Little cakes from Catalunya and other parts of Spain (Andorra, Ibiza and Valencia), panellets actually translates as ‘little breads’ and they are the traditional dessert on All Saints Day which is known here as la Castanyada ‘chestnut time’! Panellets are commonly made of ground almonds and sugar with the most popular and expensive covered in pine nuts but there are many varieties in supermarkets or pâtisseries, like chocolate, coconut or coffee. Many families also gather round the table to make them together during this time. Some years ago we had a go at them with my international flatmates under a Catalan friend’s guidance, when I discovered they were easy and fun to make! These are my healthier orange panellets made with ground almonds and honey then covered in pine nuts. And I’ll give you links to traditional recipes too. I know I’m a bit late with the recipe but you can make these little energy balls any time of the year! And um.. happy belated Castanyada!! 🙂
RECIPE – makes around 14 panellets.
You can add your own flavourings instead of orange. Maple syrup is delicious but honey adds moistness.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (static oven) or 160°C/320°F (fan oven)
Don’t overbake or they’ll get drier. In some homemade versions boiled potato or sweet potato is also added and this apparently adds moisture. But a chef patissier told us not to do this, saying they were just money-saving fillers.
Ginger and almond flake panellets: same recipe but replace the 2 tbsp chopped candied orange with 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallised or stem ginger (or have 1 tablespoon of each). Then cover with pine nuts or flaked blanched almonds.
These treats keep a week or two stored at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic film.
A short and sweet history
Panellets date back to at least the 18th century, when apparently they were used as blessed food to share after some religious celebrations. They might even represent little breads that in the past were left as offerings in church or at relatives’ gravesides. And during All Saints Day when families would visit cemetaries or pray all night in remembrance of the dead it also became usual to eat sustaining food like panellets, chestnuts and sweet potatoes, now traditionally eaten on Oct 31 and Nov 1 during la Castanyada.
Some locals are worried ‘imported’ Halloween customs are starting to take over but friends and family are still making time to gather in their homes and follow older traditions with a meal, a little glass of sweet Moscatel wine and a few panellets.
Though I’m not Catalan I have fond memories of making these sweet treats with flatmates and going with mum, who was visiting me in Barcelona, to the panellets workshop.
And they’re such an integral part of life in Barcelona and Catalunya during this time. A climbing friend brought some to the rock on Nov 1, which unfortunately were eaten before I took a picture. Oops. But I managed to take photos of mine.
Not just for la Castanyada
Hope you’ve enjoyed some fun festivities recently and will have a lovely week ahead sweet reader! Happy international and national baking and eating! 🙂 x