Even if you’re not fluent in Portuguese, you may certainly recognize the word “camel” in “camelo”. That’s because the name of this dessert literally translates to “camel drool”. But please keep reading! There’s absolutely no drool in this recipe and no exotic ingredients either. What makes this sweet treat such a favorite of mine is that a) it’s perfect for parties as it’s super easy to make (and can be made the day before), and b) I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it.
Even though Portugal is known for its egg-based conventual sweets, Baba de Camelo doesn’t actually fall under this category… Nobody really knows the origin of this recipe, but the most widely-accepted version is the following: A lady called Valentina had some guests over late one night. Not having much food at home but wanting to feed her guests, she improvised a dessert using condensed milk and eggs. Fearing there wouldn’t be enough of her dish to go around, she decided to name it baba de camelo (probably due to the color and texture) to deter some of the guests from trying it. It worked, but the brave ones who tasted it were pleasantly surprised… Remember, fortune favors the bold! Now be bold, and make this recipe.
1 can condensed milk (or, for cheaters, cooked condensed milk/dulce de leche)
Optional: grated or finely sliced almonds
1. To start, cook the condensed milk (in the can) in a pressure cooker for about 40 minutes or in a pot of water for 2-3 hours. I found some great step-by-step instructions on how to do this here. Alternatively, you can cheat a little by using a pre-cooked can of condensed milk, like the one I got from Portugal, or using a can of dulce de leche. However, there’s definitely a difference in flavor when you cook the condensed milk yourself, so make the extra effort if you can.
2. Once the condensed milk has cooled to nearly room temperature, put it in a bowl. Separate 6 eggs (keep all the yolks to one side) and beat the egg whites to a firm peak.
3. Add one of the yolks to the condensed milk and beat. Repeat this step for the remaining yolks, making sure to beat in each one individually. You should end up with a smoother, creamier version of the condensed milk.
4. Fold in about 1/5 of the egg whites. Keep folding it in, little by little, until the mixture is uniform. Please be sure to fold – not stir or beat – the egg whites, so as not to remove the fluffiness of the dish.
5. Place the mixture into either one big serving bowl (if you’re taking it to a friend’s house, or if you’re just making it for yourself at home), or into individual bowls. (Tip: this dessert looks really nice in old fashioned ice cream bowls.) Place your big bowl or the individual bowls in the fridge and leave to set for a few hours (for big bowls, give it at least 3 hours). Don’t forget to lick the bowl clean!
6. When you’re ready to serve, decorate the top with some grated or thinly sliced almonds. Alternatively, choose a topping that you like, such as a little bit of ground coffee beans.
Have you made baba de camelo before? How do you like to top yours?