Tocinillo de Cielo - Gastro Obscura


Tocinillo de Cielo

This heavenly custard was born from the leftovers of sherry winemaking.

The city of Jerez de la Frontera, in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, has specialized in sherry for thousands of years. Historically, winemakers clarified their product using egg whites, which resulted in tons of unused yolks. Legend has it that nuns at the local Convent of the Sacred Spirit found a delicious use for the leftovers in the 14th century: The good sisters turned the yolks into Tocinillo de Cielo, roughly translated as “bacon from heaven.” 

Despite containing no bacon, the name stuck in homage to the sweet’s high fat content and holy origins. Spaniards sometimes compare the rich dessert to Spanish flan, which is made using large quantities of sweetened condensed milk. However, the classic recipe for Tocinillo de Cielo contains nothing but egg yolks, sugar, and water, a feat that proved especially useful during times of shortage. Modern bakers, however, take advantage of a larger pool of available ingredients: Think citrus syrups, marzipan flavoring, and nuts, mint, or fresh fruit atop the smooth, silky custard.

Today, Spanish law protects sherry with designation of origin status, meaning producers can label wine “sherry” only if it hails from the Sherry Triangle (the nickname for the area that stretches between Jerez and the nearby towns of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María). Wine drinkers around the world know and love sherry, and Tocinillo de Cielo is sold in bakeries and supermarkets all over Andalusia, as well as in other wine regions around the country. That said, thousands of years of history is hard to shake: If it’s the highest concentration of Heaven’s Bacon you seek, the Sherry Triangle is the place to be.

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