The twelve days of Christmas culminate today on January 6th, otherwise known as the Feast of Epiphany. In Spain it's called Día de los Reyes - Three Kings Day. As in many parts of the world, this is the traditional time for Spanish children to receive presents. Some will have written a letter to their favourite king - Melchior, Gaspar or Balthazar, while others will have written to all three. Major towns and cities host a three kings' parade the day before and it goes without saying that January 6th is a public holiday.
Following a sumptuous dinner, King cake is the traditional dessert in Spain and across Latin America on the 6th. The ring-shaped pastry is usually iced and decorated with candied peel. Hidden inside is a plastic figure of baby Jesus, representing the young Jesus hiding from King Herod's soldiers. However, it's certainly not the only sweet food popular at this time of year. Turrón is a long-standing treat which dates back to the Moorish occupation. Traditionally it's honey and almond flavoured nougat, though nowadays you can get it in a multitude of flavours. The Moors are also believed to be the source of marzipan, mazapan to give it its Spanish name. Comprised only of sugar and almonds, the very finest is reputed to come from Toledo.
Mantecados and polvorones are as much a part of Christmas in Spain as mince pies are here. The former get their name from one of the main ingredients – manteca, which is lard. They are basically Spain's version of shortbread. Polvorones derive their name from the Spanish word for dust and as might be expected, they're very crumbly. Perfect as an accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee, tomorrow we'll feature a recipe for these tasty biscuits!