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!)
I was also really determined that it had to be a plaited bread, which inevitably forces you to use a less wet dough so you can handle and shape it without losing your wits.
The result, once baked, has less definition in the plait than I’d like, but I am very pleased with the bread itself nonetheless. The crumb was quite open, and the anise flavour was there to give it the air of an special bread. I also practiced “painting” the surface with water to give it a smoother surface, and it worked! It felt a bit like biting into a brioche. Quite interesting!
While the Fallas festival in Valencia is quite well-known, the Sant Antoni (Saint Anthony)’s celebrations are less flamboyant, more inward looking. A domestic affair, say, for the locals and by the locals.
Happening around the 17th of January, it is a very unassuming celebration: there is a parade where people bring their animals to church to get a blessing, there will be a small market called “porrat” with stalls selling, amongst other yummy things, delicious nuts, figs and confectionery based on those (which are also called “porrat”), and finally one or more bonfires will burn and light up the dark January night, spreading the aroma of pine wood all around the neighbourhood.