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Author Notes: I first tried a Murcian cordial while living in Madrid. My Spanish roommate had come home from visiting his family in Murcia (southeast corner of Spain), and his grandmother had sent him back to the city with a large tin of cookies that he claimed were safe for me to eat, as they were naturally gluten free. Needless to say, they were deliciously addicting, and after moving back to the States a few years ago, I knew I needed to recreate them to help continue the Spanish Christmas traditions I had become so fond of. Traditionally the cookies are baked on a sheet of oblea, which is essentially a large sheet of wafer paper. The paper is difficult to find in the U.S., though some Hispanic markets carry it. The paper itself is not gluten free, so I personally need to avoid it. I find the cookies turn out just fine when baked on parchment paper, and I would assume a silpat would work well also.
Spanish supermarkets carry canned cabello de angel (candied spaghetti squash) during the holiday season, though it is next to impossible to find in the U.S. Making your own from scratch is incredibly easy though, and completely worth the effort. I suggest making the candied squash on the same day as the cookies, as they will hold their round shape better when the preserves are fresh. Prepare the squash first though, so that it has time to cool before adding to the dough. The candied squash will keep in the fridge for about a week, and a one time batch will make more than needed for the cookie recipe. Either save it for more cookies, or use it wherever you might use fruit preserves.
The candied spaghetti squash is based on this technique from Emeril Lagasse: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/spaghetti-squash-jam-recipe.html.
The cordiales recipe is adapted from this one, with extra advice provided by my friend's grandmother: http://gowithcuriosity.com/2010/12/20/christmas-cookies-fuensantas-almond-cordiales/ —Stephanie Pampel
Makes about 30 cookies
Candied Spaghetti Squash
- 1 spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and unwanted stringy flesh. The seeds can either be discarded or saved and roasted. Place the squash halves cut-side-down in a baking dish, adding a little bit of water to aid in steaming the squash. Roast the squash for 30-50 minutes, checking for doneness by sticking a sharp knife into the flesh. If the squash pierces effortlessly, then it is done. Note: You will only use one half of the squash. Save the other half to use as a great substitute for pasta. It keeps well in the refrigerator for a week and reheats well.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven, and allow the squash to cool for a bit. As the squash is cooling, add the sugar and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil, allowing the mixture to cook down until thickened.
- While the simple syrup reduces, use a fork to shred the flesh of one half of the squash into threads that resemble spaghetti. Once the syrup is thick, add the squash strands and continue to cook, stirring occasionally and very gently, until the mixture is thick and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Set the candied squash aside to cool.
- 18 ounces almond meal (just over 5 cups), blanched or natural
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar (I use azúcar morena, which is raw cane sugar, though white sugar works fine as well.)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup candied spaghetti squash
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, a silpat mat, or the oblea wafer paper (if using).
- In a large bowl, with your hands, combine the almond meal, lemon zest, sugar, and cinnamon, mixing well.
- Add the eggs and mix until the dough comes together.
- Add the squash and gently distribute throughout the dough, separating any clumps but being careful not to break down the squash strands too much.
- Form the dough into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball and place on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. The dough will not spread much as the cookies bake, but they should have some space between them. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Once cool enough to touch, move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. If you baked the cookies on wafer paper, you will need to break the wafer apart around the individual cookies once cooled.
- The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Holiday Cookie from Anywhere in the World
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