(I’m in whispering mode).
Let’s do something a little bit different. Oh, how incredibly rude of me. First things first. How are you enjoying your holidays?
I went back to Spain, but I didn’t experiment much with food this time. I didn’t create anything new. Nope. I went back home and baked one single sweet dish that has been around for ages. Not apple pie, not ginger bread, and certainly not sugar cookies. Believe me when I say that I do have much appreciation for all of those sweets I have just mentioned, but it’s just not what goes on in Andalucia, the southern region of Spain.
When I go to Spain for Christmas we go all out and bake pestiños using 2 kilos of flour. That’s about 4 1/2 pounds of flour! Oh, and each pestiño is individually hand-crafted!
Pestiños are small pieces of dough that are deep-fried in olive oil and glazed with honey. They are traditional Christmas sweets that are enjoyed all throughout Andalucia and are a sweet indication of their muslim origin and of the muladies who wandered Andalusian land until the Reconquista. Its flavors speak of the influence these people left behind.
Every family has their own recipe and special variation. Our family recipe comes from my dearest aunt Carmelina. We value her recipe so much and hold it to be so sacred that I’m allowing myself to be very vague when presenting it. I considered it to be legitimate when offering you an idea and understanding of how to prepare these glazed pieces of dough without really disclosing all the details and exact quantities of the ingredients. That would be a no no. The words “vague” and “recipe” should never go together, but this is a special occasion.
I’m sure that if you’re pretty in tune with your baker instinct you will be able to replicate these sweets just by following the procedure and being guided by the pictures I provide. I’m also confident that you may use inference and common sense to fill in the cloudy and ambiguous gaps if you really wanted to replicate these. They are kind of labor-intensive but totally worth it.
So once again, please forgive me for not being able to present this recipe in the usual and detailed manner I usually present other recipes, but it just wouldn’t feel right. I cannot take credit for this one and my conscious has to feel clean after this. I’m just a humble niece following her aunt’s amazing recipe. If you have any questions regarding this recipe feel free to contact me and I may disclose a thing or two…
1. Fry orange peel, sesame seeds, and matalauva (anise seeds) in olive oil until ingredients become slightly golden and olive oil has absorbed the flavors of all the ingredients.
2. Drain olive oil into a large pot and allow it to cool completely.
3. Add orange juice, sherry wine, and anise to olive oil.
4. Slowly add “pestiño flour” to oil. Sitr to combine.
5. Keep dough in large pot. Knead and press dough down vigorously and forcefully with knuckles until dough is completely smooth.
6. Form dough into a ball and poke a hole in the center. Drape a towel over dough and allow it to rest until dough doesn’t bounce back when it’s poked, about 1 ½ hrs.
7. Divide dough into medium-sized balls and roll each one into a very thin layer that’s about 1/16″-1/8” thick.
8. Punch out flattened dough into tiny circles.
9. Flatten each circle slightly with palm of hands and fold opposite sides of circle towards each other so that one side overlaps the other. Pinch down in the center.
10. Fry in olive oil until golden.
11. Combine honey and water in a pot and bring it to a gentle simmer. Drop a handful of pestiños into honey/water mixture and stir gently until pestiños get a chance to become completely soaked and glazed in the honey. (Be sure that the honey doesn’t become too hot or it will harden. If that happens the pestiños well resemble candy. The layer of honey should be soft and gooey, but it should not crack or stick to your teeth).
12. Drain off excess honey and serve on a large tray and wrap with tin foil or keep them in an airtight container.
If you’re like me…fill a tupperware full of pestiños and transport them wherever you go. These traveled with me from Spain to DC. What wonderful taste of southern Spain in just one bite!