Doces de espécie

Doces de espécie

Doces de espécie

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

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.

Doces de espécie

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.

Recipe adapted from here and by watching this video.

*Cooling Rack supplied by International Bakeware

Doces de espécie

 

Print Recipe
Doces de espécie
Unique to the historic town of Alcântara, these doces de espécie are for all you coconut lovers.
Doces de espécie
Course Dessert
Cuisine Brazilian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Topping
Pastry
Course Dessert
Cuisine Brazilian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Topping
Pastry
Doces de espécie
Instructions
Topping
  1. Place the grated coconut, caster sugar and butter into a saucepan. Using your hand, squish the ingredients together for 3-4 minutes until it's sticky and it feels like the sugar has dissolved. Toss in the cloves, cinnamon and water.
  2. Put the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes - or until it comes together and the coconut mixture feels sticky when you feel it between your fingertips.
  3. Set aside to cool completely before making the pastry.
Pastry
  1. Put the flour, salt and butter into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to incorporate the butter through the flour. Gradually add the water, pulsing frequently until the mixture starts to come together.
  2. Transfer the crumbly dough onto a work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and it springs back a little when poked. Add a little more water if too dry, or more flour if too sticky.
  3. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
To assemble
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper, then lightly spray with oil or grease with butter.
  2. Cut the rested pastry in half, leaving one half covered as you roll the other. If you have a pasta roller, it's time to dust it off and get it going again as it's much easier to get the uniform thickness for this pastry.
  3. If you only have a rolling pin, you need to get the pastry to a uniform 3 mm thickness. Same thickness applies when using the pasta roller.
  4. When you've rolled your pastry, including the reserved half, lay it into your work surface that's lightly dusted with flour. Take a round cutter or glass that has a 7 cm diameter and cut 22 rounds from the pastry. Lay the rounds straight onto the lined and greased baking trays.
  5. Gather the remaining pastry offcuts and squash it together again. Pinch off 22 small pieces (about 1 tsp) and roll each into a 3 cm stub. Next, take a small knife and cut 3 slits at one end (you can see in the photos), then wet your finger tip with a little water, dab the water on the opposite end of the pastry stub (not the cut side) and gently press it onto the edge of the pastry rounds. You basically want about 1 cm of the pastry pressed onto the edge of the rounds, with the rest poking outwards. This forms the "turtle head".
  6. Get your pre-made coconut topping and measure 2 tbsp of it (tightly packed), cool this into a ball, then form it into a flat-ish disc between your palms. This sits on top of the pastry discs (check my photos), with a few millimetres to spare between the coconut topping and pastry edge.
  7. You should still have some pastry left over, so roll it nice a flat again (2-3 mm) and then cut this into thin lengths. I used the spaghetti cutter on my pasta roller to make life easier. Alternatively roll the thin cut strands under your palms on the bench to get a very thin string of pastry.
  8. You use this thin pastry to form the decorative swirl on top of the coconut, gently pressing as you lay it down otherwise it'll fall off in the oven when baking.
  9. Once you've topped and decorated all of your doces de espécie, take a toothpick or skewer and crimp the edges by simply pushing inwards at 5 mm intervals.
  10. Lightly brush the doces de espécie with the beaten egg and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden. If they start to puff up during cooking, simply take a small knife and poke it into the pastry to stop it inflating.
  11. Allow the doces de espécie to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

The coconut topping can be made 1 or 2 days in advance.

Share this Recipe
  • I really like coconut but don’t really cook with it all that often. These cookie-tarts may change my mind. While I don’t have a fancy coconut grater like you, I do see bags of frozen fresh coconut which would definitely be better than dried, or dried-then-rehydrated. I love the shape!

  • Those are really beautiful cookies, and they sound delicious.

  • These are so super cute. And I’ve been tempted by the fresh coconut grater a few times. Fresh coconut makes such a difference!

  • Perfect round delightful cookies and from Brazil. How fantastic!

  • KevinIsCooking

    These are fantastic and that amazing coconut grater you have found? Holy smokes that is so cool and saves knuckles getting mashed on the grater! Awesome job on these, just beautiful.

  • Here I thought you were shooting the baker making these and you made them. I’m impressed!! They look great and I’m trying to figure out what you’re drinking along with the cookie/tarts/sweets. Great story.

    • It’s Guaraná Antarctica, a soft drink that’s popular all over Brazil. I made these in Sydney before coming to Brazil and found Guaraná at my local grocer in Sydney.

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