A new family business which uses a decades-old wood-fired oven and decades-worth of knowledge to make everything from ‘folares’ (Easter cakes) to stuffed figs has been enjoying great success ever since it was launched during the pandemic.
Going by the name ‘Umarroba’, the business was launched in São Brás de Alportel by couple João Bengalita, 34, and Melissa Carreiro, 28.
The idea came to them during the lockdown when they found themselves with “nothing to do” and with their incomes at stake.
João’s grandparents moved back to the Algarve in 1971 after living in France and built a wood-fired oven where they would roast many of the carobs, figs and nuts that they would pick in the area of São Brás de Alportel.
Adélia, his grandmother, was also a talented baker, frequently making ‘folares’, bread and stuffed figs.
Their experience was something that the couple wanted to build from, so they asked Adélia to teach them everything she knows about how to make these mouthwatering creations.
“Everything went really well,” Melissa told Barlavento newspaper. The ‘folares’ even made their way to the Intermarché supermarket shelves in São Brás.
“That was our boom,” she said, adding that the success boils down to decades-old recipes and the fact that they are made by hand and in a wood-fired oven.
The family makes three kinds of ‘folar’: ‘O Folar do Bengado’, which is made with caramel, cinnamon and sugar; the “best-seller” which is made with chocolate; and the traditional ‘Folar’ made with a boiled egg in the centre.
As things were going so well, the couple decided to officially create the Umarroba brand at the start of 2021.
“We wanted to expand further, so we created Umarroba, which only started being promoted in May, after the ‘folar’ season,” Melissa said.
Umarroba also sells a variety of nuts from walnuts to almonds which are roasted in the wood-fired oven, as well as carob flour.
“There are seasons for each product. From August to December, we have the nut season, which coincides with the stuffed figs season,” she explained.
“It is all done by hand by us. The figs are stuffed with almonds, sugar and cinnamon and are roasted in the oven,” Melissa added.
The recipes date back several generations, as grandmother Adélia explained.
“They are very old. I learned from my mother and my godmothers,” the 76-year-old said, adding that the recipes weren’t exactly as they are done now because “I do everything by eye (measuring without scales)”.
Most of the work is done by João and his grandmother, but everyone pitches in.
“We do everything as a family here at our factory in Bengado,” Melissa said.
A batch of around 100 ‘folares’ takes over six hours to produce.
“Now we have a dough kneading machine, but before we would take an hour kneading the dough by hand. Afterwards, it is another five hours of work. The kneading process can take around six hours of work because we have to let the dough rise; it isn’t just about making it,” the grandmother explained.
Stuffing the figs is also no easy task. “They are a lot of work. Stuffing a kilo of figs takes around three hours.”
The hard work does pay off, as around 500 ‘folares’ have already been exported to Switzerland.
Although the ‘folares’ are only made between January and May, Umarroba is currently selling its brand of nuts and carob flour (200gr packages costing upwards of €2.50) and boxes of stuffed figs (400gr boxes starting at €8).
Their products can be found online on social media (@umarroba.pt) as well as several grocery stores in Estoi, Loulé, Quarteira and São Brás de Alportel and the All Gourmet store in Mar Shopping Algarve in Loulé. The brand also plans to see its products on Apolónia Supermarkets shelves.
Original article written by Maria Simiris for Barlavento newspaper.