There are many traditional sweet delicacies of Portugal. Pastel de Nata, the custard tart, no doubt has to be the most famous. The Bolo Rei (“King’s Cake”) is given as a gift and enjoyed at Christmas. Yet, is seems, it is Ovos Moles that really get the Portuguese excited. These unique confections originate from the central Portugal city of Aveiro. This is the story…..
Ovos moles are sweets, originating in the convents, made of egg yolks and sugar, wrapped in a thin wheat crust (the same dough used for “Hosts” in Catholic Masses). The sweets are molded into shapes symbolic of the Aveiro region, such as clams, mussels, fish, crabs, barrels, sea buoy, sardines and walnuts.
Legend has it that ovos moles came about by a nun with a sweet-tooth at the Convent of Jesus. She was being forced to fast by her Mother Superior for committing the sin of gluttony. Disobeying the order, she grabbed the only ingredients in the kitchen–eggs and sugar–and began to concoct something tasty. Fearful of being caught, she hid the mixture inside the batter used to create the Hosts. The next day, after the ingredients had set, the nuns discovered the confection and deemed it so perfect, it could only be a miracle from God.
1n 1882, Odilia dos Anjos Soares learned of the recipe from an employee of the convent. She founded Casa da Ovos Moles and created the brand Maria da Apresentação da Cruz & Herdeiros. The recipe and business has been passed down from generation-to-generation.
Today, Mrs Silvina Raimundo continues producing ovos moles with the original recipe, in a traditional kitchen with traditional copper pots and utensils. It is an old-fashioned, manual process that has survived the centuries.
With coordination by Turismo de Portugal Centro, Portugal Confidential was given permission to observe the ovos moles-making process up-close:
Hundreds of eggs are broken, and the whites are separated from the yolks. The yolks are blended with sugar and a little water. The mixture is poured into a copper pot and heated over a traditional fire stove. A worker will stand and stir the mixture for two hours (below left).
Once the egg sugar mixture has reached the perfect consistency, it is poured into a large metal food pan and cooled in a refrigerator.
When the mixture reaches room temperature and is still soft, it is spooned into a mold (above right). The mold is made of wheat (Host) dough and is already formed into many predefined shapes. When two of the molds are full, they are placed into a customized press and squeezed together to create the three-dimensional sweet.
The mold is then pulled from the press and each form is trimmed by hand with scissors (above left).
Finally, each form is dipped into a sugar syrup, creating a slight shine and thin sweet coating (above right).
Maria da Apresentação da Cruz packages their ovos moles in cardboard boxes tied with a decorative string, or in ceramic barrels to give as gifts. A shop at the front of the kitchen makes it easy to drop in for ovos moles and coffee, or to take dozens with you for firends and family.
The European Commission has distinguished ovos moles with a Protected Geographical Indication.
For more information, visit the Maria da Apresentação da Cruz website.
Maria da Apresentação da Cruz, Herdeiros
Rua D. Jorge Lencastre, 37
Phone: +351 234 422 323
For more delicious sweets from Portugal, see our posts on: