Sunday, November 25, 2007

No Ordinary Nougat

I was going to save the post about turrones until closer to Christmas so that I could tell you in one shot about all the delicious Christmas sweets available in Barcelona. But I'm not great at self-restraint. I've been gorging myself on turrones since mid-November. They're irresistible. And you must know about them.

My lovely Spanish teacher, Angels, first told me about turrones. They're a typical Christmas sweet in Spain, a type of nougat, to be exact. They originate in the pueblo of Jijona, where most turrones and many other almond based Christmas sweets are manufactured.

Really, turrones are around all year, particularly in tourist locations, but they made their appearance in force around November at about the time that icecream season ended. In fact, the same stores that had until November been heladerias (icecream shops), all of a sudden became turronerias. It's the winter business. Clever.

In an effort to deepen my experience of Barcelona food and Christmas tradition, I decided to sample the turrones that have come to fill my favourite Born icecream place, La Campana (c/ Princesa 36, 93 319 7296), this past month. La Campana makes its own turrones using traditional artisinal methods. These appear to involve a contraption that's part medieval torture device, part enormous mortar and pestle. Luckily, the monstrosity does not appear to be located anywhere in the vicinity of the shop.

Now, if for you nougat is what you eat second to last out of a chocolate box (after all the nut chocolates are gone and just before you resign yourself to the fruit creams), prepare to reorganize your priorities. I did. Turrones are no ordinary nougat.

The three turrones I sampled first--turron de coco, turron de jijona and turron de yema--were a revelation. Turron de coco is a light blend of marzipan and coconut. The traditional turron de jijona is a slightly chunky almond based nougat, a little like halva, but creamier and without the pistachios. And, my absolute favourite, the turron that dreams are made of, the turron de yema, is like creme brulee in nougat form, a creamy marzipan interior with a melting burnt sugar coating.

I went back to get three more turrones after I devoured the first three in less time than it takes most people to tie their shoes. Despite my impulse to go back to the turrones I knew and loved, I opted for variety, thinking I might reach even greater turron heights. Alas, like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun. The turron de alicante, which is a hard version of the turron de jijona, is a classic, but can tend toward tooth cracking. Take care if you value your dental work. The turron de mazapan y frutas is fruitcake in turron form. Stay away unless you're in your seventies and British. The turron de chocolate y almendras is really just a block of chocolate with almonds. Resist unless you're looking for a reasonable substitute for Hershey's milk chocolate.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still working my way through these bad boys. As they say here, even bad turrones are better than none.


Amreen said...

yummmmm....i'm all about sampling international sweet phenomena! thanks for introducing me to yet another one. i had brunch at the king eddie on sunday, and went straight for the dessert buffet, where i had to literally restrain myself from diving head first into the chocolate fountain.

Barcelona Food Girl said...

I will bring you some when I come back home for the holidays. You'll love it!