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Quindim – Brazilian Coconut Custard Cake

Quindim is one of the most popular Brazilian desserts. Primarily made from simple ingredients such sugar, egg yolks, and ground coconut, it is sometimes mentioned as Brazilian doughnut, or  flan.

Photo credit to Alessandro Martins (Flickr)

Origins

Being one of many Portuguese-influenced desserts in Brazil, this coconut custard cake was probably created in 17th century in the Northeast region by African slaves. Made with lots of eggs yolks and sugar as most of the original Portuguese desserts such Brisa-do-Lis, its recipe replaced the hard to find almonds, with the abundant ground coconut, which ended up giving it a completely different texture.

Quindim is prepared in small molds that are previously greased with butter and dusted with sugar. If big pudding ring molds (like a Savarin mold) are used, Quindim is then called Quindao and served by the slice.

There are early references that show how Quindim and other sweet treats have been made in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul since the 19th century, where they were initially served at the wealthy manor houses. Even today Pelotas continues to be well known by its rich sweets industry traditions that started to exist after the arrival of its first Portuguese immigrants that came from the central region of Portugal (Aveiro).

In recent years Quindim became very popular in Brazil, being one of the most frequently consumed desserts at many social gatherings such birthdays, weddings, christenings, or on traditional Sunday family’s luncheons.

Curious facts

According to wisegeek.com the word Quindim comes from a Bantu language of Sub-Saharan Africa, which was the birthplace of many of Brazil’s slaves during the 17th century. They used this term of their mother tongue when christening the sugar- and egg yolk-heavy dessert. Loosely translated, “quindim” mean “the gestures, demeanor, or humorous characteristics of adolescent girls,” but it also means dengo, charm (encanto).

A popular Brazilian saying states that the girl that prepares quindim for her boyfriend or fiance will be able to take him to the altar (i.e. marry him).

Brazilian writer Monteiro Lobato named a rhinoceros Quindim, because of his sweet character, in his famous children’s book collection – Sitio do Picapau Amarelo that he started writing in 1920 and that was later adapted to TV.

Since 2011, Catia Farias is running what is considered to be the first Quindim specialized gourmet store in the world. Located in São Paulo, Bendito Quindim  offers 14 additional exotic flavors of Quindim besides the traditional version: burnt coconnut (coco queimado), amaretto, apricot (damasco), banana, passion fruit (maracuja), amazena, nuts  Raisins au rum, coffee, pistachio, Belgian chocolate, pineapple, and raspberry. According to a 2012 SBT TV segment , about 40 trays with 21 quindins each are baked daily, totaling an average of 6,000 sold units on a weekly basis.

Recipe

This recipe is from the beginning of the century. It belongs to the Cannabrava family’s collection and is an example how Quindim was prepared in the estates of the interior of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Ingredients:

1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter
12 egg yolks
2 cups shredded coconut

Preparation:
 
Put the water in a saucepan and heat on high until boiling. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let it boil again for 5 minutes until sauce gets thick, add butter and remove to cool.
Preheat oven to 325F.
Add shredded coconut, egg yolks to the sauce and until ingredients are well blended.
Pour the batter into individual small pans previously buttered and dusted with sugar.
Place the pans inside a larger roasting pan with 4 cups of water inside and place it inside the preheated over.
Let it cook for about 30 minutes, until the custard is set and the top starts to be lightly golden brown.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven and let it cool.
Unmold the quindins and put them inside paper liners.
Serve them chilled.

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