Coca de Llardons & Coca de Llavaneres
...and you might think: "what the hell is 'coca de llardons' and 'coca de llavaneres'?! Well, let me introduce you to this tradition: this type of puff pastry cakes are very typical treats to eat during Sant Joan's Day (Saint John's Festival) and specially the night before (23th and 24th of June). It's one of my favorite festivities because it kinds of marks the beginning of summer in Spain. We could officially call it the celebration of Midsummer's Eve (St. John's Eve among Christians) and it's also the shortest night of the year here.
People celebrate the evening with dinners, parties, firecrackers (more than fireworks) and bonfires all over Barcelona and Catalonia. Parties are usually organised at beaches and other open-air places. The day after (the 24th) is a public holiday, so the party goes on until sunrise and almost all clubs and bars in the city throw their own parties.
I particularly don't like to party hard or hang out during certain holidays cause people can go nuts and I can't deal with drunk bastards or overcrowded places. The idea of being surrounded by sweaty people dancing to some headache-causing techno music is not so attractive to me, so I prefer to enjoy a more laid-back evening and feast on my homemade cakes.
Let's focus on these two recipes now!
Coca de Llardons
Beware vegans! The star ingredient in this recipe are 'chicharrones' and they are like crunchy fried pork fat. This ingredient is commonly confused with pork cracklings but it's not the same, actually I'm a afraid you won't find this outside Spain because latin-american 'chicharrones' are way different.
Needless to say this puff pastry cake has an indecent amount of calories, that's why I ONLY bake it once a year but oh! It tastes SO GOOD! So I try to eat as light and healthy as possible the last few weeks before this holiday and indulge on these cakes just for one night (...and some leftovers the morning after, hee hee).
2 large puff pastry sheets.
100g crushed llardons/chicharrones.
Preheat oven to 374ºF (190ºC).
Roll out the first puff pastry (don't forget to poke holes with a fork to prevent the pastry from rising too high) sheet and brush a bit of anisette all over and dust with some ground cinnamon. Pour all over half the sugar and then add the crushed 'chicharrones'. Add the rest of the sugar (reserve a bit to decorate), a few little drops of anisette and finally a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Cover with the second sheet of puff pastry and make sure you seal the cake well.
Brush the crust with egg (whisked) and to decorate dust with the remaining sugar and pine nuts.
Bake for around 30 minutes, until the cake is golden.
Note: use an aluminium baking sheet lined with parchment paper to bake this cake and the following one.
Coca de Llavaneres
Probably my favorite puff pastry cake! It may look thin but it actually has 5 different layers and an amazing combination of flavors and textures: the sugar crunchy top followed by a delicious fine layer of meringue and pine nuts, a tender marzipan coat and then a delicious layer of pastry cream between two puff pastry sheets. It's a yummy, simple and easy-to-make cake!
For the cake:
2 large puff pastry sheets.
75g almond flour.
1 tsp cornstarch.
a pinch of salt.
lemon and orange zest.
1 tsp vanilla extract.
100g egg whites.
75g pine nuts.
For the pastry cream:
1 cinnamon stick.
3 egg yolks.
Make a marzipan dough mixing the almond flour, cornstarch, sugar (reserve a bit for the last step), salt and the orange and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add in a bit more than half the amount of egg white to the dough and mix until you get a puree texture. Set aside.
At this point it's time to prepare the pastry cream so it can cool completely while we are cooking the rest of the cake.
To make the pastry cream: whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until pale and creamy, add in the cornstarch. In a medium saucepan pour in the milk and add the cinnamon stick and the lemon peel, bring to boil and remove the cinnamon and lemon. Return to heat and add the egg yolk-sugar mixture to the hot milk and stir until thick and creamy. Make sure there are no large lumps or bumps, you might need to strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface to prevent skin-forming and set aside. It must be cold before using it for the cake.
Roll out one of the puff pastry sheets and poke holes in the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Spread the pastry cream evenly all over the puff pastry sheet, leaving a 1-inch border approximately. Cover with the other pastry sheet and brush the crust with egg (I whisk the egg always). Spread the marzipan over the top.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (add a pinch of cream of tartar) and cover the marzipan layer with this 'meringue'.
To decorate: add the pine nuts and the remaining sugar from the first step.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 374ºF (190ºC) for about 30 minutes.
Let it cool completely before serving.
Feliç Revetlla de Sant Joan a tothom!!!!/ Happy Midsummer's Eve to everybody!!!