Surely you have heard of this unique sweet with typical and themed shapes, which is a must-taste when visiting Aveiro. But then, where does this pastry come from and what is it made of? We are here to tell you all about the sweetest little barrels in the country.
It’s common knowledge that the food in Portugal is mouth-watering and charms everyone who visits the country. Besides the savory main dishes that go from codfish to veal, you will find even more delicious desserts and cakes. In Aveiro, known as “Portuguese Venice”, the most famous of these delights are the Ovos Moles (soft eggs).
The Origin of the Sweets
Like all convent-made sweets, we inherited this magnificent delicacy from one of the most important convents in the city, the Aveiro's Jesus Monastery.
When in the 8th century the Arabs brought the sugar cane to Portuguese territory, the people tried almost immediately to grow it, but the perfect place to do so was only discovered a few centuries later. It was in Madeira Island that we found fertile land and the perfect climate to plant and produce sugar. Since then, sugar manufacturing became one of the main economic activities.
The Creation of Sweet Eggs
A part of the sugar production went directly to the King, who then would take out a portion to use as donations for the convents. This way, the sugar entered the walls of Aveiro’s Jesus Monastery founded by Lady Brites Leitoa.
The Noble dame, married to Diogo de Ataíde, came from the court in Lisbon to live in Vagos, where she owned a bountiful farm. There she grew many food products, from cereal to wine and eggs, which were donated to the nuns. When the eggs entered the convent, the sugar which until then was used essentially in the pharmacy, gained a new purpose.
The egg whites were used by the nuns on the day to day life, for example for gumming clothes, so it was necessary to find a way as to not waste the yolks. They then decided to add them to sugar, forming a creamy and delicious paste, known today as egg sweet (doce de ovos). Later, to ease the handling and storing, this paste was placed inside host turning it into the delicacy we see today. The shapes of the Ovos Moles come to honor Aveiro’s connection to the ocean and the sea life and go from shells to whelks, and fish. The traditional barrels in which they were sold, were hand-painted with images allusive to the region’s fishing activities.
Fame and Traditions crossing Generations
The Ovos Moles were the first Portuguese sweets to win the designation of Protected Geographical Indication, this ensures its quality and guarantees that they are made using the traditional methods and recipes.
After the convent closed, the servant of the last religionist who lived there started cooking the dessert at home using the original recipe. By the hands of this skilled woman, the famous sweet jumped over the walls of the convent to sweeten the mouths of people around the globe.
Although this delight is sold everywhere in Portugal it was born in Aveiro, where the Confraternity of Aveiro’s Ovos Moles was founded.
If you pass through “Aveirense” territory, don’t hesitate in trying the delicacy in one of the many marvelous pastry shops in the city.
If you are skilled in the kitchen and want to try and recreate this typical sweet at home, the recipe is pretty simple and all you need is eggs, sugar, and water. So you don’t have to look much further, we will tell you the steps needed to achieve the perfect result.
♦ 8 egg yolks
♦ Sugar 150 g (approx. 8 tablespoons)
♦ Water 150 ml
1. In a small saucepan add the water and sugar and heat it until it starts bubbling. Turn the heat off and let it cool.
2. Then in another saucepan put the whisked egg yolks at low heat and start slowly adding the lukewarm sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon until you reach the desired thickness (it should be pretty pasty and drip with difficulty)
3. At last, take the egg mixture and pass it onto the pre-made host molds, a portion in each half. You can use an egg white to glue the two halves together and then scissors to cut the shapes. And there you have it, a delicious home-made dessert!
If there is any of the filling left after filling all the molds, you can use in many other cakes and sweets or, if you have a sweet tooth, you can just eat it as is with a spoon!
Are you curious to try these sweet pastries? Then take a look at our suggestions of tours in Aveiro:
And discover what to do in the Portuguese Venice!