You don’t often hear about Zamora, even within Spain. But Zamora has a lot to offer. Zamora is full of rolling plains, plains that appear quite arid, but they are rich in substance. A land of wine and cheese. A land with a rich gastronomy, kind people, and traditions that run deep. A lot of these traditions are—not surprisingly— related to food. And if they don’t center around food, food certainly plays a starring role. There is no wedding without a banquet, baptism without a four-hour lunch, or festival without the typical food and drink (and merriment!). Thus is Spain; thus is Zamora.
Zamora’s garlic festival is real! No need to eat it right then and there, though.
Many signs make me aware of Semana Santa, Holy Week, imminent approach: beautiful pink flowers on trees, increasing temperatures, children playing in the parks, sunlight that lasts until almost 8 p.m. … I could go on.
But wait—do you hear it, those drums beating far off in the distance? That’s the sound of Semana Santa approaching. In much of Spain, Holy Week is an occasion for solemn (and at times joyful) processions, cofradías, candlelit silent streets, family, and—yes—food, especially sweets.
So, in Zamora, it’s time to think about aceitadas, the typical Semana Santa sweet along with sugared almonds (almendras garrapiñadas). My mother-in-law surely has hers made already, just waiting to be dunked into milk, tea, or coffee.
Want to make your own? My suegra’s recipe is top secret, but here’s a good one nonetheless:
Get Your Aceitada On!
Translated and adapted from Cocido de Sopa:
- 8 oz. (~240 mL) of olive oil
- 4 1/4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp. (220 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 20 drops of anise essence or 3 tbsp. of ground anise
- 1 egg for egg wash
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon (also anise if you are using ground). Add the olive oil, egg, and anise if using the essence. The dough will be a bit grainy, so you need to knead it to form a compact ball. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. After sitting, there may be a bit of excess oil. Let the excess drain off in a colander if necessary.
Preheat oven to 320°F (160°C). Prepare a baking sheet with oven-safe wax paper. Form balls with the dough of approximately 2 inches (5 centimeters) diameter. Place them on the baking sheet, leaving about 1.5 inches between each of the balls. Beat the egg in a small bowl, and brush it on the dough balls.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 25–30 minutes or until browned on the outside. Take them out, wait 2 minutes, and place the aceitadas on a baking rack to cool.