What happened to all the egg whites?
A tray of fios de ovos, or egg strings (loosely translated), a marvel of Portuguese confectionery, made by pouring egg yolk into a vat of boiling sugar syrup. It sounds easy, but is fiendishly difficult to make. And mega yummy!

What happened to all the egg whites?

When the Gold Rush decided to launch a brand of Portuguese confectionery in the UK, the name of the brand was of course one of the first questions to arise.

We took inspiration from the colour of Portuguese sweets, which, because of all the egg yolk they contain, are invariably yellow. Sometimes orange. Golden, even. But never dull. So we thought we should make this our own make-believe Gold Rush, our little Eldorado of the suburbs, trading in bite-sized nuggets, and the name caught on.

Much has been said and written about the use of eggs, mainly the yolk, in Portuguese confectionery. There are differing theories, and probably more than one is correct, but all are captivating. So here are two common ones:

1. Some argue that a surplus of egg yolk came about because nuns and monks would use the egg whites to starch their habits. It sounds utterly romantic, but surely others in Europe would also have cottoned on to the trick and invented similar treats elsewhere, no?

2. Another common theory is that the egg whites would be used for treating wine barrels, leaving the yolk to be used in the production of sweets. One would expect that wine-producing regions would have similar traditions of confectionery, then. But that isn’t the case.

A recent article by Cristina Castro (A Do├žaria Portuguesa – Centro) puts forward a much more interesting theory: sugar was availabe in Portugal before it became widespread elsewhere in Europe, and it slowly replaced honey as the main sweetener over the centuries. This process, having started earlier in Portugal with the availability of sugar from Brazil, meant that supplies sometimes varied in quality. Egg white was used to purify the sugar, therefore creating the perfect excuse to use the byproduct – the yolk – in confectionery. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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