These sweet crumbly buns are typically made in Benidorm (Alicante) around the 3rd of February, which is Sant Blai’s patron day (Saint Blaise).
I had an older recipe which didn’t work out well. This time I more or less followed another blogger’s recipe (in Spanish). Thanks, Carmen! ??
A word of caution: these buns are pretty calorific, which might explain why they’re only made once a year. But on the other hand, they are gluten free, so if you want to make a sweet treat for someone who can’t eat wheat, this could be it.
This produces a really abundant batch… almost 1kg of sweets! If you don’t need that many, reduce the amounts proportionally.
- 250g corn flour (preferably a bit coarse, stoneground would be best).
- 250g ground almonds (with skin) — I bought them whole and ground them coarsely with a food processor.
- 250g white sugar.
- 3 eggs, beaten.
- 150g of neutral oil (I used grapeseed oil), plus more for kneading.
- the zest of 1 unwaxed lemon.
- cinnamon, and more sugar, to decorate.
The goal is to end up with a uniform dough and then split it into smaller balls for the buns, so you will want the ingredients to be really well mixed together. This requires a certain amount of manual kneading and patience, but that’s all it needs.
Carmen’s recipe calls for a specific order when adding the ingredients to the mixing bowl, but I was doing one thousand things at once as well and I did not follow her order at all, and still got good results.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl (sugar, flour, almonds, zest of the grated lemon). Stir around, then add the beaten eggs, mix them in well. Add the oil and knead the dough until it seems pretty soft and well mixed. It will probably also get quite sticky (no wonder, with all that sugar!), so you can add some more oil to your hands to make it easier to work the dough.
Place baking paper on an oven tray, lightly oil it, and turn the oven to 150ºC.
Lightly oil your hands, pick some dough and make a ball between your hands. It shouldn’t be too big; 3-4 centimeters of diameter is more than enough.
Place it on the tray and flatten it, but don’t make it thinner than 0.5 centimeters. This dough is VERY CRUMBLY and if you go too far they will break when you remove them from the tray.
Optional: Use edible paper to avoid the problem. Cut out circles out of the paper and place the buns on the circles, which will make it easier for you to remove the buns later (I didn’t have the paper neither the desire to leave the warm flat and adventure into the freezing cold streets to acquire it ??♀️).
Repeat this until your tray is full, but make sure to leave some space between the buns, because they expand as they bake (as I discovered–then I had to cut between them to separate them!)
(If you have more dough left, cover it with a shower cap or a damp towel, to avoid it drying out while we finish preparing this batch).
Optional: pick a fork and make a grid pattern on the buns. Don’t puncture through the whole bun, or you risk it breaking. If unsure, you can leave this out.
Sprinkle some cinnamon, then some sugar on top to decorate.
Bake for about 15 minutes, at 150ºC. They will whiten as they cook; if you like them with a bit of colour you can wait for a bit longer. Don’t let them burn, keep an eye on them!
Then take the tray out, wait for a bit to cool (so they harden a bit) and then with a spatula and lots of care, peel them off the tray and place them somewhere to finish cooling off.
Then make more buns to finish off with the dough, but remember to lightly oil the trays again if the previous batch absorbed the oil.
Tip: if you have more than one tray, you can certainly bake two at once, as I did. I’m not sure about three trays at once, though, but two are perfectly fine. And you finish earlier! (which means you can snack on them earlier ?).
Since they’re very sweet, these go really well with black coffee. For example: a nice V60 filter coffee (like me), or some violently sour Robusta-variety coffee, which is the type of coffee that is often served (and/or burnt ?) in Spain.
It is said that if you eat these buns, you’ll be protected against sore throats, as the buns are made in honour of Saint Blaise, a doctor and bishop in Turkey, who saved the life of a kid who was almost going to choke (source). I bet it’s thanks to the vitamin C… in the lemon zest! ? ?
I’ve also read somewhere else that these sweets are of Arab origin, which is not surprising, what with the almonds and sugar—very telling!