Finding recipes that aren’t well known outside the country of origin always makes me smile and this Travesseiros de Sintra - Sintra Pillows recipe is one of those recipes we can thank Portugal for. Pastry shaped into pillows is the kind of rustic thing most people want to eat and these are surprisingly unfussy, I’d even go so far as saying these are easy.
These pastries originate in Sintra from an old bakery that is still around today and was even promoted by King D. Carlos the I and have clearly stayed popular throughout time which reflects why they should be more popular outside Portugal than they currently are.
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Why you'll love these
Delicate and flaky texture
One bite into a Sintra Pillow will reveal its delicate and flaky texture. The layers of puff pastry bring a satisfying crunch, while the creamy filling adds a luxurious and velvety smoothness. It's a textural delight that will leave you craving more.
Perfect for any occasion
With their golden, flaky exteriors and beautiful layers, they are a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds. These pastries are perfect for special occasions, parties, or simply when you want to indulge in a little luxury.
What are Sintra Pillows?
Sintra Pillows are delightful pastry treats originating from the picturesque Portuguese town of Sintra. These pastries feature a flaky puff pastry exterior and a creamy filling, creating a delectable combination of textures and flavors.
Ingredients and substitutions for Sintra Pillows
- Sugar: Superfine or caster is used here which helps dissolve into the almond meal. You could half and half the sugar with light brown sugar and caster sugar if you wish, however, the brown sugar will flavor that filling to be more caramel which will lead to a less traditional flavor.
- Almond meal: Ground almonds or almond flour might be what you refer to as what is called almond meal here. Finely ground almonds create a beautiful and soft flavor to these pastries.
- Egg yolks: The egg yolks bind the almond meal together and create a lux full bodied flavor. I don't recommend substituting with any non egg products here because you can't create the same texture.
- Puff pastry: Flaky and crispy with lots of layers, puff pastry is great here though you could substitute with layers of phyllo or filo pastry brushed with melted butter, if you prefer.
- Ground cinnamon: The ground cinnamon adds a depth of flavor and warmth to the pastry filling, you could opt to substitute with a little ground ginger if you prefer, though would make this a little less traditional.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make Sintra Pillows:
Create the syrup: Place the water and sugar into a saucepan and simmer until a string of syrup is lightly formed when you lift your spatula from the syrup.
Complete the filling: Combine the ground almonds, egg yolks and ground cinnamon in a bowl and add to the simmering syrup.
Smooth it out: Simmer the filling until thickened and smooth. Set it aside to cool completely.
Prepare your pastry: Evenly cut the pastry into rectangles.
Fill it out: Place the almond filling into the center of your pastry, allowing 1 ½ inches on the long side of your rectangles and 1 inch on the short edges of your rectangle.
Fold and fold: Fold the long sides inwards and over the filling, pressing together.
Press the edges: Press the short edges of your filled pastry together to finish off your pillows and place onto your baking tray. Repeat with the remaining pastries.
Bake: Place in the oven and bake until golden, whilst hot out of the oven, sprinkle over the sugar.
Serve: Serve these warm with your favorite hot drink and enjoy!
Equipment needed to make this
Saucepan: You'll need a small saucepan to make the filling.
Spatula: You'll need a spatula or tablespoon to stir that filling.
Sharp knife or pizza cutter: To cut your pastry into even shapes you'll need a sharp knife or pizza cutter so as not to warp the shape of your puff pastry.
Baking tray: A large baking tray is perfect to bake all your pastries.
FAQs for the best Sintra Pillows
In the translated versions of this recipe I found the literal translation said to cook the syrup until the ‘wire point’ or the ‘yarn point’, which meant nothing. A little search turned up nothing. The best option was to cook the syrup and let it simmer for at least 4 minutes, letting it reduce, but not change color, stirring intermittently and then pull the spatula away and around that point I noticed how a thin line of syrup hardened as it dripped away - the wire point!
From combining the almond meal and yolks to adding it to the syrup and once it is cooked and cooling, the mixture will clump up which will be hard to spoon up into the center of your pastry so the easiest option is to break up the almond with a spatula before placing on your pastry to help you to shape the pastry correctly.
The perfect temperature of your puff pastry should be room temperature making it easy to form into the pillows.
Yes, you can make Sintra Pillows in advance. Once baked and cooled, store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. You can also freeze them for longer storage. When ready to serve, simply reheat in a preheated oven for a few minutes until warm and crispy.
Absolutely! While the traditional filling for Sintra Pillows is a ground almond mixture, you can customize the filling to your liking. Experiment with different flavors such as creamy custard, chocolate ganache, fruit preserves, or even nutella. Feel free to get creative and tailor the filling to suit your preferences.
More pastry recipes you'll love
- 300 grams / 1 ½ cups superfine/caster sugar
- 100 milliliters / ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon water
- 150 grams / 1 ½ cups almond meal
- 4 egg yolks room temperature
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 800 grams / 1.75 pounds puff pastry
- 14 grams / 1 tablespoon superfine/caster sugar
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and set aside. Preheat your oven to 220C/430F.
- Place the sugar and water into a saucepan on medium high heat and cook until the syrup has been simmering and a thin line of hardened sugar forms slowly off your spatula when you pull it out of the syrup (see note), approximately 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the almond meal, egg yolks and ground cinnamon and add to the syrup, combine until smooth and thickened, approximately 2 minutes.
- Set aside to cool completely.
- For the pillows, cut your pastry into even squares.
- Break up the cooled almond filling and spoon into the center of your pastry, along 1 ½ inches on the long side of your rectangles and 1 inch on the short edges of your rectangle.
- Fold the long sides of your rectangle pastry over the filling and press down to firm the two layers of pastry on top of the filling.
- Press the short edges together and your first Sintra pillow is complete. Place onto your prepared baking tray and repeat with the remaining pastry rectangles.
- Place into the oven to bake until golden, for 25 minutes.
- Remove the golden pillows and right out of the oven sprinkle the sugar.
- Serve warm with your favorite tea or coffee on the side.
- Dig in!
- You might have leftover filling: If using the suggested amount of pastry, you likely will have enough filling to make at least 4 more Sintra pillows.
- Can make them ahead: Once baked and cooled, store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. You can also freeze them for longer storage. When ready to serve, simply reheat in a preheated oven for a few minutes until warm and crispy.
- Make these your own: Experiment with different flavors such as creamy custard, chocolate ganache, fruit preserves, or even nutella. Feel free to get creative and tailor the filling to suit your preferences.
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Made it and loved it?
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