Treasures I bring home from my travels are mostly not material. They are memories, pictures, and recipes. I love traveling for many reasons, but seeing my friends who live far away is the most valuable experience. And sometimes, I am lucky to meet in real life people I knew for years virtually, which always feels magical to me. That’s why my last trip to Barcelona was so special. It completely changed my views on pastry world AND I finally have met in person two wonderful women I knew virtually for ages — Maria and Julia. Both of them are passionate about food and are my never-ending inspiration for traditional and modern Spanish dishes and desserts.
An inspiration for this recipe came from two unexpected directions. My friend, pastry chef Diana, mentioned her based on sweet Spanish coca seasonal hit with candied pumpkin and pine nuts. The day I processed half of my Cinderella pumpkin for this dessert, we were invited for dinner — our neighbors threw a party for their visiting Puerto-Rican relatives. To my surprise, among other delicacies, I found chunks of candied pumpkin served as an appetizer to pair with queso fresco. My neighbor explained it was seasonal and traditional calabaza en tacha. I ran home to bring my version to share, and we were enjoying them side by side. While Latin American candied pumpkin is darker, sweeter, spicier, and made of whole or big chanks, Diana’s is grated, doesn’t use any spices, elegantly citrusy, and light. If you stop on earlier stages, pumpkin flavor will be recognizable. If you continue until most of the moisture is evaporated, your guests won’t be able to say what this treat is made of. I’ve heard people comparing it to other fruit from apricot to quince.