10 Yummy Portuguese Sweets That Are Not Pasteis de Nata
Every time I pass by the Pasteis de Belem store and I see the huge line of people waiting outside, my heart breaks a little for all the other Portuguese sweets out there that the tourists will never think of tasting. Sure, the pasteis de nata or the pasteis de Belem (yes, there is a difference) are deliciously creamy and even better with a dash of cinnamon, but the Portuguese cuisine has so much more to offer that it´s a pity to grow old in line when you could be nibbling on fresh Hungaros or enjoying a warm travesseiro from Sintra instead. This article is for the ones who want to go beyond the obvious and experience the Portuguese culture in and out. Here are ten Portuguese sweets that are not the pastel de nata.
1. Bola de Berlim
Usually found at the beach, with a man yelling his lungs out, the bola de Berlim is actually a traditional fluffy Austrian pastry similar to a doughnut with no central hole, made from sweet yeast dough fried in fat or oil, with a jam filling and powdered sugar on top. It might not be the first thing that comes to mind to eat at the beach, but I promise you it´s delicious.
The suspiro is a merengue and while usually associated with French or Swiss cuisine, I can tell you I´ve never eaten better suspiros or merengue cakes than I have in Portugal! The cakes often have brigadeiro cream, strawberries and blueberries on top and are crunchy while staying soft and melting in your mouth. Yum!
Equally crunchy and soft are the beijinhos, aka little kisses. They look like imperfect little drops of water and are so sweet that you won´t be able to eat more than a couple of them! A very nice sweet just in time for Valentine´s day, don´t you think?
4. Linguas de gato/veado
Another originally Austrian sweet is the cat tongue, or lingua de gato. The ones I love most are half dipped in chocolate and when freshly baked, have the perfect crunchiness factor. I´m not sure how they arrived to Portugal, but I could have sworn they were from here until I came across the Wikipedia article correcting me!
I haven´t been able to trace the origin of the húngaro but it doesn´t take a master mind to assume it´s Hungary. Two cookies half dipped in chocolate and with jam in between, these ones are the absolute favourite sweets I´ve found in Portugal! Buy them by the kilo but be careful as it´s extremely tempting to eat them all in one go.
6. Travesseiros de Sintra
The travesserios de Sintra, literal translation Sintra pillows, are another favourite of mine even if I usually only have them when we visit Sintra, as that´s where you´ll find the best ones. So if you´re in Sintra, seek out A Piriquita and taste some of their freshly baked travesseiros de Sintra. Fluffy, warm and scrumptious, they´re ideal to have with a nice cup of tea!
7. Mil folhas
The mil folhas, originally mille-feuille, is a French puff pastry with custard cream that I know from Romania but have only learned to properly appreciate since moving to Portugal and seeing it in Lisbon´s old school pastry shops. Talk about globalisation, huh?
8. Ferradura de Amêndoa
Ferraduras de Amêndoa are U-shaped dry pastries with almonds that probably every culture has a variation of. In Romania we call them cornulete and they´re quite common for Christmas. I am always amazed when I see someone eating them with coffee as I´m used to buying or baking them by the kilo and serving them to carolling guests rather than eating them with a cup of coffee.
9. Bolachinhas de Espelho
The bolachinhas de espelho, or little mirror cakes, are small pastries with a hole in the upper part filled with strawberry jam or jelly. The jam/jelly´s shininess makes it resemble a mirror, hence the name. They´re another example of a sweet we´d serve at Christmas in Romania, but that you can find in lots of pastry shops in Portugal.
Ending the list with the brigadeiro, a sweet widely found in Portugal but originally from Brazil, created by a confectioner from Rio de Janeiro, Heloisa Nabuco de Oliveira. The traditional brigadeiro recipe calls for condensed milk, cocoa powder, unsalted butter, and chocolate sprinkles covering the outside layer. It´s soft, chewy and super sweet and they´re probably the easiest to find sweet from my list.
Now tell me: where do you come and what are some of your favourite local sweets?