Annie Lennox used to sing “Sweet dreams are made of this….” I know she was not thinking about Xmas candies, but I guess I don´t care, Christmas is here and this song has just jumped to my mind.😂
If you’ve ever been to Spain during this festive season, you have for sure encountered people rushing in the streets, some Santa wanna be… and you’ve likely encountered irresistible store windows full of traditional sweets that seem to beckon with their sweet aromas and colorful displays. Among these delightful treats, marzipan, Turrón de Alicante, or Turrón de Jijona stand out, offering a delectable taste of Spain’s rich culinary heritage.
Marzipan: A Sweet Symphony of Almonds and Sugar
Let’s start with marzipan, a confection with roots dating back to the Middle Ages, we are talking XIII century. This almond-based delight, made by blending finely ground almonds with sugar, has become an integral part of Spanish celebrations, especially during Christmas and Easter. Its versatility allows for the creation of intricate shapes, often resembling fruits, animals, or even miniature figurines.
Toledo, with its Marzipan Museum, holds a special place as a marzipan heaven. If you have a chance to visit Toledo, the best Marzipan is from Confiteria Santo Tomé. Everything they do is good, but my favorite ones are their crescent moon shaped stuffed with egg yolk and sugar.
Turrón de Alicante: A Toast to Tradition
Travel south along the Mediterranean coast to the city of Alicante, and you’ll discover the sweet wonder known as Turrón de Alicante. This nougat treat boasts a heritage as rich as its flavor. Its origins trace back to the Moors, who introduced the blend of honey, whole almonds, and sugar to the Iberian Peninsula.
Today, Turrón de Alicante, or as we know it “el duro” the hard one, offer a crunchy and nutty experience. Don´t ask me why, but this extremaly hard sweet is normally loved by our grandparents. My favorite brand for Turrón el duro is 1880, you can find it in any supermarket in Spain
Turrón de Jijona: A Softer Side of Sweetness
Contrastingly, Turrón de Jijona, “el blando” the soft one, hailing from the town of Jijona in the province of Alicante, offers a softer, smoother texture. Commonly referred to as “soft nougat,” this treat is crafted by grinding almonds into a fine paste before blending them with honey and sugar.
Turrón de Jijona holds a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), underscoring its significance and the meticulous processes involved in its creation.
The best one of Turrón blando is from Antiu Xixona. Creamy, with little bits of crunchy almonds, it is symple perfection!
Fun Facts and Figures: Turrón’s Sweet Impact
Now, let’s indulge in some sweet statistics. On average, each Spaniard consumes around 400 grams of turrón annually. This delightful treat is not just a seasonal indulgence but a year-round favorite, enjoyed as a snack, dessert, or a sweet gift during special occasions. 4,3% of all the sweets consumed in Spain, fall in the category of turrón. Yes, we eat a lot of turron.
In the city of Alicante almost 5000 people work year around producing turrón, and another 5000 are hired for the high season. Turrón really moves the economy of this area.
This next fact, we don´t need to know, but just in case you are wandering, in one serving of Jijona turrón there are 500 calories. ufffff…… And unfortunatelly, once you eat one, you can not stop.
Sweet Memories, Rich Traditions
In essence, the Spanish traditions of Christmas treats, are more than just confections; they’re a cultural tapestry woven with the threads of history, craftsmanship, and a shared love for all things sweet. So, the next time you find yourself strolling through a Spanish market, don’t resist the temptation to savor these iconic treats—they’re not just desserts; they’re a taste of Spain’s sweet soul.