I’m lucky to have friends who honor their family’s culinary traditions. We are still nibbling on the few remaining Polvorones made by Madeline Dominiani for Christmas this year. Madeline is the true keeper of her mother’s culinary history. Hailing from Gilbratar, Madeline’s mom would first soak Spanish almonds in warm water and then laboriously slip off their skins one by one. The blanched almonds would then be lightly toasted in the oven. While the almonds were set aside to cool, flour would be carefully browned in the oven as well. The toasted almonds would be ground to a crumbly paste in a mortar with a pestle and then mixed with the golden flour. Madeline now grinds the almonds in a coffee grinder kept for just this purpose, the mortar and pestle left behind as historical artifact. In goes sugar and lard, and the dough is then shaped into thick discs that beautifully hold their shape in the oven. The finished cookie tastes steeped with history, the lard gives an indefinable depth, and all of the toasting just elevates the simple flavors.
My favorite tradition of the Polvorones is the first thing you see when Madeline presents these treats. Each cookie is neatly swathed in white tissue paper, twisted at the ends, and the ends are trimmed into fringes. The unwrapping of every one is like a delicious and festive gift. The making of Polvorones is an honored custom in Madeline’s household, and it has been taught to the succeeding generations. I am the lucky recipient of these morsels at the Christmas season, and hope to be for years to come.