At the beginning of December, it seemed that turrón shops seemed to be everywhere and tables with stacks and stacks of turrón appeared at the grocery stores. I later learned that ice cream shops typically convert to turrón shops during the Winter, which explains why these turrón shops looked new to me.
I was familiar with Italian style torrone (see picture below). My husband's family (in Buenos Aires of Italian descent) would eat bits of torrone along with dried fruit and nuts and of course, some bubbly at midnight on Christmas Eve.
A foodie friend and I decided to take a field trip to a well-known turrón shop in Barcelona to learn more about this popular treat. We went to Planelles Donat on Portal de l'Angel - they have four outposts on this street alone. Along with at least one other different turrón brand shop on the same street. Further explanation as to why turrón seems to be everywhere - it is!
The lovely and knowledgeable gentleman at Planelles Donat that taught us about turrón. I wish I got his name.
It seems that turrón is a more general term for many types of flat, rectangular nougat candy. Even large chocolate bars with nuts are labelled as turrón. Planelles Donat sells 18 varieties of turrón. The basic turrón is made from honey, almonds and egg whites. The most traditional types are Jijona/Xixona and Alicante, both of which have a Protected Geographical Status under EU law. This means there are actual laws that dictate how each type of turrón is made!
Turrón de Jijona. Photo by Tamorlan/Wikipedia.
The Jijona variety is soft and must contain 60% almonds. While the Alicante variety is crunchy and contains 64% almonds. And within those categories there are different quality levels that are labelled, such as "Extra," "Suprema" or "Popular."
Turrón de Alicante. Photo by Tamorlan/Wikipedia.
Turrón can be traced back to at least the 11th or 15th century (sources disagree). You may notice that turrón is very similar to the Middle Eastern confection Halva. If you know your history, you will recognize that the Moors ruled the Alicante and other regions of Spain in varying degrees from 711 to 1492. Nougat confections throughout the Mediterranean date back to Roman times. The town of Jijona, the birthplace of Spanish turrón, even produces holiday advertising campaigns to remind people of its history.
If you would like to try turrón, check out local gourmet/import shops, World Market, Whole Foods or these sources online. And of course, if you are in Spain during Christmas time a visit to a turrón shop is a must-see!
- La Tienda: A USA-based Spanish import boutique selling the popular 1880 brand of turrón. (Please note that I am affiliated with La Tienda, see below.)
- Despaña Brand Foods: A Spanish import boutique in New York City and online.
- iGourmet: An online gourmet store that sells the El Amendro brand of turrón.
- The Tapas Lunch Company: A UK-based online Spanish import shop that delivers to Europe.