In a previous blogpost about Christmas wines, we have already referred to some traditional Portuguese sweets and pastries and now the time has come to make your mouth water some more.
Today we would like to take you on a journey through our country, which is small in dimension but huge in gastronomical variety.
Some of them you might already have heard of, others a worth to keep in the back of your mind for your next Portugal trip!
From north to south, here is our list of delicious Portuguese pastries! Small hint: All of them taste even better when combined with a great wine, and of course, an amazing view! As a little extra, since it’s almost Christmas, some of the festive pastries from each region will be included, too!
Entre Douro e Minho
Home of the fresh and light Vinho Verde, this region also produces tasty sweets. Many conventual sweets were invented here, such as the Pudim Abade de Priscos, originally from Braga. This pudding, created by an abbot, has some special ingredients: eggs, sugar, lemon and cinnamon are refined with a sweet Port wine and, as weird as it may seem, a bit of bacon. Sounds strange? Try it and see for yourself!
At Christmas time, the traditional Rabanadas are very popular in Entre Douro e Minho. They are made of thick slices of bread, first soaked in milk and then in beaten eggs with cinnamon. Afterwards they are fried in oil and covered in sugar and cinnamon.
Trás-os-montes e Alto Douro
Also in this region, we chose a conventual pastry, the Toucinho do céu, which is a traditional dessert in the north of Portugal and Spain. This heavenly cake is made out of sugar, almonds and pumpkin jam and of course a lot of egg yolks. Its original version also used to contain also lard, hence the name “toucinho” which means bacon in Portuguese.
One of the most famous Christmas specialities, that can’t be missing on a Christmas party in Trás os Montes are migas doces: the recipe is simple, eggs and sugar mixed together and simmered in a pan until thinkened. After cooling down, the mixture is enhanced with nut crumbs and sprinkled with cinnamon.
The most important and known sweet temptations are without a doubt the Ovos moles of Aveiro. The “soft eggs” consist of egg, sugar, water and tradition. Originally, they were made by the nuns of the Mosteiro de Jesus de Aveiro to strengthen the patients of the convent’s infirmaries. Since the inauguration of the railway Porto-Lisbon it has been tradition to see Ovos moles being sold by women in regional costumes at the train station of Aveiro.
In this area, one of the most important goods are chestnuts. Therefore, here we can find a treat that isn’t based on eggs, sugar and almonds like most of the other typically portuguese ones. The Castanhas de Chocolate de Sernancelhe are chestnuts with chocolate, cream cheese and coconut shavings.
In the Beiras, during Christmas it is tradtion to prepare the original Filhós do Joelho, which were traditionlly made by women sitting next to the fireplace, pulling the dough (made out of flour, brandy, olive oil eggs and milk) over their knees, hence the unique shape and name (Filhós of the knee).
Although there are obviously many typical pastries in Estremadura, like the Pastel de Feijão (based on beans) from Torres Vedras or the Tortas de Azeitão (an egg based tart), the choice here was easy: The famous Pastel de Belém. The little custard tarts, crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside, were invented by the clerics of the Jerónimos Monastery and in 1837, in attempt to help subsistence costs, they started selling them next to the Monastery in Belém, at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, where they are still sold exclusively.
Lisbon’s Christmas is unthinkable without the king of all cakes, the Bolo Rei. It was brought to the Portuguese in the 19th century when the Confeitaria Nacional opened as the Portuguese monarchy’s official bakery, introducing the round cake with a large hole in the center, that resembles a crown. On top it is covered with crystallized and dried fruit.
The Bolo folhado from the Alentejo region might not be conventual, but it is still a traditional and delicious pastry, normally eaten to start the day right, at breakfast with a freshly brewed coffee. They resemble croissants but are made from a different type of dough (refined with brandy) that needs to be well kneaded and can be filled with pumpkin jam.
In this southern area, the Papas de Carolo are a very common Christmas dish. It is a pudding like dessert, similar to the Arroz Doce (Sweet Rice) but instead of the rice, they use corn cobs and are cooked in the oven.
The Portuguese south is not only sun and beach but has also a very broad gastronomical offer. The Queijo de Figo, despite its name is not a cheese but a small round treat that brings together some of the culinary icons of the Algarve: dried figs, almonds, chocolate (that can be replaced by the carob flour, very typical in baked goods of the south), fennel and the traditional algarvian Medronho, a strong fruity brandy, obtained from de medronho tree (also known as strawberry tree).
The empanadilhas from the Algarve are fried sweets always represented at the Chistmas table. The crunchy outside is covered in cinnamon and sugar and filled with a sweet potato paste, loved by young and old.
Wine With a View wishes all of you a Merry Wine Christmas and a happy new View! Cheers!