It’s Saturday, sunny, and an inviting aroma welcomes us to Picadeiro D’El Rey in Almeida. Today, the old Artillery Train of the historical village is the stage for less warlike activities: A traditional sweets workshop.
The “teachers” Ana and Belén are employees at the Chamber, but on festive days, they are used to wearing other uniforms. This time they’re wearing aprons as sweets makers and are here to share what they know with people who really want to get their hands in the dough.
There are some traditional sweets from Almeida: Sweet cakes, parda cakes, and esquecidos, but the económicos are the pick for the day. This traditional recipe is not exclusive to this region: In Trás-so-Montes, for example, they are known as azeiteiros. According to Ana, despite their simplicity, it is very difficult to find these biscuits with the same original flavor, since in the time of our grandparents “all the ingredients were homemade, and sugar was the only thing that had to be bought.” Belén, born in Ciudad Rodrigo, adopted the tradition of making these biscuits in the wood-burning oven in Junça, the region where her husband is from and that had welcomed her 20 years ago.
This morning, the participants measure, mix, turn over, knead, and tend to the biscuits while they question Ana and Belén: “Can we use yellow sugar?” – “Don’t even think about it! Yellow sugar is only for sweet cakes. Do not change the traditional recipe!” When the first biscuits come out of the oven, they proudly take pictures of their creations. On festive days, they put an almond on top of each of these little cakes, whose protagonists in the recipe are distilled alcohol and oil. “Nowadays, only on festive days, but back in the day, they always put almonds because there were many almond trees in the fields,” reminisces Belén in a Portuguese with an accent from the other side of the border.
An intense aroma of grandma’s kitchen spreads throughout the ring and attracts the first curious people. The teachers and participants share these económicos with anyone who gets near, and it’s not long before they hear sounds of approval, “Hmmm, how delicious!”
“Yes, but no more, because these biscuits are for the picnic baskets in the afternoon,” laughs Ana, while she breaks of a chunk from a biscuit, proving how grandma’s recipe never fails.
Recipe for “Económicos” Biscuits:
• 12 eggs
• 1 kg of sugar
• 2 cups of milk
• 2 spoons of baking powder dissolved in warm milk
• juice from 3 oranges
• 1 glass of distilled alcohol
• 2 tablespoons of margarine
• 2 cups of oil
• 1 teaspoon of yeast
• approximately 3 kgs of flour
Mix all the ingredients in one recipient until it becomes one homogeneous mass. With a tablespoon, measure the quantities and place them on wax paper that covers the baking tray that will go into the oven. Brush with egg and sugar and put in oven at 200º / 220º for approximately 10 minutes. Repeat until dough runs out.
This recipe makes approximately 90 – 120 biscuits, depending on spoon size.