Just before Christmas we held the 13th annual Piñonate party. Piñonate is a typical Christmas sweet from the village of Jimena. (The village we didn’t spend our holidays in). “Typically Spanish” can be a funny concept here in the south where the Moors ruled for 800 years. Most of the really yummy Spanish sweets are not Spanish at all. The give away is the honey, nuts and spices. Piñonate has more in common with sweets from Morocco than the rest of Spain.
Rogelio and his friend Ricardo (who is from Jimena) use Ricardo’s Mom’s old recipe. Usually making Piñonate turns into a big party, but given that Ricardo’s wife just left him, I’m quite pregnant and Yago has a cold, we decided on a more intimate affair this year.
It’s a crazy recipe, but is has some fun, unique aspects.
- Most measurements are done “by egg”. You cut a small hole in one of the eggs and then use that to measure the ingredients.
- Modern chefs would call it a “deconstructive recipe”. I imagine the inventor licking anise off her fingers while slurring, “Let’s make those bums work for it. What is the most labor intensive way we could possibly make something full of honey and spices taste good.” To that end, you make a bunch of elaborate shaped donuts, fry them, and then rip them apart again. Just for fun.
- The dough contains a whopping amount of anise liquor which gets the bottle on the table and tends to set the mood for the donut ripping. The corrugated bottle is then rubbed with a spoon to accompany Spanish Christmas carol singing.
Yago and I made the dough early in the day so it could rest. It was
well beaten with a stick well kneaded, soft and supple, if I do say so myself.
The next step is to take small pieces and roll them into ropes, just as you would make a play dough snake. Having some play dough experts on your Piñonate team speeds the process and compensates for slow-moving inebriated (non-pregnant) adults.
Then you lay the dough ropes out into stacked squiggles.
Add the required calorie quotient by frying your dough snake-squiggles.
Then rip them all back apart! This was Yago’s favorite part.
Next, you sprinkle all the toasted spices, nuts and orange peel on top of your big bowl of ripped up donuts.
Apparently, the secret here is not to stir, leave them laying on top.
Then, you may need a snack, since this is a long, labor intensive process.
“Dude. You’re on the table.”
Next, you boil honey to “punta de bola” which I think we call soft-candy point. Not sure…
And you pour all that on top of the ripped up donuts and spices. Mix it into a big gooey mass.
Then you pack it into a wooden mold.
Piñonate is the perfect pre-Christmas stress reliever. Drink liquors, then beat, rip and bash your Christmas baking. It works off any residual effects of shopping trauma. Assuming you do Christmas shopping.
Once well packed into the mold, you remove the wood frame and decorate the top to your own aesthetic ideal.
Viola! Piñonate de Jimena.
Ricardo and Rogelio are considered regional experts on Piñonate. They have been featured in a few newspapers, given demonstrations to neighbourhood associations, and maintain a website that gets a surprising numbers of hits. It seems lots of Jimena descendants emegrated to South America when times were tough and Rogelio and Ricardo are their source for the traditional recipe.
The complete recipe (in Spanish) can be found here.
I would invite you all over for some Piñonate, but I ate it all. But don’t miss next year’s party. We’ll put you to work on play dough snakes while you sip enough anise to get you belting out the Spanish Christmas carols.