Massa de Filhos - Portuguese Christmas Doughnuts Recipe
Massa de Filhos - Portuguese Christmas Doughnuts
Flavors of Portugal
Total time: 15 to 30 minutes

Prep. time: A few minutes
Cooking time: About 1 minute frying time per batch

Difficulty: Easy
Chef's Note

Recipes and traditions from Maria Lourdes of the  Restaurant Beira Mar in Cascais
and Nunes Marques of the Adega de Saloio in Sintra

This is a pastry made almost uniquely during the holiday season. In past times, it was traditional to prepare the batter and leave it to rise while everyone went to Midnight Mass, or the “Rooster’s Mass.” Upon arriving home, all that was left to be done was to drop the dough into hot oil.

There are various versions, including a simply flavored recipe (the “poor version” according to Senhor Marques) and a pumpkin version.

There is a special mold for making massa de filhos, fitted with a handle and sometimes having a design carved into the bottom. Tradition dictates that this mold be used like a cookie cutter, with the dough not reaching more than half the way up the mold so that it has room to swell when cooked. The mold is then immersed into hot oil for about 50 seconds, then shaken so the massa comes out and can be browned on the other side for 10 seconds longer. However, it seems that the use of a massa mold is not universal, since I was unable to find one in the shops on the Estoril Coast – though all the saleswomen were familiar with it! However, in the Sintra region the mold is unknown.


- 600 g / 1 lb. 5 oz. flour
- 6 whole eggs + 6 yolks
- A pinch of salt
- 50 g / 2 oz. sugar + more for sprinkling
- 100 ml / 2/5 cup orange juice
- 1 liter / 4 cups cold milk
- 100 g / 6 Tbsp. butter
- Lard
- Olive oil
- Powdered cinnamon
  1. Place the flour in a large bowl; make a well in the centre and add the eggs, salt, sugar and orange juice;
  2. work the dough, gradually mixing in the cold milk;
  3. put through a sieve to remove any lumps; add the melted butter; roll the dough out;
  4. cut the dough into shapes using a cookie cutter;
  5. fry in a mixture of hot olive oil and lard for about 50 seconds; turn over and brown the other side for 10 seconds;
  6. drain, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Sparkling apple juice or sweet cider

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