Doces de espécie
Unique to the historic town of Alcântara, these doces de espécie are for all you coconut lovers.
  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.
  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.