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Perruna biscuits: a unique flavour and a curious etymology

Perruna biscuits: a unique flavour and a curious etymology

Today, in our review of some of the most traditional Andalusian pastries, we would like to highlight a product that we know very closely: the artisan perruna biscuits. Those small, soft, and sweet pastries with a thousand toppings and different recipes. Let's look up the term “perruna” in the dictionary of the Spanish Language. We will find two very different definitions:

  • "Flour, butter and sugar cake". An elementary description of the pastry at issue.
  • "Brown bread made from flour without siftings and given to dogs". Food cooked in medieval times for dogs to consume during periods of transhumance.

As you can see, it is no accident that the name "perruna" sounds like the name of man's best friend (dog: perro in Spanish). Dogs fed on the leftovers thrown on the ground by shepherds centuries ago. When there was meat, the shepherds would toss the bones on the ground for the dogs to eat them. However, because the leftovers of the shepherds’ meals were very scarce or non-existent during the transhumance (regular movement of flocks to exploit the seasonal availability of pastures), they began to prepare cakes for the dogs with unground flour and water. This dough was baked directly on a log fire, and the flour was also used to make the so-called "black bread" (far darker bread than the one made from ground wheat), also known as "pan de perro (dog bread)".

Although the name “perrunas” or “perrunillas” seems to come from the word “perro (dog in Spanish)”, the origins of this delicious snack are unknown. Some authors consider the perruna biscuits to be convent pastries. Traditionally, these pastries were prepared by nuns in convents, and they did not name them. Others mention its existence in Al-Andalus and, therefore, its Arab origin. However, its spread throughout the Iberian Peninsula is also unknown. Indeed, the ingredients in the recipe differ in each region of the country. Extremadura, Andalusia and some provinces of Castile and León are likely the places with the most prolongued presence of this product and where it has become a must-have of any traditional breakfast or snack.

What are perruna biscuits made of? In all Spanish recipes for the perruna biscuits, flour, eggs, sugar, and lard tend to be used. In some places, however, the lard is replaced by sunflower or olive oil. As it is said, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Some recipes include aniseed or brandy for flavouring, as well as cinnamon, lemon or orange zest, almond powder, coconut...The shape of the perruna biscuits also changes according to the tradition of each area, which means that you will find them rounder or longer, croquette-shaped, thicker, or flatter. However, they are always covered with eggs or sugar.

At Pastelería Álvarez, we have been making artisan perruna biscuits for almost eight decades. We follow our family recipe and choose the best raw materials to take you back in time with the best aromas and flavours. Our perruna biscuits are round, with a robust texture and covered in sugar. A perfect delicacy for any occasion. Would you like to try them? We invite you to visit our online shop and discover our flagship products to enjoy at any time.

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