A big one for these experienced New York bakers/caterers? They found that bagels weren't really “a thing” here. They missed them, started making them, and began sharing them with others. “And there we were, suddenly housebound with a couple of kids. To beat back the boredom, we decided to start baking. Av’s Pastries & Catering (https://www.avspastries.com/) has gone gangbusters since we introduced our baking to the public in October 2020,” said Sesa.

Their lovingly made line of baked goods includes not only the New York-style bagels that they’ve become known for but other delicious baked goods including cheddar bacon biscuits, coffee cake, doughnuts, and their sought-after cinnamon buns. But this adventure has not been without challenges. It's taken them months to decipher and source basic ingredients. “You take it for granted, back in the States, that when you need flour you simply go pick some up,” added Avalon.

Figuring out what is what and where to buy it has taken quite some time. And it’s not always what they expect. For example, they thought they’d found yeast and got it home only to discover that it was definitely not that kind of yeast. They made a tactical pie shift over the holidays with sweet potato pie in place of a pumpkin roll. They’re also making their own summer fruit statement with scrumptious fruit cobblers, crumbles, pies, and shortcakes.

Then there are the atmospheric differences: humidity, water, sea level, salt in the air, etc. Coming to Portugal from their most recent home in southern Oregon, they’ve learned how to produce excellent baked goods in the face of this new chemistry, despite it being completely different than what they are used to.

Miss American Pies

While they didn’t start out to build an American-style bakery, they quickly found their audience. Av’s bagels are fabulous because they are authentic and include special techniques that come from their great-grandmother. Labour intensive, their bagels require several steps, taking six hours to produce three dozen. And, as New York-style bagels are, they’re boiled before being baked.

But most of all, the sisters take great pride in giving back to the community. They partner with the Silver Coast Volunteers, donating foodstuffs that haven’t sold and volunteer as needed. Cooking for people in need plays a large role in their lives, thanks to their mother’s inspiration. And think about this, “the last thing that those in need get are sweets. Nobody ever thinks ‘hey, life sucks, let's eat a cookie, man’ you know,” they chime in.

A Fine Fairy Tale

Sharing original New York sweet and savory cuisine, Av’s Pastries & Catering spends their time baking, packing, shipping and/or delivering their delicious delights to tickled expats (and Portuguese) across Portugal. Fans can even sign up for a monthly goodie-box subscription.

Neither could have anticipated living in a castle baking bagels and buns for a passionate clientele. The sky’s the limit. After all, they are “living in a castle for the first time—there's no rulebook.”

Meet a Michelin-starred chef, listen in on a Portugal travel and expat guru, discover Portugal’s thriving craft beer scene, and more in the latest issue of Relish Portugal. This free-with-subscription English-language food and culture magazine for Portugal lovers everywhere is a gorgeous award-winning, quarterly, online publication. Sign up and relish the bounty of riches that is Portugal: relishportugal.com.