11 July 2016

Sweet treats - tocino de cielo and sultanas de coco

Last month at a party we were invited to try two of Andalucía's traditional sweets. They are often made together, because one uses the whites of egg while the other uses the yolks.

Tocino de cielo literally means "fatty bacon from heaven" yet it contains no bacon, no fat and is definitely an earthly pleasure.  It is made with sugar and egg yolk, and the first written record of it is dated 1324 in Jerez de la Frontera.  The reference to tocino comes from its appearance, creamy-yellow with a brown "skin".

Jerez has always been a wine-growing region, and egg whites were used to clarify the wine in the barrel.  The leftover yolks were taken to a local convent where the nuns turned them into this heavenly custard.

Although tocino de cielo can be found all over Spain, Jerez council have applied for it to be given its own protected designation of origin.

Another way of using up the spare egg yolks was the candié, derived from the English "candy egg" (most of the sherry bodegas were British or Irish owned). A couple of yolks were beaten into a glass of sweet sherry, sometimes with sugar or cinnamon added.

During the famine years of the 20th century this was a cheap and popular way of increasing children's protein intake. Many jerezanos today have fond memories of this childhood treat.

Recipe - Tocino de Cielo

For the caramel:
150g sugar
1 cup water
Squeeze of lemon juice

Boil the ingredients in a small saucepan on a medium-low heat, stirring regularly until you have a dark amber colour. Remove from heat and set aside. 

If you don't want to make your own caramel you could use 3 tbsp golden syrup or the Spanish equivalent, miel de caña.

For the custard:
125g water
250g sugar
7 egg yolks

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and put in a tray of water as a bain-marie. 
  2. Bring the sugar and water to the boil in a saucepan and leave on a low heat for 20 minutes to obtain a thick syrup. Let it cool. 
  3. Put the yolks in a bowl and mix them gently. Add the syrup little by little and stir without beating until it’s all mixed in. 
  4. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any unwanted lumps of egg white. 
  5. Spread the caramel over the bottom of a 10x20cm tin and pour in the egg mxture (you can also use individual silicone moulds.)  Let it rest a few minutes.
  6. Put the tin into the bain-marie and cook for 30 min or until set. 
  7. Once cool, put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. To serve, innvert it onto a plate so the caramel is at the top.
Sultanas de coco are a good way to use up the egg whites, since you presumably aren't going to be clarifying sherry with them.  Just to confuse you further, these little coconut cakes don't contain sultanas, which are pasas in Spanish.  They are of Arab origin and it is documented that Abd-ar-Rahman III, first Caliph of Córdoba in the 10th Century, offered them to his dinner guests. The Sultana was the Caliph's wife.

These tasty little cakes are popular today all over Spain, often produced and sold in convents. They are also known as coquitos or coquadas.

Recipe - Sultanas de Coco
250g grated coconut
250g icing sugar
Whites of 5 eggs
Yolks of 2 eggs, beaten
Drop of vanilla essence
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. 
  2. Beat the egg-whites to stiff peaks and carefully mix in the beaten yolks (save a spoonful for glazing), vanilla essence, coconut and sugar. Leave for half an hour in the fridge. 
  3. Put the mixture into a pastry bag and squeeze into little peaks on a baking tray lined with oven paper. They should be quite small and not too high, because they cook very quickly and you don’t want them raw in the middle. 
  4. Paint them with the rest of the egg yolk mixed with a little water. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.