Pastelarias, Here I Come!

Pastelarias, Here I Come!

Last year, Maxence and I went on a little week-end getaway to Lisbon. A blissful, dazzling few days of walks along the narrow little streets, funicular rides up and down the hills, stunning views of the city, and sunny drives along the beautiful coast.

But all of this wouldn’t have been quite as magical without the stupendous Portuguese cuisine : seafood galore — grilled marinated fried salted or otherwise smoked — tasty little nibbles, scandalously underrated cheese, head-spinning port, the freshest fruit and, last but by no means least, out-of-this-world pastries.

In Lisbon, you cannot walk one block without hearing thousands of sweet little voices calling your name from pastelaria windows, teasing you with promises of puff pastry, custard fillings, orange flower water, almonds and nuts, fruits and chocolate, crispy crusts and spongy dough.

The interesting thing was that they didn’t look all that appealing to me at first : they have a much more homely, unsophisticated look than French pastries, which admittedly tend to look like they’re dressed to go to the prom. They also look a bit like they’re all the same, to the untrained eye at least, cancelling each other out somewhat.

But I can tell you, all it takes is a few bites to turn you into an absolute, enraptured, die-hard convert to the Religion of Portuguese Pastelaria. And I, for one, belong without a doubt to the Church of Queijadas de Sintra

I was recently discussing this serious matter with our friend Greg as we visited him and his family in Madrid. As luck would have it, Greg was to take a business trip to Portugal just a few days later, and he kindly offered to get me a book of recipes.

I received it in the mail the other day, a pretty little book, spiral-bound and full of recipes for pastelaria e sombremesas — pastries and cakes. It’s all in Portuguese of course, but that only heightens its appeal : what could possibly be more fun than making authentic Pastéis de Nata and Queijadinhas Vaqueiro, with no subtitles, rummaging your pantry for açúcar, queijo fresco and ovos, not to mention farinha and amêndoa? Nada, that’s what.

Muito obrigado, Greg!

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  • Hi Clotilde,

    So you can use your brand-new mini tart pan to make your own Pasteis, I suppose?

    I thought they were also called egg tarts or custard tarts. I tried some of them in Japan (believe it or not, those Portuguese sweets were “in” over there a couple of years back)

  • Clotilde – the pastries look delicious and baking from your new book sounds like lots of fun! There is something about a recipe written in a foreign language – you know it’s authentic and it’s sort of like a whispered secret – which makes it very tantalizing! Good luck – and please report back (en Anglais si vous plait!).

  • Hi Cathy,

    I absolutely agree with you in that “something” about recipes in a foreign language… it’s sometimes a bit hard, but the process of figuring out what the recipe says is a lot of fun and the effort is often paid off!

  • Adele

    These are my favorite Portuguese pastries. We live in an area close to a sizable Portguese community and one of my closest friends occasionally brings me some of the treats. The ones she buys have a slight lemon flavor, with very flaky shells. Her mom also makes wonderfully light popover pastries that are sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

  • Ahhh you have brought it all back to me– one of my fave holidays EVER was in Portugal beginning in Lisbon and then heading down the coast. The olives, the bread, the fish, the mussels . . . oh oh O!

  • Cecilia

    Oh, this post made me smile. My husband enjoyed it too as he is Portugese (from just outside Lisbon). He agrees fullheartedly about the cheese. We both wonder if you had pasteis de nata in Belem when you were in Lisbon? They are the BEST. If not, I would recommend a new trip just for that!

  • Salut Clotilde!

    i just wanted to say hello and that i’ve just come across your wonderful website! its absolutely perfect and a great read. =) thank you!!

    i was just wondering though, you seem to be the perfect person to answer me something. i’m going to be in paris in september and was wondering if you could suggest fun and yummy bistros/cafes/restaurants for someone who is travelling on a flexible budget… i’m just really looking for a true expérience parisienne.

    merci beaucoup

  • claúdia

    I’m portuguese and it would be a pleasure to translate some recipe that you want to try!

  • oh yes please translate some recipe, it’s very hard for me to cook there !

  • blue poppy said you were talking about lisbon and i had to come over and put in my 2 cents. and then i read about the queijada! my sis and i were in lisbon and sintra a couple of years ago where we tried the queijada de sintra. excellent!

    such good memories!

  • josie

    The Pastéis de Nata looks really good. Please let us know how they turn out!

  • All – Lovely to see everyone agrees on the special charm of a foreign cookbook! And on the delights of Portuguese pastries!

    Cecilia – No, we did go to Belem, saw the tower, but didn’t taste the pasteis de Nata! Ah well, next time, we’ll know.

    Claudia – Many thanks for the offer, I’ll sure ring your bell if I have translation troubles!

  • Tatianna

    I am searching for pasteis de nata in Belgium or France. Do you have any addresses where to buy them ?
    Sincerely and thank you for your help !,

  • Ana

    Hi Clotilde,

    It always fills my heart with joy when someone enjoys the Portuguese cuisine. I’m Portuguese, from Lisboa, Coimbra, Serra da Estrela (best cheese in the World) and so partial, but I do feel like there are very few countries that have fish dishes like we have. And for your sweet tooth? Well we have the most scrumptious recipes there is! Did you know that almost all our pastry recipes came from monasteries? (They did have lots of time in there hands to create food for angels!!)

    I found your blog quite by chance when looking for a yogurt cake recipe that was out of the ordinary. I found a blog that is exactly for a person like me, passionate about food, cooking, baking and savouring.

    I have that book you’ve got so if you have any questions please fell free to ask. Any recipes you would like to have, like the Queijadas de Sintra or any other tradicional recipes, I will be glad to give them to you.

    When I travel I always bring a cookbook from that country. I do agree that there is something special about those books. And about some ingredients too!!

  • Tatianna – Not sure I can help here, but if I do think of something I’ll let you know!

    Ana – Thanks for the great comment. I’ll certainly take you up on your offer to translate recipes for me, and if you do have that Queijadas de Sintra recipe on hand, I would love to have it!

  • Ana

    Hello again Clotilde,

    As you asked:

    Queijadas de Sintra

    (Sintra cheese pastries)

    For the dough:
    250 g flour
    1 Tsp of butter, margarine or lard
    400 g unsalted fresh cheese
    350 g sugar
    4 egg yolks
    60 g flour
    1 tsp cinnamon

    The dough:
    This dough must be prepared 24 hours before you need it, and it must be very firm. To avoid dryness you must cover the dough with a dry linen and surround it with a wet one.

    Sift the flour into a bowl and make a hole in the middle were you put the warm butter. Mix together and add warm salted water, drop by drop, as you go along until you have a smooth, firm dough.

    The filling:
    The following day, mash the cheese or push it through a sieve. Mix it with the sugar. Add the egg yolks, flour and cinnamon and mix until fairly smooth.

    Preheat the oven to 235ºC. Grease the pans. Use small ones like individual muffin/tartlet pans.
    Roll out the dough thinly on a smooth lightly floured surface, you will need sheets of dough no more than 1.5mm thick. With a glass or a cookie cutter cut circles of about 6 cm diameter. For each circle of dough, use a sharp knife or a pair of scissors to make five 1cm incisions from the edge inwards, equally spaced around the circle.

    When you finish each circle, place it over a pan, push the centre down to form the base of the tartlet. Overlap the edges of the incisions and press them lightly against the walls of the pan. The walls of the pastry case do not have to reach the top of the pan. Try to avoid gaps at the bottom of each incision, as the filling could leak. (In the old days this would be made totally by hand. You would put the circle of dough in your hand and after overlapping the edges you would give it the wanted shape by pressing your tip of your rolling pin into your hand.)

    Fill with the cheese mixture. Put the small pans on a baking sheet and put it into the oven to bake for 15 minutes.

    Et voilá! Delicious homemade Queijadas de Sintra.

    If you make them please let me know how they turned out.


  • Fatima Marques

    I have been making pasteis de nata and they come out pretty good. Being from Lisbon and familiar with all the best bakeries there, I am still striving for perfection! Does anyone know the key on making the dough more crisp? Does a convection oven be the reason that they’re not as crisp as made in a stone deck oven? The quality of margarine?
    Please reply to my email if you can help!

  • Ana – Many many thanks for the recipe!

    Fatima – I don’t have an answer to your question, but I can suggest you post it on the Chocolate & Zucchini forums and maybe there someone can help!

  • E. Hahn

    Of all the foods I’ve tasted the Portuguese is by far the best. I don’t undrestand why this great cuisine is not as famous as the French or the Italian. They have wonderful wines to go with their dishes as well as cheeses and breads. I wish I could find them all over the USA and not only in the Portuguese communities.

  • helio de sousa

    hi i live in australia, but am portuguese, i am a chef over here and i am trying to find the traditional portuguese recipe for the pastel de nata, if you can help me, please forward it to my email address.

  • Leigh

    The egg tarts can be found in Paris at 1) the Wednesday/Saturday morning marche on ave. President Wilson at the Portugese stall, as well as a Portugese cafe located on Ave. de Longchamp below Ave. Kleber.

  • Filipe

    For those who want to taste some “pasteis de nata” in London, there’s a pastry shop called Cafe Lisboa (or simillar) near the Portobello Road market.

  • jen staton


    a few summers ago i traveled to portugal and tried some delicious portuguese almond cake i asked for the recipe but am quite confused by it
    one of the main ingredients is chila or gila, which i managed to get ahold of and ship back to the US. the recipe is this and i am curious as to what the instructions are missiong because they are quite vague.

    0.5kg sugar
    7 eggs 2 yolks of an egg
    250g gila or chila
    250g almonds
    1 (spoon) flour
    1 (spoon) cinnamon
    1 (spoon) margarine

    simmer sugar with water until bubbles. mix almond, chila, flour, margarine and cinnamon. in the end mix eggs till boil.
    bake for 40 minutes at 350F

    i would very much aprreciate your help

  • Alex

    I am Portuguese and I will move for Holland or Sweden. Do you think pasteis de nata are appreciated there?
    Do you have any addresses where to buy them there?
    Sincerely and thank you for your help,

  • Anna

    Thank you, Ana!
    I visited Portugal and Sintra last June and adored the little queijadas! :)
    I was just searching for the recipe on the net. Found it at last! :)

  • vasco

    Thanks for your post. Hope you come here often as it is true we have underated cheese, wine, cuisine , climate, land and people. We are very lucky for that. And for foreigners who happen to have time only for the “Pasteis de Nata”

  • Fernanda

    Any boddy with a good recipe for bacalhao com natas ?with my Big thanks from Canada withe Love

  • Saki

    Salut, Clotilde >’.’

  • I think I’m a little bit late but when I saw this word “pastelaria” I was attracted to this post. Well, you have already many translators at your diposal, if any help wanted I’m also here. The main difference is that I’m brazilian and not portuguese. ;)
    I just loved Portugal and as Cecilia mentioned, Pasteis de Nata in Belen.
    See you.

  • natalie

    i need the recepie for the quejadas da villa , nobody seems to have this info, my mom brings these cupcakes when she comes from azores island, so please if anyone has the recepie please please write me with it thank you so much. they come 12 in a little box

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