Around this time of year, in Plaza Bib-Rambla in the Albayzin, the air is constantly fragranced with sugar. Here you will find the epicentre of one of Spain, and Andalusia’s greatest Christmas traditions: los dulces de Navidad.
Casa Pasteles, situated on the Plaza, is one of the best cake shops in Granada and it is renowned for these handmade sweets and biscuits. During November and December, its bakery (just behind the square) makes thousands of these individually wrapped creations and it opens a special shop (on the other side of the square) to sell them.
The classic Christmas sweet is bars of turrón, a type of nougat that traditionally only contains egg whites, honey and almonds. You will find this everywhere but the joy in Casa Pasteles comes from trying lots of their own creations. Many of the sweets start from a marzipan base: try the panecillos de limón (marzipan with lemon), the bocaditos (marzipan filled with fruit jam and covered with milk chocolate) or the delicias de naranja (marzipan filled with pieces of candied orange).
Other specialities include individual turróns, some made with hazelnuts as well as almonds, some covered in chocolate. There are pralines, balls made of figs and raisins mixed with a little liqueur and chocolate-covered coconut. One of the most traditional little cakes are the mantecados, a type of shortbread biscuit. Watch out, if you are a vegetarian, because sometimes these can be made with pork fat (la manteca de cerdo).
If you are in Granada before Christmas, go and visit the Casa Pasteles pop-up shop and choose a selection of these beautifully-wrapped local specialities. Then, like many offices, businesses and schools, fill a bowl with them for your friends and guests to try over the holiday season. Eat your heart out, Willy Wonka.