SANTA CLARA’S COOKIES OR TORTITAS SANTA CLARA
The Santa Clara’s cookies or Tortitas Santa Clara are a traditional Mexican dessert from Puebla, created in the Colonial period of Mexico, they most probably were created by the nuns from the Santa Clara convent. These cookies are a bit like shortbread, the result of the early combination of Spanish cooking methods with Meso-American ingredients. These cookies are relatively unknown outside Mexico and Mexican communities but they are very popular in Mexico itself.
When you first bite into it, you go through a soft layer with a grainy texture that tastes like a moist version of marzipan. But as your teeth sink in they hit the hard crust of a buttery cookie that breaks into the crunchiest of chunks in your mouth. It makes for such tasty contrast that you have to take more bites to understand their beauty. Since one cookie doesn’t explain it, you will reach for another one…
There you go! Another sweet concoction from the nuns of the Santa Clara convent in Puebla whose recipe has been passed down for over a dozen generations. Together with the nuns from Santa Rosa Convent (where Mole Poblano is believed to have been invented) and Santa Monica Convent (where many say Chiles en Nogada come from) they are much to blame for the baroque foods, which mixed European and Mexican ingredients with much passion and devotion, that shaped the cuisine of this city – and has made it an epicenter of gastronomy in Mexico.
Yet it was the nuns from Santa Clara who were most famous for their sweets. You can read what the plaque says outside of the standing convent which shut its doors long ago but left behind a strong legacy and a trail of sweets.
You can eat most of these sweets in the two block-stretch that makes La Calle de los Dulces “The Sweets Street” where the convent stands. There are sweets shops lined one after another selling truckloads of them.
We went down there this spring to film the Puebla Episode for Season Two. I stood on the street in awe and a bit confused (and hurried by the production company too) not knowing which store to choose from and wanting to sample every kind of sweet from them all.
The cookies are sold individually wrapped so the base won’t crack and the thick nutty glaze won’t spread. They come in three sizes: gigantic, normal and small.
Tortitas Santa Clara
So unique are these cookies, that there are special Santa Clara cookie molds to make them in that exact shape in one swift press. There is also a laborious technique for making the glaze. However, I have tested versions galore in my kitchen and I have a genuine and true shortcut that makes any round cookie mold work and an easy way to get the same glaze.
Traditionally, it is made with Pumpkin Seeds (some companies have gotten away with making the glaze with confectioners sugar, but connoisseurs know not to be tricked!). The thing is, since the Colonial era, the Spanish nuns were keen on making the sweets they knew from back home but with Mexican ingredients. So the pumpkin seeds took their turn in marzipan instead of almonds, hence the Dulce de Pepita. It was a success. The next step was to use this sweet to coat a cookie.
Yet, the laborious part of making the glaze is that pumpkin seeds once hulled are green. Be it for their spiritual beliefs, obsession with purity, or wanting to use the same technique as blanching and peeling the almonds for marzipan, the nuns found a way to remove the super-thin skins that are completely stuck to the seeds until the seeds reach a shiny ivory white.
To begin with, hulling the seeds out of the outer thick shell is time-consuming, we are lucky they are sold already hulled. This thing of removing the thin green skin just complicates it much further.
To make the glaze like the nuns, you have to soak the seeds overnight either with slaked lime, ashes or baking powder. Then you have to rub them with your hands to peel away the thin skin. But since that won’t remove the skin all the way, you have to rinse and rub them between clean kitchen towels, many times, until they are completely ivory white.
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Vacuum packing is a method of packaging that removes air from the package prior to sealing. Shrink film is sometimes used to have a tight fit to the contents. Vacuum packing reduces atmospheric oxygen, limiting the growth of aerobic bacteria or fungi, and preventing the evaporation of volatile components.
- Unit Type: Piece
- Carton Box
- Package Weight: 4 lbs
- Package Size: 13.11in x 12.67in x 3.93in