Christmas is a special family time and, as usual, it involves food and old traditions that get passed on from different generations. Back in Portugal we have a very rich culinary traditional, not only on the holidays but all year round. Our cook books go back hundreds of years and are filled with wonderful and tasty recipes of meat, fish and sweet treats. The baking art has been around for so long that it has evolved and followed the modern trends - you can find the most different breads, from the traditional (Mafra bread, Saloio bread, Portuguese rolls) to the most up to date versions of bread, with seeds, chia or whatever new trendy ingredient you can find.
The pastry and baking heritage is particularly strong when it comes to Christmas specific items. It's unimaginable a Christmas without Filhós or Coscoroes (depending on the region of Portugal you're in), Broas de mel, Sonhos (fried dough with a sugar and cinnamon coating) or Bolo-rei. There is also a different version of this cake, the Queen-cake, that doesn't have the sugary fruits, just the raisins and nuts. I do prefer that version but I wanted to represent the most traditional version which is the one I baked.
I used a recipe from a Portuguese blog, by Leonor de Sousa Bastos. It's an amazing blog dedicated to pastry and it really makes you hungry just by looking at the pictures! those are taken by photographer Miguel Coelho. I'd be more than happy if you would visit and take a look around the delicacies that Leonor shares with her readers. You can access the blog here. I adjusted some thing from the original recipe but kept the main recipe in the core ingredients.
1 - Get all your ingredients measured and lined up so you can get the recipe going smoothly.
2 - Dissolve the yeast in the slightly warm milk and add the flour. These are the first three ingredients on the list. Mix well to get the yeast dissolved and cover with some plastic wrap. Let it rest for about 15-20 minutes so the mix will double its size and creates some bubbles on the surface.
3 - In the meantime, mix the raisins with the Port wine to get the flavor developing.
4 - Use the mixer to beat the sugar with the butter, the orange, the lemon zest and the vanilla extract until the mixture get bubbly and whitish. Add the egg ad beat a bit more.
5 - Attach the dough hook to the mixer and add the first mix with the yeast, in the batter that you just prepared. Mix everything at a medium speed and add the remaining flour, bit by bit. Add the raisins with the wine and continue to mix the dough for about 25 minutes. Add some more flour if the dough seems to sticky.
6 - Add the nuts and the sugary fruits and mix just to get them evenly distributed throughout the dough. That the dough out of the mixer bowl and turn it into a ball. Place it on a bowl, dust it with flour and let the dough rise fr about an hour, an hour and a half. The time necessary for it to double in size.
I did add extra nuts regarding the original recipe but I do LOVE nuts and the more the merrier! Be sure to reserve some of the fruits and nuts to decorate the cake before baking it in the oven. The amount will depend on the size of the cake after rising but a good amount is best! Don't save them, use all you can!
7 - Take the dough out of the bowl, press it and wok it a bit and turn it into a round shape with a whole in the middle. If necessary place a heat resistant cup, upside down in the middle of the dough so the whole won't close while the cake is baking.
8 - Place the dough on a baking sheet and wait for another hour, hour and a half so it doubles in size again.
9 - Brush the top of the cake with the egg yolk and sprinkle some more sugary fruit and nuts on top of the cake, pressing them onto the dough, in order for them to stick well. Bake the cake in a 360 F oven until its golden and fragrant.
The cake didn't rise as I was expecting it to, probably due to the different conditions here. Altitude has a lot of influence on baking and rising dough but I'm not sure if that was the reason. Either way the taste was perfect and the cake was really soft.
I froze the cake, well wrapped in parchment paper and aluminum foil and had it it the oven right the next day to serve to my family, warm, right of the oven. It turned out great and it's also really tasty just warmed up a bit on the microwave.
It's usually served up for Christmas so I served it on a Christmas serving plate.
It's always a pleasure to share traditional Portuguese recipes, here on the blog, and I'd love to know if someone has tried this before. Let me know how it turned out!