El Convento de Corpus Christi in Madrid.
There is a doorbell to the left of the giant studded door which you ring and tell them you'd like to buy sweets and they will buzz the door open for you. Then you enter a small room where there is a menu of baked goodies and a price list next to a framed opening with a lazy Susan in the center.
A nun's voice will shout something from behind the wall in Spanish, which we didn't understand, but was probably along the lines of, "What would you like?" When we didn't answer, she spun the lazy Susan which magically disappeared around the back and reappeared with a variety of cookies, biscuits, and confections to choose from. We selected a box, checked the price on the price list, and placed the money on the lazy Susan, which she then spun around again, all without us ever catching a glimpse of her.
I thought the whole transaction was precious and felt like we were supporting a truly good cause. Selling their baked goods is a valuable source of income for these nuns to support their existence as well as their 17th century convent. Convento de Corpus Christi is open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Some of their recipes have been preserved over the ages from the Moors and include almond biscuits, caramel topped sugar cookies, Sherry mantecados, and orange flavored sweets. Prices for a dozen run about 7€ - 9€.
In Seville we went to check out another convent, Convent Tienda El Torno, but were disappointed that it wasn't a convent at all - or not that we could tell - because the address was a shop, staffed by a young woman, who sold pastries over the counter. I was not impressed and so we left, but there are apparently several other dessert-selling convents in Seville that may be more fun to purchase from.
We ventured the experience again in Arcos de la Frontera, Spain, at the Convent of the Mercedarian Nuns, the last remaining convent in Arcos.
I am truly fascinated by the lives these nuns lead, cloistered in this old building, avoiding any direct contact with the public. Notice the window grills high up on the windows and the peepholes for the sisters to see through.
Again, you enter the lobby and approach the blind cupboard where the cookies appear after a greeting from a faceless voice. You make your choice, leave your money, and if you're getting change it will spin around again. An absolutely charming transaction that I'm afraid is a dying art with fewer and fewer nuns in the world.
Our powdered sugar nutty confections were delicious.