Evan Sung photo
Polvorones (Marcona Almond Holiday Cookies).
Since 2011, when she opened her much-lauded Cúrate in downtown Asheville, chef Katie Button has brought authentic Spanish cooking to the mountains of North Carolina. With the publication of her new cookbook by the same name, she brings her award-winning cuisine to the burners and tables of home cooks. Born in Greenville, South Carolina, Button flavors her Spanish fare with the ingredients of Southern Appalachia—and melds the techniques of Spain’s famed El Bulli restaurant with those of her Southern grandmother’s kitchen. Here she shares the recipe for a crumbly cookie perfect for the holidays.
Polvorones (Marcona Almond Holiday Cookies)
Makes 2 to 3 dozen
The name polvorones derives from the Spanish word “polvo,” which means “dust.” It makes sense because they’re so delicate they fall apart in your mouth. Classic recipes call for regular almonds, but I prefer buttery roasted marcona almonds. What I didn’t change though is the use of lard. The Spanish love pork so much, they even use it in their desserts. I tried to swap in butter, but the cookie ends up harder. The lard yields a melt-in-your-mouth crumbly round that still retains a toasty cookie appeal. Just be sure to buy high-quality rendered leaf lard, which comes from the fat that runs along the pig’s loin and encases its kidneys.
Polvorones are traditionally baked for Christmas, so we make over 600 to give away to diners on Christmas Eve. The cookies make ideal holiday gifts because they keep well. Just be sure to store them in cookie tins or other hard containers with lids, separating layers with wax paper, because they do crumble easily.
You Will Need
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup roasted salted marcona almonds, preferably skin on
- 1¼ cups lard (7¾ ounces), chilled and cut into chunks
- 1¼ cups packed confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- 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’ll smell toasty, but not color at all. Cool completely on the pan on a wire rack. Process the almonds in a food processor until finely ground, scraping the bowl occasionally. 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.
- Transfer the clumps and crumbs to a clean work surface. Gather together and press firmly into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Flatten to ½-inch thickness by rolling with a rolling pan or patting with your hands. Cut into 1½- or 2-inch rounds using a round cookie cutter. 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.
- Bake, 1 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.
- The polvorones can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Excerpted with permission from Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen (Flatiron Books).