Food & Drink

Alternative Halloween

Many of you have already started Halloween preparations, thinking about costumes and decorations, carving pumpkins and so on.

Here in Catalonia, the traditional thing to do for Halloween is the Castanyada.

We basically gather together with family and friends to eat roasted chestnuts (castanyas in catalan), not as creative as Halloween but nice anyway. The good thing about this tradition is that there is no specific Castanyada day, meaning that you can do as many castanyadas as you want, as long as the chestnut season lasts.

We also bake panellets, a traditional All Saints day dessert, tiny sweet cakes made of almond paste and potato mix.They come in different shapes/flavours and can be coated with different toppings. The most traditional coatings are pine nuts, coconut and almonds.

Panellets must be accompained by moscatell (sweet wine).

Back in the medieval days, the people used to believe that the souls of their dead loved ones were coming back for few hours during All Saints eve. Every church would ring the bells the whole night, to encourage people to stay awake and pray for the deceased. To have energy to stay up the whole night, the villagers ate roasted chesnuts and panellets with plenty of wine to go around too.

One of the great things about belonging to an international family is that we are allowed to mix traditions. And we want to challenge you to do the same; no matter if you are big fan of Halloween or if you just love to sit by the fireplace and eat castanyas, go ahead and mix both traditions in the following way:

Firstly, you can continue making horror costumes and carving as many pumpkins as you want. Secondly, start roasting chestnuts and bake panellets (scroll down for the recipe).

Once you have the chesnuts and the panellets ready, all you have to do is wait for the Halloween kids to come and knock your door. Let them ask you for a treat and immediatelly after that fill their pockets with chestnuts and panellets.

It is very likely that they get all disappointed and you end up with your post box full of panellets, but hey at least you have broken some cultural boundaries.


Panellets recipe

Makes 32-35 panellets

For the base:

  • 250 gr ground almond
  • 180 gr caster sugar
  • 200 gr potato
  • 1 lemon zest, grated
  • 1 Tbs anis (optional)

For the coating:

Keep in mind that creativity is allowed and panellets can be coated with whatever you like, as long as you don’t mix more than one coating per panellet. In this recipe we are going to make the tree typical ones: pine nuts, almonds and coconut. However, you can customize them with other toppings such as cocoa, hazzelnuts, caster sugar, you name it.

  • 90 gr pine nuts
  • 125 gr grated dry coconut
  • 125 gr chopped almonds
  • 1 egg 1 egg yolk

Make the dough:

  • Clean the potatos and put them unpeeled into a sauce pan.
  • Cover with water and bring to boil for about 15-20 minutes or until they become soft. 
  • Drain water from potatoes, peel and mash them while they are still warm.
  • Put the mashed potatoes in a large bowl and gradually stir in ground almonds, caster sugar, grated lemon peel and anis. Use a wooden spoon first and then your hands until is properly mixed.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature. Then cover the mix in plastic foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 250 ºC.
  • Cover the oven tray with a greased cookie sheet.
  • Divide the dough into 3 equal parts (or as many parts as kinds of panellets you want to make).
  • Wisk one egg in a small bowl and set aside.

Pine nut panellets:

  • Take 1/3 of the dough and roll it into small balls.
  • Put the pine nuts on a plate.
  • With a help of a spoon dip each ball on the wisked egg, you can also use a brush.
  • Put the ball on the plate and roll it in pine nuts.
  • Place them on the oven tray.

Coconut panellets:

  • Take another 1/3 of the dough and add half of the grated coconut, mix well.
  • Put the rest of the grated coconut on a plate.
  • Shape the dough in small pyramids and dip them on the wisked egg.
  • Put the pyramids on the plate and roll it with grated coconut.
  • Place them on the oven tray.

Almond panellets:

  • With the last part of dough roll small bars.
  • Put the chooped almonds on a plate.
  • Dip each bar on the wisked egg, put the bar on the plate and roll it in chopped almonds.
  • Place them on the oven tray.


  • Brush all the panellets with the egg yolk and bake for 8 min.
  • Gently remove from the baking sheets and let them to cool down before eating.

Asides from playing around with coatings, you can also invent new panellets by adding different flavours to each portion of dough. Make sure that each kind of panellet you make has a unique taste. For example, you can try adding coffee powder, cinnamon or vanilla to the dough.


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