I’m a little curious about the translation for these little things.
Doces de espécie translates from Portuguese as “kind of sweet” when you ask Google, but I think it may be more along the lines of ‘special sweet’. Who knows?
Aside from the curious name, these are some rather addictive little cookies – cakes – tarts or whatever category they fall in. They’re unique to the town of Alcântara on the northern Atlantic coast of Brazil; a town that once flourished during the cotton trade, but dwindled when slavery was done away with.
Read more about my visit to Alcântara here.
Doces de espécie take on the appearance of tortoises. Why? That’s something else I’d like to know. A round savoury pastry base, a small protrusion that forms the head of the tortoise, and a mound of sweet macaroon-like coconut forming the shell. There’s even a swirl of pastry on top; much like the marginals on a real tortoises shell.
With coconut being the main ingredient, freshly grated coconut seems like the way to go no matter what recipe you look at online. Should anyone attempt this recipe at home with the idea of using dried desiccated coconut, I’m not sure what the outcome would be. If anything, I’d probably rehydrate it in some warm water – draining it it really well before using it.
Thanks to owning a fab little coconut grater I picked up at the Fiji Market in Sydney many years ago, grating the coconuts is a breeze. Beats hacking the flesh out of the shell, dangerously slicing off the outer skin and laboriously grating it by hand.
One thing I did do differently to the recipes I looked at online, is I brushed on a little egg before baking them. It adds more colour to the coconut and pastry; especially when baking in a regular oven, rather than a wood-fired oven like Alcântara resident Dona Maria made in this video I watched numerous times before making them myself.
*Cooling Rack supplied by International Bakeware