Traditional Valencian sweets: Valencia at its most tantalising
There’s nothing like a sweet treat to round off a fine culinary experience, whether it be a casual meal or a high-brow banquet.
Sweets are perfect any time of day: at breakfast; to finish off a nice mid-morning snack, lunch or dinner; or as the undeniable stars of afternoon tea. Oh, what a delight!
In Valencia, there are loads of options all over the city that are sure to please … three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Many of them preserve the memory of the classic cuisine of Balansiya, with recipes based on almonds, pumpkin and honey.
THE ARAB LEGACY
Turrón (nougat), a legacy of the Arabs that is still going strong today, is one of Valencia’s most traditional sweets. This artisanal treat is eaten primarily at Christmastime. With many flavours and textures to choose from, rich turrón is always sure to delight.
From the same source came arnadí, a smooth-textured cake made with pumpkin and sugar and decorated with sliced almonds. It is served in a clay dish.
Frutas de Sant Donís
Another sweet with a very long tradition are these colourful marzipans shaped like fruits. On Valencia’s St Valentine's Day – the feast of Saint Denis of Paris (9th October) – they are wrapped in a handkerchief and given to a loved one in a tradition known as the mocadorà. Also popular on that day are two larger sweets shaped like fireworks, piulets and tronadors, a hidden meaning the people of Valencia came up with to defy the prohibition of Felipe V against celebrating this noteworthy anniversary with explosives.
PASTRIES FOR ALL
If you're not one to do things halfway and you enjoy heartier fare, have no fear, we’ve got a number of options for you.
Buñuelos de calabaza (pumpkin donuts) are very popular during the Fallas festival. They are much softer and moister than their airy cousins. And they pair extremely well with a nice cup of drinking chocolate.
But if you'd prefer to sip on a refreshing glass of horchata (tiger nut milk), then you’ll want to opt for fartons. This elongated sweet bread was created in the 1960s specifically to go with the delicious local beverage. There is a traditional version and another made with puff pastry. Why not try both!
Coca de llanda
Coca de llanda is a light sponge cake made with flour, sugar, eggs, oil, milk and lemon zest. It is easy to prepare and baked in a tin cake pan (from which it takes its name). This cake goes with everything and is a fixture in the city's ovens, given its popularity. The variety incorporating baked pumpkin into the ingredients is worthy of the most refined palate.
Panquemao and mona de Pascua
Another example of the baked goods produced in Valencia is panquemao, a brioche originally linked to Holy Week which has transcended those specific dates and can now be found throughout the year. It has the appearance of a round country loaf with a dark brown crust (the origin of its name: burnt bread), with a delicious, spongy centre. It goes perfectly with drinking chocolate.
Pastelitos de boniato
Another lovely treat are pastelitos de boniato, mini pasties filled with sweet potato paste. Valencians will often sit in conversation around the table for long periods after meals, nibbling on these pasties and rollitos de anís (anise biscuits), and savouring coffee accompanied by a local aguardiente such as cassalla.
The lovely flavour of coca Cristina (sweet almond flatbread) will inevitably leave you wanting more. All it takes is beating egg whites and adding grated almonds, flour, sugar and lemon zest, then placing it all atop a wafer and baking for 12 minutes to get a truly memorable sweet treat.
Feeling daring? You could always tackle an enormous slice of torrija de horchata (French toast made with tiger nut milk). Let’s see who emerges victorious!