Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Edge of Europe

Cabo da Roca is located in the Sintra-Cascais National Park and is considered Europe's westernmost point. We went to the very edge of Europe! and it was beautiful...We indulged in the special pastry of Sintra called travesseiros in a cafe at Cabo da Roca. These puffy pillow pastries are filled with almond paste and are coated in sugar. I want to sleep on these pillows every night...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pastéis de Belém

Every time I visit Portugal I MUST go to Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon at least once. I know it's hyped and its a big tourist spot and you have to wait in a long line to buy just one darn Pastel de Nata... but it's so worth it. I love that they serve them hot, fresh out of the oven. I dare you to eat only one, 'cause it's just not possible.Pastel de Nata is a super yummy Portuguese egg tart with a creamy inside and crunchy outside. They sprinkle the top of these perfect tarts with cinnamon and powdered sugar. A while back, I tried to recreate this pastry at home but theres no way I can compete with the legendary Pastéis de Nata of Pastéis de Belém. This place has been in business since 1837, thats gotta mean it's good right?!At Pastéis de Belém the top secret recipe is recreated every day and the pastries are made by hand using only traditional methods. If you go to the back of the cafe you can see the bakers taking the pastries out of the oven, but the batter is made behind bolted doors so nobody knows exactly how these Pastéis de Nata are made. They say that only three people in the world know the custard recipe, which has not changed since they opened in 1837. Pastéis de Belém is right next to the Jeronimos Monastary but I always end up getting distracted by the cafe and have actually never stepped inside this magnificent monastary. That is on my to do time I visit Portugal (if I don't get too distracted by the pastries again).CAFE PASTEIS DE BELEM
Rua de Belém
84-92 1300-085
Lisbon, Portugal
Tel: +351 213 637 423

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Frango da Guia

Last time hubby and I were in Portugal we made the trip to Guia (a village near Albufeira) to eat traditional piri piri frango da Guia. We don't have the time to drive all the way to Guia during this trip, so we headed down to the local restaurant that specializes in this dish. Frango da Guia, roasted spicy chicken, is one of my faaaavorite Portuguese dishes. The secret behind this delicious meal lies in the use of very small chickens and spicy piri piri sauce.
The chicken is served up with a salad of tomatoes and onions. The big delicious local green tomatoes are so juicy!
The french fries are made from fresh potatoes and are hand cut.
The Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to visit Japan in the 15th Century. Thus many Japanese words have originated from Portuguese including the word Piri-Piri. In Portugal piri-piri is a spicy seasoning of crushed red chillies. In Japanese you say something is ピリピリ(piri piri) when its spicy!

Here are some other Japanese words that originated from Portuguese.
Tempura <てんぷら> tempero, temperar (to season)
Miira <ミイラ > Mirra (mummy)
Koppu <コップ> copo (cup)
Buranko <ブランコ> balanço (swings)
...and there are many more. Check out this wiki page with a list of more Portuguese originated Japanese words. Very interesting.

Av. Vasco da Gama
nº36 Cascais, Portugal

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers: Matcha Opera Cake

I completed my very first Daring Bakers Challenge. Horray! Currently I'm traveling in Portugal so I decided to make the cake for mothers day. I don't have much experience with baking but I'm very proud of how my Matcha Opéra Cake turned out. It was a very LONG recipe with lots of detailed steps but I ended up with a gorgeous and sweet cake for Mother's Day dessert. I had so much fun baking this cake that I'm super excited for my next challenge. The cake was a tad bit on the sweet side. If I were to make this cake again I would lessen the amount of sugar (and butter) but I decided not to stray too far from the recipe provided because I was afraid to mess up. I didn't know that I could really bake, but guess what... I can! Whoopie~!
A TASTE OF LIGHT: Opéra Cake Recipe

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty's Chocolate Passion.

For the Jonconde
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp. matcha powder

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F.
3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.
5. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer and beat the almonds, icing sugar, matcha powder and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined
7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
8.Bake the cake layers for 5-9 minutes until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch.
9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the Syrup
½ cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. honey

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the Matcha Buttercream
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tbsp. matcha powder

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment.
5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
8.At this point add in the matcha powder and beat for an additional minute or so.
9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it's set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. Amaretto

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it's smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it's too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it's spreadable.
6.If you're not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you're ready to use.

For the Glaze
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven't already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.Serve the cake slightly chilled.

This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cantinho Dos Amigos

Cantinho is one of the restaurants that we eat lunch at most often during our stay in Portugal. I love the atmosphere and food at this place. Eating here gives you a really authentic Portuguese experience. The chef comes out to greet us, since Mãe is a familiar face at this restaurant.
The decor of this place is unique. The walls are covered in plates, saucers, and cups.Sardinhas or grilled fresh sardines are probably one of the most popular menu items in Portugal. Like cheeseburgers in America, sardinhas are the snack, lunch, and dinner food for everyone and anyone at anytime.
We are lucky because Cascais is so close to the Atlantic Ocean and Portuguese fishermen bring in the fresh catch everyday. Fresh sardines are very different from the canned version and don't have that strong fishy taste. The only downside to eating sardinhas is the difficulty of picking out the tiny bones with your knife and fork.
Although Sardinhas is the favorite of most people, I prefer Carapau (mackerel). The meat is fluffier and it's bigger than Sardinhas so it's easier to eat.Portuguese people seem to put oil and vinegar on pretty much everything... their fish, salads, veggies, bread, pretty much everything but dessert.Speaking of dessert... the dessert variety here is great. Today we had bolo de bolacha, a layered cake with crumbled biscuits. mmm...One thing that I love and hate about Portugal is the loooong time spent in restaurants. We LITERALLY spend on avgerage a total of 6 hours a day in restaurants. Thats like a full time job! Lunch is 2-3 hours and dinner is 3-4 hours. The food takes a while to come out and everyone has wine, appetizers, main course, dessert, and coffee at every meal. Lots of time is spent conversing at the table enjoying the food and the company of your family and friends. This gives hubby, sis & I plenty of time to play tic-tac-toe and draw on the paper table cloths.

Rua de Alvide, 560
Fontainhas 2750
Alcabideche Concelho
Cascais, Portugal
Tel: 21 4866428

Monday, May 26, 2008


After our trip to Tomar we continued North to the city of Coimbra, the old former capital of Portugal.
Coimbra is probably best known for the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest Universities in the world. The cloudy sky, ancient architecture, and students dressed in black capes all added an errie mood to the place. I seriously felt like I was at Hogwarts. that Harry Potter?! It turns out that the academic costume of the students at the University is a black suit and cape used on special occasions. Graduation just happened to be going on the day we were there.
The buildings and statues at this University were centuries old! The school was founded by King Dinus (the guy depicted in the statue), in 1290.
I had the Harry Potter theme song stuck in my head as I was walking around. Don't get me wrong, this place was totally cool... but it creeped me out a little bit. After visiting the University we headed into town. The streets of Coimbra are beautiful... and quite narrow.Hubby was driving the big van through these ultra narrow streets when... uh oh! He drove over some steps and got STUCK!He couldn't back out because of the huge bump in the cobblestone street and he couldn't go forward because of the steps.
A bunch of French tourists watched us freaking out and trying to figure out how to get out of this mess. The man on the left, with the baguetts in his backpack drinking soda, was amused by our situation and stood there the whole time watching. At one point he suggested "why don't you have people help you lift the car?" which we thought of in the first place, but he didn't even offer to help and just watched as us 3 girls and a random old man helping us pick up the van as hubby stepped on the gas. The lazy man with the baguettes was our hot topic as we laughed on the drive all the way home. What is a road trip without a little adventure and a funny story to tell?

Eat, Tomar, Be Merry

The family decided to take a day trip to the city of Tomar and Coimbra yesterday. Aside from Mãe, none of us have ever been to these cities before so it was a great trip... except for the rain. When we first arrived to Tomar after our hour and a half drive, the rain was pouring down.
As you can see, there were no people in sight. We hopped out of the car and walked around for only 2 minutes to shoot these pictures from under my umbrella... ella, ella, eh, ey (sorry, I had to do that). So anyways, this is a picture of the church of São João Baptista built during the 15th Century. It's flamboyant Gothic style architecture is pretty neat.
Tomar was a very important city during the 15th Century and was the centre of Portuguese overseas expansion under Henry the Navigator. We briskly walked around the central square of Tomar and the Municipality building. This is the bronze statue of Gualdim Pais, the founder of the town.
The pigeons were huddled around the statue trying to avoid the rain.
We didn't get to see some of the main attractions in Tomar like the castle, Church of Santa Maria do Olival, or the synagogue because of the rain... instead we decided to go EAT! We went to the Restaurante Manjar dos Templários which serves traditional food of Tomar, Portugal.This restaurant specializes in Portuguese style spit-roasted suckling pig (leitão). There was a graphic display of tiles in the entryway of the restaurant... so thats what I'm going to be eating...The meal started off with pork and chicken Linguica Sausage appetizers with bread (of course).
We were so excited when the main course arrived. The suckling pig was cut into small pieces and came with golden roasted potatoes. The crispy, crunchy, salty skin of the pork was glorious. Just look at that piece of juicy pork sitting on my plate!

For dessert we had "Tomar slices," a traditional speciality of bread pudding made with egg yolks and sponge cake soaked in sugar syrup. Very sweet but very delicious. After lunch the rain finally stopped coming down, so we went to Castelo de Bode lake right outside of Tomar. This lake is is the largest body of fresh water in Portugal. The Bode dam here is quite an impressive structure. But the clouds and the sky right after the rain was even more impressive and breathtakingly beautiful.
Estr. Castelo Bode Cruzamento
Castelo do Bode 2300-196
Sao Pedro De Tomar Santarem, Portugal
tel: 249381300

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