Yesterday, while David was hard at work, I set off for his parents house. With the absence of my favorite American holiday here (Halloween, obviously), David and I decided to throw our own little costume party. David assured me that we could not have the party without panellets, so his mother graciously offered to help me make some. I have very little baking experience, so I was both hesitant and excited to embrace this Catalán tradition.
You might be wondering what these Spanish treats have to do with Halloween. Well, they don't, not really. They are actually a custom of All Saints' day, a Catholic holiday celebrated on November 1st. Due to its close calendrical proximity with Halloween, which is rising in popularity every year, and "All Hallows' Eve" itself being derived from a mixture of All Saint's day and the Celtic festival of Samhain, David and I are merely embracing the blurring of culture and tradition which will inevitably occur down the line.
You've probably heard of the Day of the Dead, an extremely colorful Mexican holiday that also begins on the first of November. It, too, is actually a hybrid of the Catholic All Saint's Day and pre-hispanic Mexican traditions. With the rapidly growing influence of American culture, Halloween is also seeing widespread popularity in Mexico during these festivities, especially in larger cities. I was bewildered to see this bizarre interfusion of cultures in Mexico City back in 2001. It was a hybrid of two hybrids!
Back to the delicious topic of this post: panellets. The dough is a twist on marzipan, concocted with sugar, lemon rind, almond meal and potato (or sweet potato).
The dough is generally rolled into little balls, however some variations require other shapes.
The balls are rolled in egg white, which serves as an adhesive, and then they're adorned with various goodies. The most common addition is pine nuts. We also used chocolate, cherries, coconut, crushed almond, and even made little mushroom shaped ones with chocolate sprinkles on the stems! Later the yokes of the eggs are used as a varnish to give them a nice golden brown color when they bake.
Fresh out of the oven, I got to try my first panellet! And let me tell you, they are delicious! I'd never tried anything remotely similar! I can't wait to break out the rest for our party this Sunday!
If anyone would like the full recipe, let me know! Happy Halloween, All Saints' Day, Day of the Dead and any combination of the three!