Portuguese Spice Cookies

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READY IN: 1hr 15mins
Recipe by lynnski LA

These cookies, which consist of a tart dough with a spicy filling, are served in large quantities at various Northern California Portuguese festas, such as Dia de Portugal. This recipe was published in the San Francisco Chronicle; but adapted from "Foods of the Azores Islands", by Deolinda Maria Avila. (Moonlith Press, 1977).

Ingredients Nutrition

  • Filling

  • 1 18 cups water
  • 1 14 cups sugar
  • zest of one lemon, grated
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 12 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 12 cups breadcrumbs, made from day-old firm, white bread
  • Portuguese Tart Pastry

  • 1 12 cups flour
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 18 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten


  1. Position rack in center of the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Starting with the pastry dough: mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl; cut the butter into small bits and work into the flour, along with the eggs, until a smooth dough is formed.
  3. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside for 10 minutes before rolling dough out on a floured board.
  4. For the filling: combine the water, sugar and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, boil until the mixture reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, takes about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from the heat and let cool slightly.
  6. Crush the anise seeds in a mortar or a spice mill, add to the sugar mixture, along with the cinnamon, butter and breadcrumbs, mix well.
  7. The mixture should resemble bread stuffing.
  8. Roll out a third of the pastry as thinly as possible.
  9. Using a pastry cutter or knife, cut 3-inch-wide strips of pastry.
  10. With the same cutter make 1/2 inch horizontal slits just off one long edge of the pastry, about 3/4 inch apart.
  11. Spread some cooled filling down the center of the strip, then fold the side with the slits over the solid side, enclosing the filling and sealing the edges.
  12. Cut into 3-inch long cookies.
  13. Place on a lined baking sheet.
  14. Repeat with the remaining pastry.
  15. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes, be careful not to let them burn.
  16. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes, then remove the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
  17. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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