30 Apr2012

Crumbly filipino style polvorones. They differ from the Spanish cookie from which they took their name, a sort of shortbread biscuit that is, in fact, baked, and traditionally used lard rather than butter. Versions of this cookie can be found in Puerto Rico, Mexico and South America. Our own polvorones are a bakeless, shortcut version, with powdered milk as a key ingredient. Oddly, that suggests this version of the confection is not that old, as mass-produced powdered milk was an innovation/ingredient that must have arrived in our archipelago in the early 1900’s, along with the Americans, and clearly after the Spaniards left. The process for drying or powdering milk is a little older, however. So I wonder if we USED to bake polvorones like the original cookie and only later evolved into the bakeless version, or some wise cook just took the name of a cookie that had similar crumbly characteristics… The “filipino” version of polvoron is REALLY easy to make. And it amazes me how many substandard ones there are being sold out there. One day I will have to try my hand at baking the “original” cookies, and with lard to boot… :) I suspect they won’t taste as good as cookies made with butter.

You will need these little contraptions to shape the polvoron, though in a pinch small round or oval cookie cutters might work as well. I got these in Quiapo, though some large groceries like SM or baking goods stores in malls carry them as well. For out 80-100 polvoron, I used 4 cups of all-purpose flour, measured and then sifted. You will also need 2 cups of the best powdered milk you can get, and yes, they vary in quality. As a guide, I just bought the most expensive powdered milk in the grocery, assuming it had more milk or milkfat content. Next 1 and 2/3 cups of caster sugar, or regular granulated sugar, but blitz it in a food processor to make it finer. I am finding local granulated sugar to be of inferior quality lately, often with huge granules and sometimes with a strange smell. How sad for a country that was once at the top of the heap of sugar exporters globally. Very sad indeed. I like the texture and flavor of nuts in my polvoron, so I added about 1.5 cups of freshly roasted cashew nuts, blitzing them until fine together with the sugar. Melt 1 and 1/2 cups of unsalted butter in the microwave until just melted and set that aside to cool down a bit.

Toast the shifted flour over medium high heat until just tan or a little darker than off-white. You are essentially cooking the raw taste out of the flour. I like to keep flipping the flour to ensure it all keeps moving around, but this can get tiring and a bit messy… :) Use a heat proof spatula instead if you prefer. Just watch this CAREFULLY, burnt flour you do not want.

Take the flour off the flames, add the powdered milk, blitzed sugar and nuts and mix thoroughly. Add the melted butter and mix thoroughly. Pack the mixture into the molds and press them out onto water-proof clear food grade wrapper. Wrap in papel de japon or wrapping tissue and store in a cool place.

Some recipes go to great lengths to tell you this mixture must be chilled before the cookies are formed, or that the formed cookies must be refrigerated before wrapping to firm them up nicely. Personally, I like them crumbly, and not a tight disk, so do what you like… After wrapping, you may wish to store these in the fridge if it is really warm in your neck of the woods, as it is in Manila these days.

I made several batches of polvoron until I settled on this recipe. Commercial versions often scrimp on the milk, add a lot more sugar and may use something mixed in with the butter for additional moisture. The nuts give the delicacy texture and flavor, otherwise it can be like eating a mouth-drying spoon full of flour, sugar and powdered milk, which ultimately, it is. :)

The better your base ingredients, the more delicious the result. Simple, right?

P.S. Calorie counting? I figured roughly 6,200 calories in this batch of polvorones, and we made roughly 100 pieces, so they are roughly 62 calories each. You could eat roughly 3-4 of these, or a Mars bar equivalent. :)



  1. bearhug0127 says:

    Once you pop ’em, it’s hard to stop!

    Apr 30, 2012 | 6:36 am


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  3. charly says:

    Just called my Dad to buy me some of this contraption… Polvoron cost $4.25 for a small bag in LA Thank you for the post

    Apr 30, 2012 | 7:15 am

  4. Jade186 says:

    I remember the common polvorones that I bought when I was in Barcelona were flaky and indeed had lard and eggs as ingredients. However, a Spanish acquaintance of mine gave me some of the traditional polvorones eaten during Christmas time which tasted rather similar to the Filipino style polvoron in terms of crumbly, powdery texture. The main ingredients were just ground almonds (some had hazelnuts – so she said), flour, sugar, and butter. Could it be that the Filipino polvoron was based on this version?
    Incidentally, I remember that they were also wrapped in thin paper…

    Apr 30, 2012 | 7:18 am

  5. millet says:

    polvoron was a regular summer project of my sister and me. I tried making some a while back but was turned off by the substandard quality of the polvoron molds these days.

    Apr 30, 2012 | 7:39 am

  6. Betchay says:

    Typo error…..”I like to keep flipping the floor….” you mean flour :)
    One summer in high school, I sold several packs of my home made polvoron. I only used star margarine but my powdered milk was premium infant formulas my mom(a pediatrician) used to get as samples in her clinic! It was a bestseller!

    Apr 30, 2012 | 7:40 am

  7. betty q. says:

    Betchay…i also use baby formula for my polvoron over here. To up it a notch, I ever so lightly brown the butter only till pale golden brown and it gives off a nice nutty aroma!

    Apr 30, 2012 | 8:04 am

  8. Footloose says:

    @Jade186, Tasted but did not like a Spanish version pretty close to our polvoron that did not seem to have been baked but instead packed tight in molds, made out of toasted flour and nubby powdered almonds bound with lard. Also wrapped individually in tissue paper but nothing as good as ours. The Spanish baked ones that MM mentioned may actually be industrial approximation of the original artisanal no-bake polvorones.

    We seem to have a distinct predilection for powdery treats that cause dry choking if not chased with water or accompanied with affectionate stroking of the nape. Puto seco also comes to mind.

    I spread the flour in a cookie sheet and bake it in a medium oven instead of toasting it in a pan. BettyQ’s beurre noissette tweak sounds tempting but sadly, a departure from the original taste that a lot of people would like to stick with.

    Apr 30, 2012 | 8:16 am

  9. Marketman says:

    Betchay, thanks, edited. Bettyq, nice variation, the browned butter… millet, I have to agree, the molds are a bit flimsy… jade186, I took a photo of polvorones in a shop window in Barcelona, in this old post. I always thought of the spanish version as kind of like a less tasty shortbread where the butter was replaced by lard.

    Apr 30, 2012 | 8:16 am

  10. PITS, MANILA says:

    I remember throwing in chopped cashew from years back, and sometimes pinipig. Our “molde” comes from the dry section of the market. Regular-size and the jumbo ones.

    Apr 30, 2012 | 9:03 am

  11. Mimi says:

    I’ve been seeing a variety of polvoron flavours- cookies n cream, coffee, pinipig, etc. I still prefer the original kind, but my son likes cookies n cream (S$0.50 per piece!). I read the Goldilocks’ ingredient list and it states: wheat flour, skim milk powder, cane sugar, vegetable shortening, chocolate cookies, anhydrous milk fat, sweet whey powder, artificial flavoring. I will try MM’s recipe but replacing crushed Oreos for the 1 1/2 cups of nuts and see if it makes cookies n cream. Thanks for the idea!

    Apr 30, 2012 | 9:35 am

  12. Marketman says:

    Mimi, blitz the oreos with sugar so the soft filling breaks up into smaller, drier bits… Unless of course one is meant to remove the creamy part…

    Apr 30, 2012 | 10:05 am

  13. Natie says:

    Oh I remember the polvoron-making days of childhood years..i remember those Polvoron Molds..

    Apr 30, 2012 | 10:43 am

  14. bakerwannabe says:

    Can baby formula be used for baking when the recipe asks for powdered milk?

    Apr 30, 2012 | 10:55 am

  15. natzsm says:

    I love home made polvoron but simply find molding and packaging them so much trouble.

    I simply store my polvoron in bottles and eat them with a spoon.

    Apr 30, 2012 | 3:23 pm

  16. Footloose says:

    Linked back to the older polvoron posts and found in the comments some engaging exchange. Sister suggests that the flurry of post WWII polvoron making was a solution to the flood of skim milk coming into the country as USAID that the locals (that’s us) were not fond of drinking due mostly to force of habit and simple lactose intolerance. And of course, the powdered skim milk also came with weevly wheat flour and occasionally, gallon drums of real butter. All that one had to add was sugar and lots of free time.

    And the exchange about Star margarine quickly reminded me of a recent article in the Atlantic charting the history of hydrogenated vegetable fat. The money quote is: “What was garbage in 1860 was fertilizer in 1870, cattle feed in 1880, and table food and many things else in 1890.” — Popular Science, on cottonseed…http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/how-vegetable-oils-replaced-animal-fats-in-the-american-diet/256155/

    Apr 30, 2012 | 6:48 pm

  17. ConnieC says:

    Footloose: Thanks for the link.

    Our mantra should be “caveat emptor” for anything marketed to us by Madison Ave.

    And for a shocking documentary on aspartame , an example of how big business and politics influence what makes it to our dining tables, check this out, a bit long but well worth the time investment, if you value your health:

    the shorter version:

    The full documentary:

    Apr 30, 2012 | 7:47 pm

  18. Footloose says:

    Can’t agree with you more. Father Robert Farrar Capon’s suggestion about butter applies to everything we ingest, that if you are going to refrain from butter, you ought not to con yourself into accepting some nasty imitation…

    The health impact of trans-acid fat was not uncovered until close to a century later and this is exactly what I fear is happening with statin drugs.

    Apr 30, 2012 | 8:10 pm

  19. Kenikenken says:

    I once purchased a bag of baked polvoron (the label said so) in one of the touristy shops atop one of the chocolate hills. The texture was like that of uraro/puto seco cookies. I didnt realise that they used lard instead of butter until i popped it in my mouth. I had to spit it out though because I eat no pork. :)

    May 1, 2012 | 1:54 am

  20. Katrina says:

    My family’s very favorite polvoron is from the Daez house in Urdaneta. My mom even gives packs away as gifts to balikbayans, etc. It uses far more butter than usual, so it holds its shape when you bite into it, and even leaves a film of butter on the wrapper and your fingers. It also has pinipig, for a bit of crunch and flavor. It’s a more indulgent version of the traditional crumbly polvoron, and we LOVE it! I could eat half a pack if I didn’t stop myself.

    May 1, 2012 | 2:55 am

  21. Shasha says:

    I love polvoron.. Especially pinipig:)

    May 1, 2012 | 4:11 am

  22. alilay says:

    last christmas i made polvoron as gifts for the tenants in the apt. one of them asked if i am selling them and that started my sideline . agree with the flimsy molders i asked my sister to mail me some new ones and the first one broke already just testing on the spring good thing i still have the ones i carried with me when i came here in the us 10 yrs. ago, i bought them at SM and the molder is brass and so far it has earned me $150 already i use Nido fortified and butter which i only buy when on sale and stock up . the packaging is what is costing me $15 plus shipping for the food grade pre cut cellophane.

    May 2, 2012 | 2:44 am

  23. Eileen C says:

    “toast the shifted flour”….MM, did you mean the ‘sifted’ flour?
    Chocolate coated polvorons are also nice- the chocolate adds a nice crunchy texture when bit, then smoothens when it melts in the mouth, and mixes with the crumbly polovoron… Yum! ….adds calories, too!

    May 2, 2012 | 8:29 am

  24. gerry says:

    Mostly old polvoron gadgets were assembled using solder with lead on some occasions pure lead. They can be assembled now with tin based solders. Better still if they use silver.

    May 3, 2012 | 2:20 am

  25. Carmela says:

    Mmmmm polvoron. My favorite were the ones from Jo-nis in Santa Clara,Manila from years ago.

    May 3, 2012 | 10:44 pm

  26. John says:

    Hi marketman,
    My family in Carcar, for generations now, make polvoron with lard from impilya of the pig, anise, sugar; and we bake them. They do come out as cookies. Just like torta, the polvoron cookie is meant to be eaten with sikwate or coffee hence the heaviness. I was the one who made a comment in a previous post on torta, that torta without lard, lina, and native eggs is not torta anymore but a variation of a cake.
    I encouraged my classmates to revive the pastries that we took for granted would always ve around: the otap with yemas filling, otap with sesame seeds, ba-o ba-o, azucareta, bisocho de cana, etc. I hope someday you can taste them and be converted, hahahah.
    I went several times to your Zubochon outlet in Cebu when I was home. I still am getting used to the taste of rosemary and bellpeppers in inasal! In Carcar, pasyotes herb is used for roasted meats, that is why there is a distinct flavor of the inasal from our town compared to other towns in Cebu.

    May 4, 2012 | 11:41 am

  27. Marketman says:

    Hi John, how nice to know that there was once a version of the cookies that approximated the Spanish original. I have access to good lard from empilya, so I may try making them one day. However, I am finding that for many baked goods, my palate is now quite biased to butter as the fat, rather than lard, it simply has a more appealing flavor. However, I have made pie crusts with half lard, half butter and they are superb. I am presuming the herb you refer to as pasyotes is actually epazote, I have written about it before, and it is popular in some Ilocano dishes like pipian. The epazote was brought from Mexico on the early galleons plying the transpacific route… it has a strong distinctive flavor. For me these days, it isn’t so much about the stuffing that goes into the lechons, it is the amount of MSG. Of several lechoneros we invited to make lechons for us several years ago, the AVERAGE amount of msg that was mixed into the salt that was placed in the stomach of the pigs was from 1/2 cup to 1 cup of MSG. That’s just amazing. Some folks don’t mind the MSG, I don’t use it since there are so many other sources of flavor…

    May 5, 2012 | 7:55 am

  28. Kasseopeia says:

    Thanks for the blast fromt the past MM.

    Back when my mom still loved being in the kitchen, she and I made polvoron. It was flour, sugar, butter, and pinipig. I loved molding them – packing them down with the back of a spoon and adding a flower design made of pinipig before turning them out. When we ran out of cellophane, we left the rest in the bowl and ate with a spoon =)

    I will try it with nuts next time – maybe walnuts or almonds – with my whole family.

    May 6, 2012 | 1:52 am

  29. khrishyne says:

    lami kaayo labi na kung init pa..

    Jun 8, 2012 | 10:14 am


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