Instead of the more American Halloween, Spain has always celebrated the All Saints Day, a Catholic-inspired festivity that comes with its very own sweets, some of which are one of my favourite sweets ever… the panellets!
All Saints Day is quickly approaching and in traditional Eastern Spain that means eating buñuelos, roast chestnuts and the very delicious panellets. These marzipan-based sweets are very popular in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, where you can find them in literally every single local bakery and/or patisserie during the week preceding this popular early November festivity.
Despite the presence of sweet potato as one of our recipe ingredients, it is important to notice that the original recipe is made with almond, sugar, egg and pine nuts only… or what it is the same, just traditional marzipan. The addition of either sweet potato or even regular potatoes is a much more recent contribution and it is likely to be an attempt to cut down on the cost of ingredients, specially considering the elevated price of almonds.
Whatever the reason for this, I actually prefer the panellets that contain some sweet potato. Why? Because in my humble opinion, the result is a smoother texture and a much more moisturized marzipan. But of course, if you don’t agree with me or you simply would like to go for the most traditional recipe, just ignore the sweet potato and don’t add it to the rest of the ingredients. That easy!
- 150 g Ground almonds
- 125 g Icing sugar
- 125 g Pine nuts
- 75 g Sweet potato
- 1 Lemon zest
- 1 Egg
- Wash the sweet potato. Double wrap it in cling film, prick the film with a fork and cook it on the microwave at maximum power for 10 minutes. Take it out and leave it aside to cool down before unwrapping it, being careful not to get burnt. Alternatively you can also cook the sweet potato in boiling water for around 20 minutes.
- Peel the sweet potato and mash it thoroughly in a big bowl.
- In a different bowl, mix the almonds, sugar and lemon zest.
- Crack the egg and separate the white from the yolk. Add the egg white to the bowl and reserve the yolk for later.
- Knead all the ingredients until you get a marzipan dough that has enough consistency to shape little balls. Add it to the mashed sweet potato and keep kneading until everything gets mixed thoroughly.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and cool in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Take out of the fridge and shape little balls (3cm max) with the marzipan dough. As you make the balls, roll them over the pine nuts and place them on an oven dish covered with baking parchment.
- Preheat the oven at 170ºC. In the meantime beat the egg yolk and with the help of a baking brush, paint the panellets all over so that they acquire a lovely golden colour when we bake them.
- Once the oven temperature is ready, bake the panellets for 10-12 minutes or until golden.
Let them cool down before you eat them. If you are patient enough, they are actually better the day after.
Once the marzipan balls are done, you don’t need to always roll them over pine nuts. You can also cover them in flaked almonds, ground coconut or even cocoa. Whatever you come up with really!