The Route of Mantecado: the sweetest taste of Andalucia for Christmas
When Christmas gets closer the smell of mantecado (shortbread) covers the streets of Andalucia. These season sweets are one of the most popular demands by tourists in southern Spain, especially in Estepa, Antequera and Rute, all cities which have mastered the art of mantecado. We suggest a special route for you to visit mantecado factories, its manufacturing process and its varieties. Get ready to discover one of the most important Spanish recipes of the Christmas season.
If you visit Estepa, you can smell mantecado from the road itself. The entrance to the city is flanked by Christmas sweets factories, and you can visit the one you prefer. Although Andalucian mantecado was born in Antequera, Estepa was the first city to produce industrially. Currently the town is best known for this reason.
One of the industries you must visit is La Estepeña. The property is huge and it has a giant Christmas tree. The boxes where the sweets are kept have traditional designs, turning them into the most delicious and elegant Christmas gifts. Besides, from one of the factory rooms you can follow Estepa mantecado’s traditional manufacturing process through moving figures which represent each one of the manufacturing stages. Across the factory we find the Museum of Chocolate, where different figures are made with this ingredient every year. The children specially enjoy the visit.
On the other hand, if you traditional things you must visit “The Colchona”. Already in 1870, Micaela Ruiz started commercialising these products. Her husband being a driver was also helping, as he would sell the products throughout Cordoba. Over the years it has evolved into an institution in Andalucia, specialised in this sweet Christmas art.
Today there are 30 factories in Estepa, 20 of them are grouped in the “Cream Manufacturers Association of Estepa” AFAMES. The aims of this association include: searching for official support, advise, improving the image of products and promoting them.
Antequera is the home of mantecados and the place where they are still traditionally manufactured. If you approach this beautiful inland city of Malaga you will find several options to satisfy your sweet palate.
It is a must if you come to this city to visit La Perla. This factory is one of the oldest in the area and also continue to make shortbread traditionally. So, if you visit the area you will be able to see how the women knead by hand, you will enjoy the warmth of wood stoves and the manual packaging of the finished candy. An experience that takes you back to the nineteenth century and rewards you with the wonderful taste of the final product.
On the other hand there is La Antequera, a very respected factory in the city. For this winter season, the company has launched a novelty that has been quickly accepted by the customers who have already tried it. This is the pistachio mantecado, a delicious variety that adds to the wide range of flavours this establishment has to offer.
You should definitely visit Antequera as part of the Mantecado route, and don’t forget to get a large bag of these sweets for your Christmas table.
La Flor de Rute houses one of the most important exhibitions of Andalucia mantecado. In addition to all its products, the company has sugar sculptures which are very popular within the region. Do not hesitate to stop by this spot, not only to get some mantecados, but also to try other local Christmas sweets you will love such as turrolate (a mixture of nougat and chocolate).
Moreover, it is worth mentioning a very traditional drink of this season: anise. Here in Rute you can find a museum of this traditional drink for winter and you can take home a bottle to complement your Christmas dinner. Do not leave town without visiting the crib of chocolate, a lovely exhibition for sweet and chocolate lovers.
THE ORIGIN OF MANTECADOS
The origin of mantecado dates back to the sixteenth century, caused by the surplus of cereals and lard which flourished in the heart of Andalucia. The debate between those who think that this sweet was born in Antequera or Estepa still remains, however, it appears that it was in the city of Malaga. Antequera Town Council keeps a fresco located in the plenary hall portraying mantecados manufactured there.
TYPES OF MANTECADOS
As happens with all candy, soon enough there was a huge variety of mantecados, which to this day are produced with different flavours. It’s just a matter of choosing your favourite.
1. Crafted mantecado: molded by hand. It can include sesame and cinnamon essence.
2. Cinnamon and sesame mantecado: with sesame and cinnamon essence, but industrially manufactured.
3. Almond mantecado: with crushed almonds or almond powder.
4. Double cinnamon mantecado: Antequera traditional mantecado.
5. Chocolate mantecado: Chocolate flavoured.
6. Lemon mantecado: with the flavour of lemon zest.
7. Puff pastry mantecado: made of thin sheets of pastry and sprinkled with icing sugar.
8. Pistachio mantecado: with crushed pistachio or pistachio powder it has become the novelty of 2015.
If you decide to spend a few days in southern Spain do not hesitate to take the Mantecado Route, definitely the sweetest route in Andalucia.
WHERE TO STAY
If you decide to visit Andalucia and enjoy the Route Mantecado, there is nothing better than staying in a prestigious hotel. Fuerte Marbella offers all kinds of services and facilities in the heart of Marbella city. Moreover, if you decide to visit the east, you can stay at Olée Holiday Rentals, between Torrox and Nerja, typical Andalucian villages with the best climate in Europe.
This leading chain of hotels has more than 50 years experience. Holidays for couples, family or friends, either way you choose to travel, these hotels will adapt to your needs, and they are the perfect starting point to begin your Mmantecado route.