Serradura or Sawdust” Pudding (A Layered Tea Biscuit & Cream Dessert)
There are some cultures which love their sweets and desserts more than others and the Portuguese are no different when it comes to their sobremesa. Most Portuguese sweets and desserts will feature eggs (mostly yolks) in some form or the other. Goa was a Portuguese colony in an otherwise mostly British colonized India, and this has meant that Goan cuisine (especially those of the Catholics) has heavy Portuguese influences. One can see this not only in the dishes themselves, whether savoury or sweet, but also in their names.
It is believed that the Serradura is originally from Macau, an island off the coast of mainland China that was also a Portuguese colony. I don’t know if this dessert came to Goa from Macau or it was the other way around or something else entirely but it is a dessert you will find in Portuguese and Spanish speaking parts of the world.
Serradura is a Portuguese word for “sawdust” and it doesn’t need a stretch of imagination to see that it refers to the way the biscuit crumbs in this pudding look. No one obviously would be happy with anything, especially a dessert, that tasted like sawdust in one’s mouth but let me assure you that this “Sawdust” pudding is quite likely to have your family/ guests digging into it and don’t be surprised if a couple of them asking you for second servings.
The really authentic way to make this dessert, apparently, is by using only Marie tea biscuits. Biscuits, by the way, are what the British and their former colonies call what the North Americans call cookies and these are not the floury scones. Marie biscuits are really not my favourite biscuits (I’m not much of a biscuit/ cookie person anyway) and I do find them rather bland but it’s surprising how some vanilla flavoured cream and condensed milk can change them into this lovely dessert.
This is quite well loved dessert in Goa as it is in Portugal, and I’ve seen many local recipes that ask for the use of butterscotch extract/ essence and even almonds or cashewnuts. Funnily enough, I've never seen butterscotch extract in any of the local stores here! Some Portuguese recipes for Serradura work with caramelized sweetened condensed milk, as a flavour variation.
Many recipes for Serradura call for the use of a little gelatine to stabilize the cream and if you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative, you could add a little corn-starch or maybe agar. I personally don’t feel the cream here needs to stabilized.
I’ve also seen Serradura garnished with chocolate shavings or dusted with cocoa powder, sometimes served with butterscotch sauce, all of which I’m sure is delicious each in its own way.
However, I find that the really traditional recipes here call only for 4 ingredients – finely crushed Marie biscuits, sweetened condensed milk, cream and vanilla extract. I personally find vanilla flavoured cream a little bland so I added a little lime juice to my cream, just enough to hint at aa a citrusy tang. The lime juice also helps in stabilizing the cream a little since I used 25% cream.
A really great thing about the Serradura is that it needs very few ingredients, takes very little time to put together, is very easy and it’s a make ahead dessert. It would however be wise to serve it in smaller glasses or bowls as it is deceptively rich and best had in smaller portions. Serradura is also an egg-free dessert, rather surprising considering its Portuguese connection.
Serradura (Sawdust Pudding)
- Crush Marie biscuits into as fine a powder as you can. You can do this by running the biscuits in a food processor or put them in a Ziploc bag, seal and then bash them with a rolling pin.
- Whip the cream and lime juice using a hand held electric beater to soft peaks. It helps if you do this over a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and a little water. Add the vanilla extract and half the condensed milk. Continue whipping and add as much more condensed milk as you need (according to preferred level of sweetness) . Keep beating till until the mixture forms reasonably stiff peaks.
- Transfer the cream into a piping bag and pipe (or spoon the cream if you can do it neatly) it equally between 4 serving glasses, alternating layers of cream and crumbled biscuits. Finish of with cream as the topmost layer.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until you are ready to serve the Serradura.