Traditional Desserts from the Azores Islands
The Donas Amelia’s are a sweet pastry from Terceira island, adapted from a recipe that already existed, known as the “cake of the Indies,” which is also made with similar spices—introduced in 1901 when the Royal visit of Queen Amalia and King Carlos visited the island of Terceira. It was here that the islanders offered the queijadas “small pastries” to the King and Queen as a thank you, thus giving the name of “Queen of sweets” as a tribute. These are widely available throughout all of the islands and can be bought in twelve, six, or individual boxes at one of the many bakeries or restaurants on the islands. Queijada da Vila Franca is small, famous little pastries that originated from an ancient convent-inspired recipe passed down for centuries. The recipe, changing very little in preparation or technique since this recipe has been tried, tested, and has proven delicious since the 16th century, is a local favorite and a must-have. Nuns of the old Convent of Santo André, on São Miguel island, were the first to introduce these secret treats to the Portuguese. The traditional recipe was kept in the hands of two families who continued to produce these desserts commercially with the “Morgado do Queijada da Villa Franca” producing their famous packages of 6 desserts since 1961, and have remained a staple in the pantries of the Azoreans ever since. A dessert you surely do not want to miss while visiting these unique, magical islands. Tours are available daily of this unique factory and are an excellent place to stock up on these sweet treats while on your trip. Queijadas da Graciosa, produced at the factory of D.Maria de Jesus Santos Bettencourt Félix, is an artisanal dessert representing the main pastry of the island of Graciosa in the Azores. They are made in true Azorean fashion using all-natural and farm-fresh ingredients all produced in the Azores from the butter, sugar, and dairy, making these a 100% Azorean dessert perfect to have with a cup of tea or after a traditional Azorean meal. The small factory is a must-stop visit if you are traveling on the island of Graciosa. The staff are welcoming and they have many other flavors of these unique desserts that you can enjoy and purchase for your friends and family. Pasteis de Nata ” Pastel de Nata” was created in the late 17th century by Catholic monks at the ‘Mosteiro dos Jerónimos’ in Lisbon. Although these desserts do not originate from the Azores, the close relations between the islands and the mainland of Portugal in cuisine and pastries have always transferred recipes. With that slight alteration to the original. It soon became a favorite, a special treat in the 1830s and became an Azorean favorite ever since. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg whites for starching of clothes. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country and lusophone regions. Following the liberal revolution in Portugal in the 1820s, many of the convents and monasteries were closed, and to raise funds, they would sell some sweet treats to keep their operations going. In 1834 they sold their recipe to the owners of the local sugar refinery, and in 1837 they opened their famous location selling these desserts for the first time to the mass public, making them one of Portugal’s most significant and internationally recognized desserts.
The Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém is located in Lisbon; Portugal’s capital is a tourist mecca where people come from all over the world since 1837 to buy these desserts from the original producer and family who still owns the business to this day. A cup of Cha Gorreana green tea from the Azores and a Portuguese Pastel de Nata desert overlooking the busy promenade is one way to enjoy these mouth-watering desserts in true Portuguese fashion.