Though Gijón/Xixón is not Jijona/Xixona (considered by many the capital of Spanish nougat making), the city’s artisan confectioners can certainly hold their own against all comers.
There are basically two kinds of turrón: hard and crunchy (duro
or Alicante variety) and soft and chewy (blando or Jijona variety). Both are made with toasted Marcona almonds, sugar, honey and egg white, the difference being that whole almonds are used in turrón duro and ground almonds in turrón blando. In the last 30 years or so, however, the offering has expanded to include flavours such as cream, walnut, hazelnut, chocolate, coconut, pistachio, etc.
Other typical confectioneries to be found in the Christmas shopping bag in Spain are the different varieties of rich, crumbly shortbreads called mantecados and polvorónes. These are made from flour, lard*, sugar and cinnamon and usually ground almonds, though other ingredients such as grated coconut or sesame seeds (ajonjolí) are often added to cater to different tastes.
Most of Gijón’s cake and pastry shops make their own versions of these and other typical seasonal confectioneries, including the stunning marzipan crocodiles that adorn the shop windows, though special mention must be made of the nougat and ice cream makers Federic Verdú. Located in Moros Street, the shop is well worth a visit just to enjoy the great variety of delicious artisan confectionaries for sale. Bear in mind, though, that it gets more and more crowded as Christmas Eve approaches. This is when Spaniards get together to celebrate the festivity with a splendid family supper in which there is invariably a tablet or more of turrón to share!
Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous and Peaceful New Year!
* There are some commercial brands that use olive oil instead of beef or pork lard