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A toast to the torró: Catalonia’s festive delicacy

A toast to the torró: Catalonia’s festive delicacy

by Cristina Sánchez and Eduard Sellabona 17 December 2015

Cristina Sánchez and Eduard Sellabona introduce the torró, an almond-flavoured sweet eaten throughout Catalonia and the rest of Spain during Christmas.

Cristina Sánchez and Eduard Sellabona are a couple of food lovers living in La Vall d’en Bas, northern Catalonia, who love tasting local quality products and discovering gems in the very rich Catalan restaurant scene.

If you are travelling around Catalonia at Christmas and happen to visit a grocery shop or supermarket, you’ll probably have to work your way around several tables at the entrance displaying traditional Christmas sweets. The shiny golden wrappers will inevitably draw you towards the delicious-looking chocolates or a raisin panettone with a reassuring Italian flag on the package. However, if you have a closer look, you will notice that all these products, some of them newcomers from other countries, surround the true star of the Catalan and Spanish Christmas table – the unfairly lesser-known torrons: traditional sweets made with almonds, honey and egg.

When families get together during Christmas, no meal is complete without torrons. Even after you’ve eaten a huge amount of food and even had dessert, you can always say yes to a small portion of your favourite torró (turrón in Spanish, torrons in plural). Though the origin of the torró is unknown, we know the tradition, according to historical documents and Catalan literary works, dates back to the thirteenth century. In Catalonia, torrons usually go hand in hand with neules, which are crunchy and very light rolled up biscuits that can be dipped in a glass of local cava or any sweet liquor.

Neules
Neules are usually served alongside torrons
Torró de Xixona
Torró de Xixona is made from a simple mixture of powdered almonds and honey

Types of torró

 
 
Even after you’ve eaten a huge amount of food and even had dessert, you can always say yes to a small portion of your favourite torró!

Cristina Sánchez

The most popular and well-known varieties of torrons are torró de Xixona, which are soft, sweet and rich and made of powdered almonds and honey; torró d’Alacant, which are hard and made of toasted almonds, honey and egg white and torró d’Agramunt, which are made of almonds or hazelnuts, honey, sugar, egg whites and a communion bread-like wafer called pa d’àngel. They taste similar to the torró d’Alacant but are sweeter and formed into a round shape. Finally, there is torró de gema cremada, which is quite different from the other torrons and more similar to marzipan with a caramel crust. Its main ingredients are powdered raw almonds, egg yolks and sugar.

The Xixona, Alacant and Agramunt torrons receive their names from the towns in the Valencian countryside and Catalonia, where they are mainly produced following certain regulations about the proportion, quality and origin of their ingredients. Because of this, they receive EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. The gema cremada variety (which literally means ‘toasted yolk’) is perhaps the most popular torró among Catalan families and is produced everywhere to different recipes.

Nowadays, apart from the traditional varieties, chocolate torrons are very popular as well, though they are basically large chocolate bars with nuts or puffed rice. Creative confectioners have also expanded the torró scene by creating new flavours, most of them using chocolate and a wide array of fashionable ingredients such as cherries, whisky, gin and tonic and even mojito. The best torrons, though, are not those in the supermarket but the ones you can buy at torroneries, which are shops that sell the traditional varieties. Long queues can be found in the center of Barcelona a few days before Christmas in front of the most popular torroneries, some of them dating back to the nineteenth century. When the festive season is over in January, these shops temporarily close, only to reopen in spring offering the very best artisanal ice cream, their star product being the torró de Xixona ice-cream – a delight you cannot miss.

Fancy making your own Torró de gema cremada for Christmas? Check out Cristina and Eduard’s recipe here.

 

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