An American cookie

In Aveiro today, we spotted a small kiosk with a large sign declaring that it sold “Bolachas Americanas,” meaning American cookies.

Since the availability of American-style cookies (chocolate chip! peanut butter oatmeal!) in Portugal ranges somewhere between rare and nonexistent, I was intrigued. We stepped up and paid our 1.30 euros.

Well. This is a chocolate “American cookie.”

Bolacha americana

It tastes exactly like a waffle cone. The man inside the kiosk took a pitcher of batter, poured it onto a waffle iron, and closed the lid. A minute later he lifted it, revealing a one-millimeter-thick waffle. Quickly he broke a chocolate square into four pieces, laid them in the center of the waffle, and folded the edges over. Another press of the waffle iron to melt the chocolate and seal the edges, and he produced this little wonder for us.

I suspect it wouldn’t be that great cold, but fresh off the iron, it was delicious. The combination of gooey melted chocolate and crispy waffle made our mouths happy…and my wife, who was originally going to “try it,” ended up eating half.

The search for a real American cookie in Portugal continues, but in the meantime, we’ve found a delicious namesake.

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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35 Responses to An American cookie

  1. Lilaine says:

    Am I the only one to see some kind of melted-chocolate E.T. in the waffle? 😮

    And why am I not surprised that to try it is to love it? 😉

  2. Paulo says:

    That made me laugh out loud. Maybe it’s a Minnesota specialty?

    Now seriously: I remember the many beach vacations as a kid when after playing in the water for hours, we would be lying on the towels drying off and building up a huge appetite, and you would hear the familiar calling: “Olha a bolacha americaaaaaaana!” or “Olha a língua-da-sogra!!”
    (“mother-in-law’s tongue”. Don’t ask). I am not sure it was just one thing or two different ones. The língua-da-sogra was a thin rolled wafer, slightly conic, if I remember correctly, and quite bland. No chocolate at the time. They would also sell way too salted potato chips – and that’s what we really wanted. The mix of sand, sea water and salt on those oily chips is one of the most vivid tastes of those childhood vacations.

    All of that was carried on the shoulder in these metal containers:

  3. syrin says:

    Oh, come on… you live in the Algarve and you’ve never heard of Bolacha Americana? I’m starting to get suspicious… 😛
    I’ve always been partial to Bola de Berlim myself. The real ones, fluffy and no yucky yellow “egg cream” in the middle, just simple fried pastry with sugar. Oh how I miss those lovely summer vacations, spending the whole day in the water and only coming back to the towel when the “Bola de berlim quentinha!!” man came along… *sigh*

    • oregon expat says:

      Hey, my wife has lived in the Algarve much longer than I have, and she’d never seen them either! But I will happily join you in your love for Bolas de Berlim quentinhas — thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I tasted my first one of those on the beach after freezing my toes off in the water. Glorious. (And carried in exactly the container that Paulo linked to.)

    • Hey Syrin, long time no see, what happened to you?

  4. Ines says:

    I’m from Aveiro, just to say that if the “american cookie” is not completely baked and it’s pouring with chocolate, “doce de ovos” or “doce de gila” then you can call it “tripa com chocolate/doce de ovos/doce de gila”. It’s almost as famous as our “ovos moles”. Enjoy our lovely city!!

    • oregon expat says:

      Ines, we loved your city! We really didn’t expect it to be as charming and interesting as it is, and ended up spending more time there than planned. A repeat trip is definitely on the agenda, especially since there are a few photographs that I missed and must go back for.

      We did see the sign for tripas, and learned from the owner that they were “mais suave” than the bolachas. Next time for sure.

      • João Brandão says:

        You could’ve warned us, so the Aveiro welcoming committee could have showed you guys around! 🙂 I’m glad you liked both the bolacha americana and the city itself (it’s small, but pleasant I think). By the way,the bolacha americana is not as great cold, but still pretty good.(i’ve been known to eat a whole bag of them. That’s 4 or 5).
        Did you get to try ovos moles?

        I was working in the Forum Aveiro yesterday (the shopping mall right next to that bolacha americana vendor).

        • oregon expat says:

          Oh, dang, I didn’t realize. Next time! (And we walked right through the Forum on our way back from the Sé.)

          We’d planned to try some ovos moles, but after our vast lunch near one of the quieter canals, the idea of eating anything else was not to be contemplated…

  5. Power Wench says:

    But *how* did that food item get the name of “American cookie”??? Speaking as an American who is somewhat cognizant of regional American food specialties, I’ve never seen such a thing on this side of the pond. Any ideas?

    • Paulo says:

      Don’t ask. I spent half an hour of my life yesterday researching on that pressing issue, to no avail. I wasn’t able to find an explanation, not even a made up one.
      But it may “help” to know that I found someone calling the rolled up version of this mysterious delicacy “OSTFRIESISCHE HÖRNCHEN”, or… “East Frisian Croissants”, from the Netherlands’ East Frisia region, also known in Germany as Neujahrswaffeln (New Year’s Waffles).

      Therefore, obviously, natürlich and QED… “American cookie”. Bolacha Americana.

      This is what the ones normally sold on the Portuguese beaches look like: http://bit.ly/QOI9DV

      Please please tell me it rings a bell. 🙂

      • syrinsyrin says:

        Hum… the ones I used to see at the beach were more like this:

      • Lilaine says:

        How long those Bolachas Americanas have been existing?
        Because if I remember well my history lessons, and my mother’s and uncle’s ‘war stories’ (they were kids at that time), when american soldiers were wandering all around Europe to put an end to WWII, they were also distributing chocolate bars and other goodies to all the populations. So, maybe some of them were based in Portugal, and upon eating bland bolachas, got the idea to put chocolate pieces in the waffle? Hence bolacha americana. QED (in French, CQFD)

        • Paulo says:

          We did not benefit from the presence of American troops, having been a “neutral” nation during the conflict (and don’t get me started on how much that explains about the recent past and the even more recent present ). While the GIs were distributing nylon stockings all over Europe, our ladies were literally wearing fishnets.

          (I may have made up that last bit)

          There is the American base in Lajes, Açores, but I don’t think that’s where it would have come from.

          • Lilaine says:

            While the GIs were distributing nylon stockings all over Europe, our ladies were literally wearing fishnets

            Oh, great! Another nice joke about Portuguese Ladies! 😀
            I guess our own ladies were wearing …. the GIs out… 😉

      • Power Wench says:

        Hmmm. Various one-time immigrant groups from Europe get blamed for bringing over several different crispy waffle-ish sweets, either rolled or flat. So such things are still made in the US, but I think mostly in the regions where the bringers settled in numbers. Or by some home cooks. This does not include waffle ice cream cones, which are ubiquitous.

        • Paulo says:

          The possibility of a re-import reminded me of tempura, which arose in Japan from the Portuguese Jesuit missionaries, who brought the concept of tempora or quattuor tempora as applied to Lent and other non-meat eating periods.

          Needless to say, tempura is now widely appreciated in Japanese restaurants in Portugal, coexisting with one of its grandfathers, the very Southern and very delicious peixinhos da horta: “little fishes from the garden” (deep-fried battered green beans).

  6. Carla Fernandes @Galway, Ireland says:

    I heard there’s an American mini-mart of sorts in Lisboa. This might be worth a visit on your next trip to the capital. It’s called Liberty America Store and it is located on Largo S. Sebastião da Pedreira, 9D.

  7. João Brandão says:

    If I had to guess it would probably have a very simple history. Maybe the person who started making them had lived in the US and their product became known as the “american” cookie. Occam’s razor everybody! 🙂

  8. MeL says:

    I’ve just heard the story behind Bolacha Americana (I’ve always wondered), apparently a portuguese immigrant in the US brought the recipe of the wafer to the central region of Portugal, hence Bolacha Americana. The stuffed chocolate or sweet egg version of the cookie is younger than me, so it is less than 30 years old (nothing to do w/ WWII), and it was an experiment of a vendor of the original Bolacha Americana in Barra, Aveiro, PT. The stuffed, gooey version is called Tripa Doce (Sweet Gut) due to its original shape. Accordingly to a very famous and funny beach vendor in Figueira da Foz (called Armando Paulo) Bolacha Americana goes way back. His grandfather, who died over 20 years ago and was already almost 90, was already a vendor of Bolacha Americana (in http://videos.sapo.pt/h7qgAS8E0WrvAfQYrUQg).
    Nowadays there is Bolacha Americana all over places but growing up I could only find them in beaches on the portuguese central coast (from Figueira da Foz to Furadouro, passing through Costa Nova, Barra and Torreira), that is why they are hard to find in the Algarve and other places.

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