When I started researching into traditional Portuguese Easter foods, I kept coming across Folar, but couldn’t find a definitive recipe. There seem to be as many variations of Folar as there are regions in Portugal. In the Trás-os-Montes region in the north-east of the country they eat Folar de Chaves, which is a savoury bread stuffed with meat such as ham, bacon and sausage. Meanwhile in the very south of the country they eat a sweet version called Folar de Olhão, made with cinnamon and sugar. However, I opted to make the version that seemed most appropriate for Easter, one with a boiled egg in the middle covered by a dough cross. The idea of the egg, a symbol of new birth, being inserted, still in its shell, in or on the bread, is common in Easter breads in other European countries, such as the Dutch ‘Easter Men’ and the Greek Tsoureki. To add further confusion to the subject, I discovered that even the version of Folar I had chosen to make had several variations; it could be flavoured with aniseed, cinnamon or lemon zest. The recipe below is for a brioche-style sweet bread made with lemon zest. I found several recipes for folar on the internet, but wasn’t happy with the results. I adapted these recipes and the result is a delicious bread with a lovely light texture. It is traditional to use a brown boiled egg and the colour of the egg can be enhanced by boiling it with a white onion skin.
Makes 1 loaf
20g fresh yeast
50g caster sugar + 1 teaspoon for the yeast
500g strong white bread flour + extra for kneading
½ teaspoon salt
7 brown eggs
zest of 2 lemons
optional: skin of a white onion
olive oil for greasing
- Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in 50ml of hand-warm water (35°C). Add the yeast to it and leave for 15-20 minutes until frothy.
- Mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl and add the yeast mixture.
- Warm the milk to hand-warm temperature (35°C).
- Beat five of the eggs and add to the flour mixture, along with the warm milk and the lemon zest.
- Mix well with a wooden spoon until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture is smooth and elastic.
- Add the softened butter and continue to mix well until all the butter is completely mixed in.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in the fridge to chill overnight or until the dough is firm.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and on a clean floured surface gently knead it to remove the air.
- Grease a large clean bowl with olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl and turn it so that it is covered with oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in a warm place for the dough to rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, put an egg in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Let it boil for 10 minutes, then remove it from the water. Optional: if you wish to enhance the colour of the egg, add the skin of a white onion to the pan while boiling the egg.
- When the dough has doubled in size, pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
- On a clean floured surface gently knead the dough to remove the air. Cut off a section of the dough big to make two strips which will be the cross.
- Grease a baking tray with olive oil.
- Form the dough into a round loaf shape and put it on the greased baking tray. Put the boiled egg (in its shell) on top of the dough.
- From the smaller piece of dough, form two strips and put them across the loaf to form a cross, meeting over the egg. Press the ends of the cross into the loaf.
- Beat the remaining egg and brush it over the loaf.
- Cook the loaf in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until it is a dark golden colour and when you put a skewer into the loaf it comes out clean.
When cool, serve with butter. Remember to remove the egg before cutting the bread to avoid broken shell.