This year my Easter vacation and arrival in the Algarve started in the best way possible, with a Easter Folar workshop at Casa Modesta.
Casa Modesta is a charming rural hotel that opened a year ago in Quatrim do Sul, near Olhão, just in front of a salty lagoon from beautiful Ria Formosa Natural Park. The house is a family project founded by brothers Vânia Brito Fernandes e Carlos Fernandes that decided to transform their grandparents pre-existing house in a new chapter of family memories. The old house gave place to a pair of beautiful modern buildings, but the main Algarve architectural traits were maintained, like the white colours, the straight lines, the wood oven, and the typical roofs, that go by the name of açoteias, once used to dry figs, almonds and even fish.
Carlos was the one to warmly welcome us to Casa Modesta that afternoon, as his family members were finishing the preparations for the baking afternoon. In the meantime, he told us all about the story behind this family house and the project while giving us the tour of the place. The tour was truly inspiring and we were ready to get our hands dirty by the end of it.
Folar is a sweet egg bread that is baked during Easter in Portugal. It was usually done using the remainings of bread dough that was then enriched and transformed using some sugar and spices. Grandmother Carminda did the more traditional Folar recipe while we were going to get our hands dirty with a Folar de Folhas (Layered Folar) always under Guida’s attentive guidance. Folar de Folhas is a variation of the typical Folar, this one is original from Olhão area and it is a more moist and caramelized version of the typical one.
The recipe of Folar de Folhas we baked during the workshop and that I have the pleasure of sharing with you here below is courtesy of Guida Zacarias, it is her own family recipe. At this point, if you are in a no fat diet, I should tell you that you might consider a strategic retreat out of this post. But if you choose to read in until the end, I swear you won’t regret it.
Folar de Folhas from Algarve
(Recipe for 4 units of Folar de Folhas)
- 2kg of bread flour
- 100g of bakers yeast (2 cubes of 50g)
- 600g of light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of cinnamon
- 150g of lard
- 250g of margarine
- 1 cup of tepid milk
- zest of 1 lemon
- teaspoon of salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup of fennel seeds tea
Liquid filling for the layers
- 300g of margarine
- 200g of lard
- 1 cup of oil
Dry sugar mixture for the layers
- 600g of light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of cinnamon
- A day before baking, dilute 50g of fresh yeast in a bit of warm water, add 600g of the 2kg of flour and knead. Cover it with a cloth and let it sit in a warm place for 7 hours (ideally overnight).
- To start the dough add the 1.4kg of flour in a big clay container, the dough prepared in the the before, along with the remaining dough ingredients list mentioned above. In the end, add the cup of fennel seeds tea. Start incorporating everything with your hands and kneading the dough, bringing the dough to the center and using your fists to press down the dough in the end. Knead it for 1 hour, until you see the dough is thicker and starts detaching a bit from the container and hands.
- Cover the folar dough in that same container and leave it to raise for 8 hours in a warm place.
- Grease the sides and bottom of a small aluminium pan with margarine. Cut a circle the size of the bottom of the pan of baking paper and place it in the bottom. Add a bit more of margarine on top of it and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture, this will allow a good caramelization in the bottom of the pan.
- In another pan, melt the mixture for the liquid filling for the layers, adding the margarine, the lard and the oil.
- In a bowl mix 600g of sugar with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.
- Once the dough is risen, starting taking small portions of it and in a floury surface form small circles it with the help of a rolling pin. You should try to create a circle with the diameter of the pan you will cook the folar in. Add a the circular folar sheet to the pan, on top a bit of the liquid filling and then the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Repeat the process until you fill a bit more then the middle of the pan, around 7 to 8 sheets of dough. The last sheet of dough should only be sprinkled with the sugar mixture (do not add the liquid for the filling on top of it). A bit of advise, don’t be cheap with the liquid filling and sugar mixture, the more you use it, the more caramelized your folar will be.
- Repeat the process until you end up with 4 pans of folar.
- Once you finished the whole process, leave the folar to rest around 1 and 1/2 hour (ideally).
- Cook it in a wood oven from 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the temperature. Otherwise, you can do it in your house oven at high temperature. Always check on them from time to time. If you see they are starting to get a bit burnt on top, just cover them using some aluminium foil on top.
I know this is a really decadent recipe, but hey… Easter is only once a year. Plus, something that was actually done by you will taste much better. Right? Just think about the calories you burn while kneading that dough. 🙂 This is also a really nice group or community activity to try out. You will find yourself spending some quality time with the people around you, like our grandparents used to do back in the day.
Finally, a big thanks to Fernandes family and to Guida Zacarias for the lovely afternoon and for the sharing spirit. I really hope to return soon at Casa Modesta.