Muslims within Southern Spain.
The most popular polvorones in Mexico are made with almond and/or orange but there are many other flavors.
The almond version of polvorones, the one I chose, can be prepared with almond flour or coarsely chopped almonds to give them a nice crunchy texture. I personally chose to use half finely ground almond flour and half chopped almonds.
Quite a few calories for these sugar-coated delicacies but those Mexican cookies are well worth it!
- 1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup butter , softened (or lard)
- 1½ cup icing sugar
- ½ cup almond flour
- ½ cup chopped almonds , lightly toasted
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon anise liqueur (or vanilla extract)
- Icing sugar (for decoration)
Boil the water and steep cinnamon sticks for 30 minutes.
The day before, or the morning of if you make polvorones in the afternoon, sift the flour and almond flour in a baking sheet and toast gently while stirring often, in an oven preheated at 250 F for 30 minutes. The result should be light brown.
Add the icing sugar and crushed almonds to the flour and almond flour and stir well.
In a large bowl, whip butter (or lard) until frothy.
Stir in the mixture of sugar, flour and almonds and mix.
Add the cinnamon-infused water.
Form a dough and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
There are two options to shape the polvorones:
Flour the work surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a thickness of ¾ inch and cut out small circles of 1 inch diameter with a cookie cutter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Flour a work surface and form a cylinder of 1 inch diameter. Divide the dough by cutting ¾ inch wide sections and lay flat on a parchment paper. If dough is too soft, put the cylinder in the freezer for about 30 minutes in order to facilitate cutting.
Preheat oven to 480 F for 15 minutes.
Then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before handling as polvorones are very brittle.
Dust with icing sugar.