I talk a lot about the connection that exists between the two F’s: food and family. There is just something about the two Fs that makes a dish, its preparation, and obviously, its consumption so much more meaningful. I went to Portugal at the beginning of this month for a family trip that was absolutely incredible. I went with family to see family and eat a lot of food – who can complain? Certainly not me!
What really stuck out to me, besides the bakeries on each street and corners overflowing with sweet and savory breads, twists, custards and tarts, is how food brings people together. Meal time is a social hour where you catch up over a miniature feast ranging from leitão with steamed kale, baked potatoes and a side salad to chanfana made in a ceramic caçhola with roasted potatoes, fresh bread with a hint of cinnamon and of course, with a nice vinho to wash it all down. These meaty dishes sound delicious, looked incredible, and garnered rave reviews, but being vegetarian, I just sniffed, smiled, and chowed down all of the scrumptious, non-meat sides.
It was tough to be in Portugal as a vegetarian, but I am so lucky that everyone tried to cater to my preferences, especially my family (though they did quite often ask me to just try a nibble or two of the leitão, roast suckling pig, for flavor’s sake). Although the entrees in Portugal are definitely meat centric, the desserts certainly are not, making them a HUGE staple in my diet while I was visiting. And I’ve got to tell you, I couldn’t have been more pleased with that outcome.
My family went above and beyond when it came to desserts, especially since I was such a huge fan. I feasted on homemade rice pudding, pão caseiro, pão de lo, pão de Pascua – let’s just say a lot of pão. And then there was the crispy, crunchy caramel almond cake, the bolo de laranja, and let’s not forget the natas! I was in heaven -, anyone would be. Yet there was something missing and I knew exactly what it was: Serradura. Directly translated as “sawdust,” Serradura is a simple-to-make dessert, requiring only a handful of crumbled Maria cookies, some heavy whipping cream, condensed milk and vanilla to taste. It is my favorite Portuguese dessert.
At every restaurant we went to, every bakery we stopped at, the homes we visited, and the grocery stores we frequented, I searched high and low for this dessert I love and associate with my Portuguese heritage. In the 12 days I was in town, I didn’t happen by one place that served this light and airy taste of heaven topped with crushed Maria cookies. At the end of the trip, with my family providing all of these tasty recipes for sweet and savory dishes and desserts for me to take back (and share with all of you!), I realized that my search for serradura was rooted in a taste for home. It had been 17 years since I had been to Portugal, but during those 17 years, a few times a month my family and I would go to our favorite Portuguese restaurant to feast, and I was notoriously known for ordering Serradura to top off my always enormously scrumptious meals. Serradura kept me connected to Portugal and it is incredibly delectable, so naturally I am obsessed with this sweet dessert.
When I got back to the States, and I settled into my routine again, the first thing I did was buy the ingredients to make some Serradura. After assembling my little glass, crushed cookies on the bottom topped with cream and more crushed cookies, I took my first bite and realized that the connection I had wasn’t just to Portugal – it was to my family. Now when I enjoy this heavenly dessert I think of my time in Portugal with my family, whom I plan to see again next year during Easter, my time growing up enjoying it at the table with my sister and the adventures I have had making, enjoying (the entire recipe many times by myself!) and now sharing it with you.
I love this dessert and am really excited for you to try it and incorporate it into you quick and easy arsenal for sweet treats. You’ll have to hold on a bit longer for the recipes of the other delicious morsels I mentioned being spoiled with abroad but don’t worry, I promise they will be worth the wait.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/5 cup condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla
120g (roughly half a package) Maria cookies
1. Crush Maria cookies and set aside.
2. Whip remaining ingredients.
Tip: Add more condensed milk to the cream or drizzle some on the top of the dessert for some added sweetness.
3. Layer in a glass alternating between the Maria cooking and the cream, finishing with Maria cookie crumbs.
4. Get a spoon, sit back and enjoy your little cup of heaven in a glass!
Tip: Add some fresh, sliced strawberries or other fresh fruit for a punch of color. For a punch of sweetness drizzle some of the left over condensed milk on top!