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“We are talking about a small region of a small country like Portugal,” says Vitor Sobral, one of Lisbon’s acclaimed chefs.“The number of convents and the diversity of sweets they produced is incredible.” Why were nuns and monks such major players in pastry?Origin: Madeira Island Where to find it in Lisbon: Mercearia Criativa require a huge amount of egg yolks — around 20.One of the most popular sweets in the historic Douro Litoral province, its creation can be traced to the northern region’s Monastery of Santa Clara, which was founded in the 18th century.The finished product can be wrapped in a communion wafer and cut in a half-moon shape, or preserved in simple syrup.Origin: Douro coastal region (the most famous come from the city of Amarante)Where to find it in Lisbon: Chão das Almas Aveiro soft eggs are so adored in Portugal that they were the first conventual pastry to receive a protected status from the European Commission.Legend has it that they starched their laundry with egg whites and had to come up with a use for all the excess yolks. Rita João and Pedro Ferreira, authors of the Portuguese pastry encyclopedia, write, “These places of faith and seclusion were often true laboratories of creation, where the religious dedicated themselves to rescuing old recipes, or to testing new ingredients from all over the world.” The main ingredients in these sweets are egg yolks and sugar, in addition to flour, nuts, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut, and other spices.The monks and nuns had a sense of humor, too; pastries have names like “angel’s double chin” or “bacon from heaven” Even today, centuries later, more than 200 types of delicacies are prepared according to their original recipes.
The appearance of this confection makes it particularly original: Inspired by Aveiro’s seascape, while reading a book of old recipes and decided to try it out.
Madeira Islanders usually prepare it on December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception, but it can be found year-round on the island as well as in Lisbon.
Note: In accordance with local tradition, the cake should be cut with your hand, not with a knife.
Portugal’s nuns and monks pioneered the country’s sweets starting in the 15th century, when Portugal dominated global trade routes, including the spice trade, and the colonial sugar industry boomed.
In the region of Évora alone — just an hour’s drive from Lisbon — there were 11 convents making confections in the late 16th century.
According to Piriquita’s owners, the recipe also has a secret ingredient.