I don’t know whether to blame genetics or Portugal’s amazing convent sweets (doces conventuais), but I have a huge sweet tooth! Both a blessing and a curse, my love of sweet treats is here to stay.
Before I delve into the main topic of this post, I want to explain to readers who are unfamiliar with Portugal what doces conventuais are. For centuries, nuns in Portugal would iron their habits using egg whites (presumably because this would keep them nice and stiff). So as not to waste the leftover egg yolks, they made egg yolk- and sugar-based sweets. God had to have been giving these women a helping hand because these treats are nothing short of heavenly! Over the last 6 centuries (since the discovery of Madeira and its subsequent sugar cane production, making sugar more widely available in Portugal), dozens of different convent sweets have been developed, with each region having its specialties. This means that convent sweet addicts like me have a wide variety to choose from.
One of my favorite varieties (is it possible to choose a single favorite?) is actually a little-known one called Beija-me Depressa, which means “kiss me quick”. If you ask me, they should be called “eat me quick”.
You can only find them in a single store (Estrelas de Tomar) in a single city called Tomar. They look like blobs of yellow purée but looks are deceiving: they are, in fact, soft, melt-in-your-mouth bites of sweet culinary bliss. The twelve “kisses” as I call them, come in an adorable 1960s box (Estrelas de Tomar was founded in 1960). This means you don’t even need to wrap them if you choose to gift a box to your loved ones. I can only assume they are loved ones – why else would you not eat them yourself?
Watch my blog for upcoming posts on the city of Tomar as well as my future attempt to make home-made Beija-me Depressa. I plan to make some for my American friends who were raised on Tastykakes, instead of sweets from heaven. Even if the result is only half as good as the real thing (I’m setting my expectations realistically), I believe they’ll still be utterly delicious. I recently found out that my great-great-grandmother used to make another convent sweet called (coincidentally) Estrelas de Tomar, so I’m hoping I’ve inherited not only the sweet tooth but also the magic culinary touch.