Guirlache is a candy which is typically made in the Spanish region of Aragon, and is very similar to nougat in that it's traditionally consumed during the Christmas holidays if you visit Spain (the cold season), due to it's high caloric value.
Guirlache is made of almonds and solidified caramel and all sort of dried fruit and nuts are added. It's origins goes back to the medieval Arabs, as they cooked it with whole or cut up almonds and sugar. Nowadays there are people who substitute the almonds for other nuts and use honey instead of sugar.
There are many variation and there's an assortment of nuts that can be used instead of almonds, such as pine nuts, walnuts, hazel nuts and pistachios. You can also add dried fruit such as raisins, as well as seeds like sesame or poppy. Sesame and poppy seed guirlache tends to be much thinner than the type made with almonds as the seeds are smaller. This means that this dessert is highly adaptable and can be made to suit whatever other ingredient you might want to accompany it with. For example, a guirlache made with pistachio nuts would go great with pistachio ice cream!
Guirlache has an high content of unsaturated fat -yes, the ones that are beneficial for the cardiovascular vascular system- and a large amount of vegetable protein and carbohydrates to a lesser extent.
We recommend a moderate consumption due to its high sugar and calorie content. It is not a good dessert for those people who suffer from illnesses associated with the gastric system or diabetes.
Although Guirlache is widely consumed during Christmas it can be found throughout Spain at any time of the year, and it can be bought as a nougat or on constructions on cakes. In fact, guirlache has become more popular recently due to this last usage. You could even combine one of the Spanish cakes found here on Spanish Food with guirlache, by using the guirlache as an interesting cake decoration ingredient. Guirlache also makes a great addition to any dessert, and goes especially well with ice cream.
There are a number of shops which dedicate themselves to the production and sale of guirlache in Spain. In such shops, guirlache tends to be made on mass on a large metal sheet. It is then sold in large tablets or in bitesize amounts which are then individually wrapped. One of the most famous guirlache shops is the Pastelería Fantoba which can be found in the city of Zaragoza. This shop has been making the sweet since the year of 1856, and still uses traditional methods to make it.
Perhaps guirlache has a higher difficulty level than other Spanish recipes as there is the danger of over cooking the syrup mixture which is then a nightmare to remove from the pan. However it uses common and easy to find ingredients which make it an ideal recipe for those people who want to try out some traditional Spanish cuisine but on a tight budget.
Remember that a healthier choice is substituting sugar for honey. Should you ever visit Spain, be sure to try Guirlache and many other typical Spanish nougats and candies that you might encounter while over there!