Carquinyols (Vall d’Albaida style)

This is the type of low-key sweet that you would get on a visit to the bakery—go to buy a bread loaf, and come back with that but also half a quarter of these for your mid-morning coffee.

Unfortunately, someone in my family has developed a nut allergy so they’re not casually acquired anymore, and they’re also quite regional so I haven’t had the chance to find them in my most recent visits to Valencia. And then, there’s lockdown and no travelling, so… time to bake some, as I’ve been craving these for a while!

They’re quite easy to make, so if you are tired of baking cookies and shortbreads and feel like attempting something more exotic, try this. (I mean, at this point going to a different supermarket a few blocks away already feels super “exotic”, so imagine baking something typical from two countries away!)

Ingredients

  • 125 g ground almonds
  • 25 g whole almonds (optional)
  • 125 g sugar
  • 188 g flour
  • 1-2 eggs
  • ~100 g olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • ground cinnamon and lemon zest – to taste

Note: the almonds can be with or without skins, up to your personal preference.

Preparation

If you don’t have or can’t find ground almonds, you can grind them on a food processor, which I did. This is the texture I ended up with: a bit coarse, not super fine, so there’s a bit of texture to the biscuits.

Somewhat coarsely ground almond in a bowl
Somewhat coarsely ground almond in a bowl

Whisk the eggs in a little bowl, and set about a tablespoon of egg mixture aside. Add the rest of eggs to a big mixing bowl.

Add the sugar, ground flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and the lemon zest (if using), and the whole almonds too (if using them), and half of the oil. I like using the whole almonds as it’s nice to randomly find one. Surprise!

Mix things well; slowly add more oil if it feels like the dough is too dry, adding a tablespoon at a time. You want to end with a dough which is neither too dry or too oily, otherwise it’ll be hard to shape the biscuits. If you add too much oil you’ll have to add more flour or more eggs to bind the dough… you get the idea!

Turn the oven on to about 200ºC.

Once you’re satisfied that the dough is shapeable, you have two options:

  1. roll them into 1 cm thick cylinders, and cut them into 4 cm long lozenges (traditional version)
  2. or you can do like I did and just shape them by hand if you’re getting impatient with the dough. Just make sure they’re not TOO thick or your teeth will not be happy with you.

Add a splash of water to the spoonful of egg mixture you reserved before, whisk it well, and then brush the top of the biscuits with this eggy mix before baking.

Carquinyols / casquinyols in the baking tray, before baking
Carquinyols in the baking tray, before baking

Bake until they get a nice golden colour. They’ll also crack: it’s part of the process. You might need to turn them around if they start getting an uneven colour.

They look a lot like croquetas, but they totally aren’t!

Carquinyols / casquinyols in the baking tray
Carquinyols in the baking tray

Move to a rack once they’re cool enough to handle, and then wait until they cool down completely before eating—ideally accompanying a nice black coffee. I know it’s hard to resist! The smells are so tempting!

A note on naming, and other similar sweets

I had always known these as casquinyols, which sounds more representative than the accepted carquinyols, because casquinyols sounds more like “cascar”, i.e. cracking things, in which “things” would probably be… your teeth! It seems that there’s a similar sweet in Minorca and it’s called casquinyol too! I feel vindicated!

These sweets remind me a lot to the Jewish tozetti we tried in Pitigliano. They’re very similar to the traditional Italian biscotti, except these aren’t baked twice.

Interestingly, Catalans also have a similar sounding “carquinyolis”, which I think are baked them twice, which makes them proper biscotti, i.e. bis-cotti, twice baked.

And then if you want something that tastes a lot like this but uses no flour, and it’s a bit easier to bite into, you could try Sant Blaise’s buns. I know I keep recommending them, but they’re just so yummy. I deliberately don’t make them because I would be devouring them so quickly 😂

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