Pastel Cordobés

Flaky Pastry With Candied Melon

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DOWN THE STREET FROM MY AUNTY CARMEN IS A CORNER CAFE THAT FROM THE OUTSIDE SEEMS A PRETTY PERFUNCTORY AFFAIR. THE OWNER, JAVIER, SELLS A FEW BAGS OF NUTS, SOME PACKET PASTRIES AND CANNED SOFT DRINKS. BUT HE’S PERPETUALLY BUSY BECAUSE HE MAKES GREAT COFFEE AND ALWAYS HAS A GREAT BIG PASTEL CORDOBÉS — A BIG PASTRY FILLED WITH CABELLO DE ÁNGEL OR ANGEL’S HAIR, A FANCY NAME FOR THE FLESH OF A PARTICULAR MELON THAT HAS BEEN CANDIED WITH SUGAR. (IN SPAIN IT’S CALLED CEDRA). IN SOME BAKERIES IN CÓRDOBA, JAMÓN IS ADDED TO THE ANGEL’S HAIR, MAKING A RATHER UNUSUAL BLEND OF SWEET AND SALTY. WHATEVER THE CASE THEY ARE ALWAYS EXCEPTIONALLY SWEET AND MAKE A GREAT LITTLE PICK-ME-UP WITH A MID-AFTERNOON COFFEE. OUTSIDE SPAIN, THESE FRUITS ARE AVAILABLE IN ASIAN GROCERY STORES AND ARE KNOWN AS SPAGHETTI SQUASH. IF THE MELONS ARE HARD TO FIND, SPANISH FOOD STORES USUALLY HAVE TINNED CABELLO DE ÁNGEL FILLING.

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Ingredients

  • 3.6 kg (8 lb) fresh cabello de ángel melons
  • 800 g (1 lb. 12 oz/ cups) caster (superfine) sugar, approximately, plus extra, to sprinkle
  • 1 quantity of rough puff pastry
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Method

Cut the skin from the melons and discard. Remove the seeds and discard; use only the fibrous part of the flesh. Coarsely chop and weigh the flesh — the melons should yield about 1.6 kg (3 lb 8 oz). Place half the equivalent weight in sugar in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add the melon flesh and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture bubbles. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 1½ hours, or until the mixture has a jam-like consistency — you now have angel hair. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Lightly grease two baking trays. Bring the puff pastry to room temperature, then cut into quarters. Roll out each quarter on a well-floured surface into a 20 cm (8 inch) square. Place one pastry square on each baking tray, then spread half the cooled angel hair mixture on each square, reaching almost to the edges. Brush the edges with the beaten egg, then cover with the remaining pastry squares. Press down the edges to seal well, then crimp with a fork.

Brush the tops with the beaten egg and sprinkle with extra caster sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave until cool. Cut into squares to serve.

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