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Queijadinha is a flavorful pastry dessert similar to tarts and cheesecakes. The small cakes are a popular fixture in Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine, and follows those traditions by use of egg yolks, sugar, coconut, milk and cheese. After baking, many cooks place the desserts in decorative paper cups.
Queijadinha can be classified as a type of pastry, with elements similar to tarts and cheesecakes. Pastries are baked goods that often have a light, sweet taste with a crumbly outer breaded texture. The queijadinha can also have these features, in addition to a cheesecake-like, soft filling. Like a tart, this filling is often fruity and strong and may or may not be covered with a pastry topping. Some cooks and fans of the dessert compare it to another popular Brazilian desert called quindim, since the latter also features sugar, egg yolks, and coconut as main ingredients.
Tradition queijadinha is made from a few simple and common ingredients. Most recipes call for sugar, grated coconut, sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and cheese. Due to the prominence of the cheese, many times the recipe is considered a cheese dish as well as a dessert. The finished product is achieved by mixing the ingredients together and baking for around 15 minutes. Measurements for each ingredient vary by recipe, as do recommendations for preparing and serving the dish.
Several types of the dessert are made. One favored type created in Sintra, Portugal is the Queijada de Sintra. This type of confection has been made since the eighth century and is discernible by its frequent use of cinnamon and a ricotta-like cheese called reiqueijao. Popular brands include Casa do Preto, Sapa, and Periquita. Other variations of queijadinha can be found throughout Brazil and Portugal. Some may have diverse fillings from fruits to puddings.
The queijadinha began in early Portugal. The dish owes its reliance on egg yolks and sugar to traditional Portuguese cuisine styles. Cooking in Portugal is also notable for its richness and fillings, all of which are features of queijadinha. Spices like vanilla and cinnamon can add another layer of Portuguese flair to this dish, as does strongly flavored goat’s or sheep’s milk.
Brazilians likely added the sugar and coconuts, as both are or were abundant in the region. Some historians attribute the dish’s final touches to 17th century African slaves in Brazil, who spent their days in the sugarcane fields. Queijadinha has since survived over the centuries and has become a fixture in bakeries and at children’s parties in Brazil and Portugal. The dish is also served as a course-ending dessert with popular Brazilian dishes like shrimp and beans. This dessert’s popularity has since grown around the world.