Are you familiar with Spanish desserts? If not, you’ll definitely want to try this delicious pastry! You probably know all about our tapas, paella, wine, seafood, and so on… but we also have great desserts. Coca de San Juan is one of them.
San Juan is celebrated on the night of June 23rd. This happens to be the shortest night of the year and the beginning of summer. In many parts of Spain, this night is celebrated in several different ways, and one of them involves classic dishes of course. After all, what’s a celebration without food?
Today, we are going to make a delicious pastry that those who live on the eastern coast of Spain prepare that particular night: Coca de San Juan. The original recipe has pine nuts on top; however, we’re using almonds instead, as they may be easier (and cheaper!) to find.
The almonds add a nice crunch, and are nutritious as well.
Almonds provide healthy fats, which keep you full longer and also promote heart health. Almonds are also excellent sources of magnesium and manganese, which are important for healthy bones, and vitamin E, which helps your skin glow.
Coca de San Juan
- For the Pastry Cream:
- 4 egg yolks
- 500 ml whole milk
- 80 grams sugar
- 40 grams cornstarch
- 1 vanilla pod (or ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract)
- For the Dough:
- 400 grams plain flour
- 150 ml milk
- 10 grams baking powder (of 25 grams fresh yeast)
- 8 grams salt
- 50 grams sugar
- 2 eggs
- 65 grams butter
- For the Topping:
- 50 grams almonds or pine nuts
Open the vanilla pod carefully with a knife. Scratch the inside with the tip of the knife. Heat the milk in a saucepan, adding the inside of the vanilla pod. Add the rest of the pod in as well. If you don't have a vanilla pod, just add ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Turn your heat off as soon as the milk starts boiling. Remove the vanilla pod.
Mix the egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar well in a separate bowl. Add some of the milk and keep stirring. Once you’ve mixed it well, add some more milk. Repeat this process until you run out of milk. It is important to keep stirring all the time until you get the perfect mixture, with the texture of a yogurt or similar.
Let the cream cool down in the bowl, covering it with plastic wrap.
Soak the almonds or pine nuts in cold water while you are working on the dough. Preheat your oven to 190ºC. Mix all the ingredients except for the butter in a big bowl. Keep mixing until you get a homogeneous mixture. Then you can add the butter as well. It's easier if the butter is soft, so you can heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so before adding it.
Mix everything together again until you get a well formed dough. It should be sticky, but not too sticky. If you feel it's getting too sticky, add a bit more flour. If it's too dry, just add a little bit of the milk. Leave it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap until doubles in size. How long it takes will depend on your room temperature, but it should take about 90 minutes.
Place the dough in a lined baking tray. Shape your dough to form a 2 cm high rectangular box. Softly draw some diagonal lines on top using a knife. Add the pastry cream using a piping bag. If you don't have one, fill a clean plastic bag with the cream, cut one of the corners and just press it to release the cream. Add the almonds or pine nuts on top as well and bake for about 30 minutes.