The list of Doce conventuais,( literally sweets made in convents) is extensive.Variations of these confections appear all across Portugal.Although nuns were known for their inventiveness in regard to sweets,and monks for their wines,this does not mean that monks could not create some sweet concoctions of their own too.Manjar celeste, heavenly food, just gives its origin away,you guessed, it was a convent.
Many of these delights have celestial names.Toucinho de céu "heaven's lard", or "bacon from heaven” I have already introduced to you in a post last week.
I love the idea of a Barriga de freira - nuns belly, and also a typical Christmas specialty from the north of Portugal that is called Orelhas de Abade - abbot´s ears. My favourite of all however has to be papos de anjo,(angel´s breasts). Anything called angel´s breasts must surely be delectable, tender and sweet. Inspired by all this I wanted to make something light and heavenly.
Anyway, so I had some fresh Requeijao (ricotta)cheese to hand.I found a recipe for Fritoli de lino from Antonio Carluccio’s book “An Invitation to Italian Cooking.”I bypassed this recipe as it was much too complicated, but what I loved was the name. Carluccio said that he had decided that due to their heavenly lightness the only way to describe them was “angel’s farts,”I felt I had found the sentiment and gist of the recipe I was searching for but had to look further for one with a simpler method.
When Bunuelos came up on my computer screen I knew I´d finally found what I was looking for. Originating in Colombia, Bunuelos are enjoyed all over Latin America in different forms, especially at Christmas time.Perfect, but just when i thought I had this sorted I found myself with a dichotomy.I could neither get the correct cheese or the correct flour ( yucca flour or tapioca starch) here in Portugal so what substitutes should I use. Should I go for sweet or savory so I thought would make two types.
Traditionally these Colombian delicacies are made with Costeño cheese (Queso Costeño) which is a Colombian white cheese that is a little saltier and harder than Quejo Fresco. My compromising solution for the savoury version was to go for for a combination of feta and Requeijao. because to me this would be the nearest match to Queso Costeño and Requeijao, like Ricotta, can be deployed either way, sweet or savoury.In place of the yucca I used potato flour.
For the sweet version I followed a traditional recipe but found I had to amp up the quantity of flour to make the dough workable.The result was amazing,my savory bunuelos were speaking my language while they were still cooking. Their strong cheesy aroma was testing the patience of my palate and when I removed them from the fryer it was hard not to take a nibble at the risk of burning my tongue.When they cooled the flavour was intense and delicious but the texture was slightly denser than I had expected.Next time i will be braver and use just queijo fresco, amping up the flour quantity as in the sweet version.The sweet version was more what I had expected; a cross between a doughnut and a choux bun- deliciousness.Some elements of improvisation and intuition are needed when making these.The dough in each case should be malleable enough to roll into balls without being inelastic.Oh I was pleased,these turned out to be oh so easy without me even having to don a wimple or wear a bad habit.To keep up the celestial tradition of doces conventuais and as a token gesture to Signor Carluccio, I named my little angels “nádegas de querubim” ( cherubic buttocks )
“Nádegas de querubim” Cherubic buttocks
Makes about 18 buñuelos
2 cups queijo fresco
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup potato flour
1.5 tablespoons light brown sugar,such as muscovado
1/2 teaspoon salt
sunflower oil for frying
Make sure that the cheese is broken up very finely. You can use a food processor for this.
Mix the cheese, corn starch, potato flour, sugar, salt, and egg in a large bowl until well blended.
Shape the dough into 1 inch diameter balls.I rolled mine in an assortment of sizes to create a bit of visual contrast when served.
Heat several inches of oil in a heavy pot or deep fryer to 350 degrees.
Add the buñuelos, a few at a time, and cook. They will sink to the bottom, then rise and expand. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they are golden brown very round and have risen to the surface.
Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.
“Nádegas de querubim” Cherubic buttocks
Makes about 24 buñuelos
1 cup queijo fresco
1 cup feta
3/4 cup corn starch
2 tablespoons potato flour
Follow same method as above
If you have yucca flour or tapioca starch use that in place of potato flour