The Clarisa nuns still make the dough by hand. A.J.G.
Silence and prayer to maintain a recipe inherited from generations past
Food and drink

Silence and prayer to maintain a recipe inherited from generations past

Belén, Las Descalzas and La Encarnación are convents in Antequera that still bake and sell traditional mantecados

Friday, 20 October 2023, 16:18


The greeting at the cloistered convents is the same as it always has been: "Ave María purísima," comes the nun's voice at the other side of the revolving counter that blocks her from view. "Sin pecado concebido," replies the customer. Throughout the year, the nuns at the convents of Belén, Descalzas and Encarnación make typical desserts and cakes, from bienmesabe (a traditional almond-based dessert) to madeleines and new varieties such as brownies. But come September, it is the mantecados, polvorones, roscos and alfajores that are in their ovens.

They all have a small production, almost the same as centuries ago: 6,500 kilos from the three convents, compared to the 5,725.5 tonnes that are produced by the other businesses in the mantecado sector. "Our mission is to pray and when the time comes, we dedicate as much time as we can to the bakery, but it is not our job," they say.

Using recipes fromtheir predecessors, they mix the dough and shape it by hand. Then they place them in the oven to bake. Once cooled, they are wrapped and boxed for sale.

Internet sales

Although customers still go to convents and stalls, the pandemic has boosted the sale of products over the internet. Every company, even the nuns, have at least one telephone number or email address to receive orders. However it is done, all the cakes have the centuries-old recipe and flavour which has been promoted since the 18th century and today is one of the most sought-after products.

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