Panellets are a traditional Catalan cookie made from marzipan and pine nuts served for Tots Sants, or All Saints’ Day. They’re sweet and nutty, with a light crunch on the outside and a soft marzipan center.
When I lived in Barcelona, I looked forward to October and November for la Castanyada. I loved going to the traditional cafés to study and snack on panellets with my coffee (or moscatell!).
Panellets are traditionally made during la Castanyada, which is celebrated in Catalonia from the end of October through November. La Castanyada is an autumn festival that coincides with Tots Sants, or All Saints’ Day.
During the Castanyada, towns fill with street vendors selling roasted chestnuts (castanyes) and sweet potatoes. The bakeries fill their shelves with panellets. And porrons flow freely with sweet moscatell wine.
The Castanyada dates back to the 18th century and derives from the foods commonly served during funerals in the past: legumes, nuts, and votive breads that were offered to the dead.
How to Make Panellets
Panellets are actually surprisingly easy to make. They don’t require any special equipment or even any mixing. All you need for panellets is marzipan, pine nuts, and egg.
To make panellets, you roll the marzipan into equal sized balls and use the egg to adhere the pine nuts to the marzipan. Then, they’re quickly toasted in the oven and served at room temperature.
First, the pine nuts are soaked overnight in the beaten egg. The pine nuts soak up the moisture from the egg and become stickier. This makes it easier for the pine nuts to adhere properly to the marzipan and prevent bare spots on the panellets.
Once the marzipan is evenly coated with pine nuts, they’re brushed with egg yolk before toasting in the oven. The panellets don’t need to cook, they just need to be toasted. The panellets bake under the grill or broil setting for about 5 minutes, or just until the pine nuts turn golden brown.
Baking Tips for Panellets
- Use the best pine nuts and marzipan you can get. Because of the simplicity of these cookies, the quality of the ingredients definitely counts.
- If you’re short for time, you can skip the overnight soak. But, soaking the pine nuts overnight really helps with getting them to stick to the marzipan. The pine nuts soak up the moisture from the egg and become stickier, making it easier to get them to stay on the marzipan.
- When you’re shaping the marzipan, if it sticks to the counter or to your hands, you can use a bit of powdered sugar just like you’d use flour when rolling out dough.
- If the pine nuts stick to your hands instead of the marzipan, you can wet your hands lightly.
- The panellets don’t need to bake per se. The pine nuts just need to be toasted. If they’re left in the oven too long, the marzipan will start to melt and the panellets will fall apart.
- Stay close by when you’re baking the panellets. They brown quickly! Keep an eye on them in the oven and take them out as soon as they’ve turned a toasty golden brown.
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Yields 12 cookies.
1 egg yolk
7 ounces marzipan
1 egg yolk
Soak the pine nuts overnight:
Beat one egg in a small bowl and add the pine nuts. Stir to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave in the refrigerator to soak overnight.
Divide the marzipan:
Divide the marzipan into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls using the palms of your hand. If the marzipan sticks to the counter or your hands, you can use a little bit of powdered sugar.
Coat the marzipan with the pine nuts:
Take the pine nuts out of the fridge. Working a few at a time, coat the marzipan balls with the pine nuts. Use your hands to gently press the pine nuts into the marzipan so they stick. If the pine nuts stick to your hands more than the marzipan, lightly moisten your hands with water.
It can be difficult to get the pine nuts to stick to the marzipan. Just be patient and work gently so you don’t ruin the shape of the marzipan. If the pine nuts stick to your hands more than the marzipan, lightly moisten your hands with water.
Place the panellets on the pan:
Place the panellets evenly spaced (they won’t spread out) on a parchment lined baking sheet. Gently press them down to flatten the bottom slightly so they don’t roll around.
Heat the oven:
Heat the oven on the grill (broil) setting to 220°C (425°F). You want the heat source to come from the top. Set the oven rack in the middle or lower third of the oven.
If your oven doesn’t let you control the oven temperature on the broil setting, preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F).
Brush the panellets with egg yolk:
While the oven is heating, brush a light coating of the remaining egg yolk on the panellets.
Bake the panellets:
Bake the panellets for about 5-10 minutes, or until the pine nuts turn a delicious golden on the edges. The goal is to brown the panellets, not cook them. Watch them the whole time to make sure they don’t burn. They’ll brown quickly.
Once browned, remove the panellets from the oven and serve at room temperature.