If you need a reason to go to Portugal and have a sweet tooth, you needn’t search for a reason. If you can’t find a sweet in any Portuguese village that millions of web wonks aren’t touting, usually using egg yolks like they fell freely to the earth day and night, then you aren’t looking hard enough.
What you see up on the top is a baking pan crammed with very interesting pastries called Pastéis de Tentúgal. The town of Tentúgal was once equal in power to Coimbra, which is a mere 18 km away. It once had a monastery whose Carmelite nuns invented, in the 16th century, these difficult-to-make little bundles of flaky egginess. Today the monastery is rising from the ashes due to the perseverance of the owners of the bakery called O Afonso. A more involved couple you will never meet (unless you happen to be extremely lucky).
There’s a little secret behind these _pastéis _. The infinitely thin wrapper reminds one of filo dough. It’s not. It’s simply a special high-gluten flour with enough water added to make a smooth dough. That’s it. Then the dough is stretched until it is transparent in your hands on a special floor in a special building. This happens, like a dance, in three movements. It is both a graceful act and a demanding one. To do it right takes no less than two years of training.
We were so enamored with the process we made a little video. I hope you watch to the end; there’s rather a surprise ending.