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Mantecados, a History of Spain’s Christmas Cookies

Mantecados can be found in every household come Christmas time. These soft and crumbly Spanish cookies are a Christmas tradition which dates back to sixteenth century from the Andulucia region of Spain. Although today there are over 80 factories in the the Andalucian region manufacturing mantecados, the towns of Estepa and Antequera claim mantecados as their own creation. However, it is widely agreed that Estepa is the capital of mantecado production in the world. With approximately 12,000 residents, Estepa produces over 20 million kilos of mantecdaos, almost 40% of the total national production. The annual Mantecado production period of August through December drives the local economy as most residents are involved in one way or another to the production, transportation, distribution and sales of mantecados and polvorones.

The name Mantecado originates from the word Manteca which means lard, one of its main ingredients. Mantecados generally consist of 25% lard, 25% sugar and 50% wheat. One final added ingredient gives it it’s distinguishing flavor; cinnamon, lemon, coconut etc. Two of the main suppliers of mantecados are the companies La Estepeña and Doña Jimena. Both companies also offer other Christmas sweets such as polvorones, holjaldres, bombones, figuritas de mazapan and more. Fortunately, all these Spanish Christmas desserts can be found locally here in the USA.

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