A few years ago, I was dining sozinho (alone) in a small neighborhood cafe in Porto when I caught sight of this gorgeous pastry in the display case. With crispy folds of puff pastry piled high under a hard, sugary crust of perfection, I thought “damn girl, you need that!”
But what looked like a small dainty pastry wasn’t decorous in the least! Even if I wanted to lift my pinkie to flaunt my European residence, I couldn’t as the sheer size of this buttery beast was massive. Not only that, as you take that first bite, an avalanche of filo flakes cascade across your chest creating a toasted brown mosaic that’s virtually impossible to brush away. Romantic rendezvous’ beware!
That said, the flavor warrants a cafe catastrophe, because when paired with a Tawny Port wine, or better yet, a dipped into a steaming hot meia de leite (coffee with milk), this pastry is sinful! The milk not only contains the Jesuita’s propensity to explode across the cafe, but it gives it just enough creaminess to round out its toasted cinnamon interior.
As a traditional Doces Conventuais (convent sweet), it’s no surprise that the shape of the Jesuita mimics the frocks worn by the Jesuit priests, nor that the dessert was brought to Confeitaria Moura in Santo Tirso, Portugal over a century ago by a Spanish pastry chef who is rumored to have worked directly with the Jesuit priests in Bilbao, Spain. What is a surprise is how quickly you’ll fall in love!
Next time you’re in Portugal, swing by one of the many pastry shops gracing Portugal’s cobblestone streets. They’re not only quaint and the perfect place to cozy up to a quirky grandmother, but they’re filled with sumptuous pastries worthy of exploring! If you need help, check out our various articles on Portugal’s vast array of breads, cheeses, coffees and pastries to savor! Or better yet, check out our book on Northern Portuguese cuisine, which includes the Jesuita and more!