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Tourists who venture to the Pacific coastal city of Aveiro, in northwestern Portugal, will encounter a range of distinctive desserts, including a few unique to the area made almost entirely of eggs, or ovos — a staple of many South American desserts. The dish ovos moles, or oros moles de Aveiro, means they are the "soft eggs of Aveiro." In keeping with the name, these dessert treats not only resemble an egg in color and shape, but they are made almost entirely of egg yolks, sweetened with sugary syrup and a white coating of communion wafer.
The ingredients needed for a batch of ovos moles is short — egg yolk and sugar syrup, along with any added accoutrement like cinnamon or vanilla. It is the process of making them that can be complicated. Originating from a centuries-old treat made by an Aveiro convent, the dessert has long been adored by royals and roustabouts alike for its simple way of making a savory treat sweet.
Two simultaneous actions must take place to begin creating ovos moles. Egg yolks must be separated from the whites, either by hand or with a separating device. Then, the eggs are beaten to a froth. Meanwhile, a sugar syrup is being made with just sugar and water, cooked over moderate heat to a thin largely un-caramelized paste. For a batch with eight egg yolks, chefs will use 0.33 cup (or 79 ml) of water and 1.25 cups (or 296 ml) of sugar.
After the syrup has fully cooled, it is vigorously beat into the egg yolks and cooked up in molds or shallow pans at about 230°F (or 110°C). Once firm, the ovos moles are set out or refrigerated to cool. Final preparations may involve pressing or molding the sugary egg matter in a whitish wafer-like packaging or even leftover egg whites, to resemble the egg's other components.
Added touches of flavor are occasionally incorporated into ovos moles to lend the final product a distinctive twist. Some of these additions include citrus zest or cocoa powder. The options are myriad. The material is not always used in egg form, though. Often it is laid as a sheet between communion wafers. Other times, bakers use it as a rich, protein-laden frosting for a cake. No matter the method, it may take several attempts before a proper combination of egg and sugar can be found.