We found out in the South of Spain (wish we had found out earlier) that certain convents will sell you pastries, marmalades or even creepy dolls, rosaries and religious ephemera. For us, the pastries are the highlight of this list of sundries.
There are no instructions available for how to buy treats from the nuns, each convent is different. Lists of available sweets are only sometimes posted, never explained.
In Cordoba, we stood before a massive 10 foot door and debated whether or not to even push the buzzer. A local gardener had told us the nuns do indeed bake sweets, but would our Spanglish be enough to not make a commotion?
Typically, you enter a small courtyard, yell through a wall and then put your money in a small revolving door set about waist high. The sweetest, most high-pitched, “loving granny” voice answers “Hola?” from the other side. She’d sing the praises of her freshest goods while scurrying around the hidden room. To finish the transaction, the sister turns the door, providing you with pastries and maintaining her privacy from the evils of the outside world.
Rich in butter, moist and light, these are some of the most consistently tasty pastries we have tried. Portugal introduced us to the Belem monks and their egg custards, but those recipes had long been sold to the public, and produced on a larger commercial scale. The nunneries are somehow smaller, like a mom and pop store that you are never allowed to to see the proprietors of.
Our Spanish guessing-game rewarded us with random baked surprises like:
Pastas : little buttery sugar cookies cut into celestial shapes
Magdalenas : incredible chocolate dipped bonbons
Bollitos : sweet wheaty rolls
Sultanas : coconut macaroons
Angel Food (we forgot the Spanish!)
Polvoron de Limon : powdered-sugar coated shortbreads
If you’re ever in Spain, the secret is to look for a nunnery whose order ends in the feminine such as Dominicas. If this brings no results, we just ask the locals about convents selling sweets. Other times, we just stumbled upon the little revolving wooden doors while wandering the city and peeking into courtyards.
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