Espécies is a traditional pastry from the Azores, a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that belong to Portugal. The pastry is made with a combination of spices, including cinnamon, anise, and cloves, that give it a warm and fragrant flavor. It is typically served during the Christmas season, but can also be found year-round in bakeries throughout the islands. The dough is rolled out and cut into thin strips, then filled with a mixture of sugar, butter, and breadcrumbs that have been spiced with the fragrant spices. The strips are then rolled up and formed into a wreath shape before baking. Espécies are a beloved sweet treat in the Azores and are often enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea.
Zest from 3 lemons
1 teaspoon of anise essence
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
24-ounce can of bread crumbs + 2 cups toasted
4 cups water
4 cups of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cold water
Preheat your oven to 350°F and toast your bread crumbs for 10 minutes. We will first make the filling. In a large pot, combine your water, sugar, and butter and bring to a boil. Lower your heat and toss in your cinnamon, lemon zest, anise essence, and red pepper. Mix thoroughly and let it simmer. Once done, turn your heat off and add in your leftover bread crumbs. You want to make sure all the ingredients are mixed well. Leave them to cool or until they reach room temperature. Once cooled, you can butter your hands and begin rolling out the mixture. You want to roll out the filling thinly, creating 1⁄3” thick roll.
To make the dough, you want to thoroughly beat together your eggs, sugar, salt, and butter. Toss in your flour and slowly add in your water while mixing. Your dough should not be sticky, so take note if you may need to add more water or flour. Knead your dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Dust flour onto a flat surface and roll out your dough very thin. Use a small pastry cutter to cut 7 diagonal pieces that are 1 inch long and 1⁄2 inch wide from each other. Place the filling directly on top of the lines and fold the dough over. The filling should be poking out of the cuts. Press the dough up against the filling and cut the dough about 1⁄3 inch away from the filling using the pastry cutter. Bend the dough to form a wreath and bake for 10-12 minutes.
Here are some tips for baking Espécies:
The spices used in Espécies are the key to their flavor, so make sure to use fresh cinnamon, anise, and cloves to get the best results.
Roll the dough out thin: The dough should be rolled out as thin as possible so that the pastry is crispy and flaky.
Use a non-stick surface: When rolling out the dough, use a non-stick surface like parchment paper or a silicone mat to prevent the dough from sticking.
Don’t overfill the pastry: It’s important not to overfill the pastry with the spiced sugar mixture, as this can cause the pastry to burst during baking.
Brush with egg wash: Before baking, brush the Espécies with egg wash to give them a glossy finish.