Portuguese people call the traditional Easter bread folar. At its base are water, salt, eggs and wheat flour, and then there are many other ingredients that are added, depending on the region of the country and the recipe itself. In general, in the north of the country, folar is more salty and usually includes sausages; as you descend towards the center and south, the folar becomes sweeter; in the Algarve, of course, it’s as sweet as it gets. (Amen.)

The origin of Easter folar is so old that it cannot be traced back in time, but it has a history associated with it. Legend has it that, in a Portuguese village, a young woman named Mariana dreamed of getting married very young and that, therefore, she prayed day and night to Saint Catherine; the saint, listening to her prayers, put two suitors in her path: a rich nobleman and a poor farmer, both full of qualities. Mariana didn’t know which one to choose, so she prayed to Saint Catherine again, looking for answers. Both boys gave Mariana a few days to think, the deadline being Palm Sunday. When the day of decision arrived, the two suitors crossed paths on the way to the young Mariana’s house and ended up fighting each other violently. Warned about this confrontation by a neighbor, Mariana ran to him and shouted for the name of the poor farmer, Amaro, to whom she declared herself; the rich nobleman was wounded in pride and vowed revenge. On the eve of Easter Sunday, Mariana, tormented by the idea that the nobleman would appear on her wedding day to kill Amaro, prayed incessantly to Santa Catarina, offered her flowers and the image of the saint ended up smiling at her. The next day, a large cake with whole eggs mysteriously appeared at Mariana’s house, surrounded by the flowers that Mariana had offered to her Santa. Confused, Mariana went to Amaro’s house to tell her what had happened, but she was surprised: Amaro had received the same cake. Thinking it was an offer from the repentant nobleman, the couple went to Mariana’s suitor’s house to thank him for the gesture, but he had also received such an unusual cake. Mariana concluded that it had been the work of Santa Catarina, to put an end to the disagreement. And that’s how folar was forever associated with friendship and reconciliation.

Among the various Portuguese folars, the Algarve’s folar is one of the most popular. And even within this relatively small region of ours, the cake undergoes changes, with some sweeter and others less so, some drier and others more humid, some with egg and others without.

Folar de Folhas (also known as folar de Olhão) is the best-known Algarve folar. Traditionally made in an old pan, it is customary for the cake to have an orange and medronho flavor. But what distinguishes it from the others is its unusual composition: it has overlapping layers and interspersed with a syrup composed of sugar, butter and cinnamon; the caramelized leaves dry out over the days but do not solidify, so the dough remains moist and delicious.

Folar de Olhão has a popular origin and was created by Maria Eugénia Rita, more than half a century ago, who explains how it all started:

“My mother made these folars but never opened a store. She prepared them at home and sold them Later, in difficult times, I became a widow, had children and needed to support myself. Then I remembered the folars that my mother used to make. An uncle of mine owned a store and I went there: I bought a table and an oven. It was there that I started making the cakes. Later I bought a house where I set up a factory and a real business.”

Folar de Olhão - Recipe: https://www.allaboutportugal.pt/pt/artigos/um-roteiro-doce-de-pascoa-folares-amendoas-artesanais-e-pao-de-lo

History of the Folar: https://www.algarveshopping.pt/lifestyle/articles/quanto-sabe-nosso-folar-algarvio/

Image Reference: allaboutportugal.pt