Guirlache--a dark almond brittle--is an old-fashioned Spanish candy traditionally enjoyed around Christmas and Día de Reyes, King's Day, along with many other holiday sweets and cookies, such as bombones de chocolate o divinos, chocolate pralines (pralinés de chocolate), and cookies such as mantecados and polvorones . See La Tienda's dessert page for a large selection of Spanish Holiday sweets.
Andrés, my father-in-law, loved guirlache, and I do too. It's one of my all-time favorite candies. What makes guirlache so special is that the sugar and nuts are toasted deep brown until they take on spicy, almost piquant flavors.
If you are in Madrid, a great place to buy artisanal guirlache is the famous old candy and pastry shop, Casa Mira.
Also, mass-produced guirlaches are now available in supermarkets all over the country. These are good, though they lack the super-high quality of artisanal guirlache.
A turrón de guirlache is one of the easiest Spanish candies to make at home. Nothing could be simpler. It's just almonds and sugar. The key is all in the timing. You want to deeply toast the sugar and almonds without burning them. This can be done by eye. No candy thermometer necessary.
You can also experiment with different types of sugar for flavor variations. For this post I used a demerara type natural brown sugar.
Here's the recipe
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of raw almonds
First, peel the almonds. This is easy. Just bring a pot of water to a boil. Throw in the almonds. Let them boil 30 seconds. Drain them and rinse them off until they're cool enough to handle. Now they will be easy to peel.
Now cook the sugar over medium heat in a heavy bottom pot.
When it melts, stir in the almonds.
Cook the almonds and sugar until deeply toasted. The color of most guirlaches is between amber brown and chocolate brown.
Place a piece of lightly oil parchment on a cutting board, a baking sheet, a piece of marble, or anything else flat that can take heat. Pour the almonds and sugar onto the parchement. With wooden spoons or spatulas, give it the shape you like. Circles (tortas) and rectangles (turrón) are typical.
The candy will begin to harden. Before it becomes completely hard, cut it into pieces with a knife.
Let the guirlache cool completely, and there you have it.