Food and drink, Jesuíta: Portugal's answer to a custard slice

Jesuíta: Portugal’s answer to a custard slice

One of the many popular Portuguese sweet pastries is made of puff pastry in the shape of an isosceles trapezium (I never thought I would be typing that in a blog!) filled with a sweet creamy mixture of egg yolk and sugar and topped with a crunchy layer of icing. It has the intriguing name of jesuíta (Jesuit) and, like many Portuguese sweet pastries, there is a story behind it. Its origins in Portugal date back to 1892, when the Confeitaria Moura in Santo Tirso (a city between Porto and Braga) was started by Joaquim Ferreira de Moura. He employed a Spanish pastry chef who had previously worked for a community of Jesuit priests in Bilbao and it is thought that he brought the recipe for jesuítas with him to Santo Tirso, hence the name. However, this is conjecture and it is possible that the name comes from the simple fact that the icing on the pastry, which is made of a mixture of icing sugar, egg white and cinnamon, is a similar colour to the light brown habits that the Jesuit monks wore. As with many Portuguese egg and sugar-filled sweet pastries, it is very likely that the recipe originated in a convent or monastery where the nuns and monks used egg whites to starch their habits and therefore had a lot of eggs yolks left over. The Confeitaria Moura is still considered the place that makes the most genuine jesuítas, as the original recipe from 1892 has been handed down through the generations of the Moura family and is a closely guarded secret. The recipe has been adapted by other pastry chefs to include other ingredients, such as adding a sprinkling of flaked or chopped almonds on top of the icing or even adding them to the filling, which is my preference. Continuing along the religious theme, there is also a bite-size version of the jesuíta, which is called a seminarista (seminarian) and a larger version called a cardeal (cardinal)!
By the way, the jesuíta isn’t really anything like a custard slice, but there are a couple of similarities; in both the egg-based filling is sandwiched between two layers of pastry and both are topped by icing, which is why I have called it Portugal’s answer to a custard slice.

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