Portuguese Sweets and Desserts: Part 2
I have told you before how most recipes for Portuguese sweets and desserts came to be - in Part 1 - how in the 15th century sugar started arriving to Portugal, because of the Portuguese Discoveries, how it rapidly went from a medicinal product to something to be used in cooking and baking and how the nuns played a big part in creating and perfecting desserts' and sweets' recipes in the convents throughout Portugal, being responsible for what are now called the Convent Sweets, which are such a big part of the Portuguese culinary.
As I told you before, there is nothing sweeter than those amazing recipes, those hidden secrets, that slowly throughout the centuries crawled their way into the villages and became a part of Portugal.
Now, I've covered briefly the historic background of Convent Sweets in Part 1 and then told you about some sweets from the south of the country - the Algarve - which is where I live, but now I would like to tell you about the Sweets from where I was born, the central region of Portugal, many times referred to as the Silver Coast.
Cities and towns like Coimbra, Aveiro and Ovar made an art out of using left over egg yolks, since the whites were used for a number of purposes other than cooking, such as ironing or purifying wine, leaving tons of yolks lying around. So, not sure what to do with so many egg yolks the nuns started inventing more sweets and desserts recipes.
Here you find exquisite sweets, so simple in their making, with so few ingredients and yet heavenly delicious, that it actually makes sense that they were created in convents:
- Bean tarts;
- Sweet egg threads (fios de ovos);
- Sweet egg sauce (ovos moles);
- Tentugal pastry (pastéis de tentugal);
- " Arrufadas ";
- Ovar sponge cake (Pão de ló de Ovar);
- And so many others...
Many may seem strange, I mean just the name sweet egg sauce doesn't seem very appealing, now does it? It may sound like a foreign concept, if you were not born into it.
I actually grew up around all these sweets, so just the name sweet egg sauce actually makes my taste buds go a bit crazy. Now, foreign as it may seem I can guarantee no one regrets trying these sweets, they are divine, they are refined in their simplicity and they are absolutely perfect. Most of them are actually so simple that it turns to be difficult to get it right, you see the secret is the time each step takes, it's in the way you stir, it's in how long it's in the oven, get it wrong for a minute or two and you have a train wreck, which means you may actually have to try the recipes more than once or twice before getting it right, but when you do, you will be a total rock star of Convent Sweets, the ultimate pro.
Aveiro's famous sweet egg sauce - Ovos moles
This sweet is probably the most famous sweet in Portugal alongside the pastéis de nata (custard pies). It is traditionally done in the city Aveiro, but it's easily found in other cities and towns in the central region of Portugal, since everybody loves it and it's sold throughout the country.
The sweet egg sauce (Ovos Moles - literally translated as soft eggs) can be eaten with a spoon or it is used to fill cakes and eaten like that. It can be a topping, a filling or just a plain sweet on its own. In Aveiro it is often sold within miniature barrels that mimic the barrels shipped aboard the traditional boats that sailed the Aveiro's Lagoon. The other way the sweet is traditionally eaten is as filling of cakes made only of a thin white waffle filled with the sauce. The waffles are shaped sea motifs, such as sea shells or whelks.
The waffle used is extremely thin and basically tasteless, so what you will really taste is just the " Ovos Moles ", which are sweet and rich and fill your mouth all creamy and wanting for more.
Now, in Aveiro you can actually buy leafs of this waffle already shaped, which means you just have to fill it in with the egg sauce, put another leaf on top and cut out the cakes.
But first things first, because you can't have the cakes, without the sweet egg sauce, so here is how you do it.
OVOS MOLES / SWEET EGG SAUCE RECIPE
12 egg yolks
12 tbsp of sugar
12 tbsp of water
In a saucepan, boil the sugar with the water until a temperature of 121ºC, approx. 2-3 minutes boiling. Stir with a spoon while it boils. Afterwards add the yolks to the water with the sugar, lower the heat to the minimum and stir until it thickens so it coats a spoon. Don't allow it to boil once the yolks are in, otherwise the sweet will get ruined.
Once it's done, let it cool down and then serve the sweet in small cups, which you can sprinkle with cinnamon, if you'd like.
As you may have noticed for each egg yolk you must have 1 tbsp of sugar and water, so you can make more or less sweet than you have on this recipe, just considering that.
And really can it get any simpler than this, just egg yolk, water and sugar? Don't forget to beat the egg yolks together well, before adding them in the sauce pan.
If you can get your hands on the waffle I told you about or if you can make it yourself (which personally I don't), you can make the cakes bellow. And don't they look delicious?...
Ovar Sponge Cake
Much like Aveiro's Ovos Moles, this cake was also a product of the nuns work and much like the first, the secret also made its way to the nearest town, which was Ovar. By the 18th century most inhabitants of Ovar knew the recipe and it was always an holiday favourite. There were small variations to the recipe from family to family, but the essence was always there - the most strange sponge cake ever. Instead of a dry and bit bland sponge cake, what you actually had was a moist cake, so moist it seemed it was under baked and it seemed that someone topped it with sweet egg sauce.
So by the end of the 19th century someone came up with the idea to make this Sponge Cake a gift for friends and clients at Christmas or any other holiday for that matter and everyone else thought it was such a great idea, since everybody loved Ovar sponge cake, which made it the perfect offer, that it started being sold in cake shops, instead of being just a sweet baked by moms at home for their families.
In Ovar, nowadays there are several cake shops specialized in this sponge cake, which means that they bake and sell nothing other than Ovar sponge cake. Although not as easily as Aveiro's sweet egg sauce, you can still find it in other parts of the country, but if you look closely at the label you'll see that it still comes from Ovar, because not many people outside Ovar actually know how to do it properly, since it's all about timing and patience.
- 18 Egg yolks
- 5 Egg whites
- 0,6 lbs / 250 grs Sugar
- 0,3 lbs / 125 grs Pastry flour
- Set oven to 356º F / 180º C.
- In a large bowl add the egg yolks with the whites and the sugar. Whisk these ingredients allowing them to thicken and increase in volume a bit. Do not use a blender at any stage.
- Add the flour, previously sifted at least twice, to the dough and gently mix together.
- If you have one, you should use a red clay pot to bake the cake in the oven, but if you don't have one, you can just use a regular round shaped cake mould with about 8.66 inch. / 22 cm in diameter.
- Butter the cake mould and then take a white baking paper (which is a bit thicker than your regular one) and line the mould with it, then butter the paper, also. Pour the batter into the cake mould and then bake it in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Once the 15 minutes have gone by, turn off the oven, open the oven door and leave the cake in until it cools. Don't serve it while hot.
- And you should come up with something like this... Enjoy!
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Now, you just have to figure out what to do with all the egg whites and wait for Part 3.
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© Copyright Oct 25 2012 / Algarveview.hubpages.com. To use part or the whole article you must first get written permission from the author. Feel free, nonetheless, to use an intro of the hub with a link to the article here on hubpages for the rest of the article.
© 2012 Joana e Bruno