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bread

Making my aquaintance with Portuguese bread has been similar to discovering Portuguese cheese. At first I thought the Portuguese had got it all wrong, what with the tasteless mass-produced fresh cheese offered on every restaurant table. Totally boring, I thought. But these first impressions were wrong. There is a world of decadence out there, of both cheese and bread, if you know where to look.

papo-seco

So here it is. The Papo Seco, or white roll, is the family staple of Portuguese bread. It is breakfast to the suburbs and not called dry throat for nothing. It is ordinary. And stale the next day. I prefer the smaller, cuter, Bico, or beak. Straight from the oven with butter and vegemite. Yum.

bico

The bread truck’s horn is our alarm clock. I’ve given strict instructions to Bruno the Bread Man to start honking as soon as the village is in sight as waking up, getting up, pulling on coat, finding money, finding shoes and running down to the road takes much longer than the brief window of opportunity he normally allows on a stop. If I was organised then I’d hang out a bag with the next day’s order but I have an ingrained habit of breakfast spontaneity. I can’t decide the night before what I’ll want the next morning. And unlike the bread truck at our previous village, this one has more than the usual to choose from. It has cakes.

bread-truck

After the white rolls, the next most popular bread in our village is the Cacete. It too is white and no different in recipe than the rolls, but that’s like saying there’s no difference between spaghetti and spirale. They have different functions. The Cacete’s job is to make a good sandwich. The One is a sandwich enthusiast and he rates the Cacete for this purpose. It’s light and fluffy with a crunchy crust. Excellent with just tuna or ham, also good with jam. But rubbish as toast.

cacete

Other whites include the baguette, which can be the same shape as the French but not the same, and pão forma – a square loaf, sometimes twice as long as a loaf of sliced white death. It’s used in cafes for tosta mista, (ham and cheese toasted sandwich) and torradas (toast) cut an inch thick with lashings of butter. Bring your own home made jam and order up a galão and breakfast bliss is yours.

mistura

Moving on to where there are more variables and opportunity for baker’s creativity. The Mistura is the Portuguese light brown bread, it also comes in rolls and loaves. At about 37% wholemeal, it is as I say, light brown, not brown. Pão de Mistura is mostly ordinary, but if you shop around you can find exceptional loaves in this class. Anyone near Vila Facaia (Pedrogão Grande territory) should try their mistura, now available from the small supermarket rather than from a bearded woman in a shoe in the wall shop with “depósito de pão” handwritten above the door. I always wondered if she was the baker too and I suspect so, if only to drawn a line between a curious old woman and a curiously delicious kind of bread. Ultra spongey, moist and elastic. I have been known to eat an entire loaf in one sitting. And it seems bakers around here have started copying the Vila Facaia style… I suspect it’s doubling the yeast or something. The bread truck’s mistura is pretty good.

pao-de-agua

Better though is the Pão de Agua. Note the irregular shape of the loaf, signalling its slightly rustic and artesenal character. I think it’s made with white flour but it’s not especially white in colour. The best way to describe the flavour is watery. I’ve no idea why it’s better than the mistura but it is. The bread’s texture however can be very holey and therefore renders it unacceptable for sandwiches according to The One (who goes a little overboard with mayonnaise). I don’t mind a bit of oozing with toast, and toasted, the Pão de Agua is unreal.

The same can be said for a Pão da Avó, which has a similarly rustic and home made personality: grandmother-style to be sure. It’s made from a stronger dough with more wholemeal flour. Then there’s something called Pão Rustico, which I’d say is the name given to something that is not a Mistura, Agua or Avó.

broa

This here is a Broa de Milho. I suppose one might say this is the traditional Portuguese bread. Very dense, with a tightly woven texture, quite dry. Has a much longer shelf life than the others. Makes excellent toast. It is not corn bread as the name suggests, but half cornflour (maizena, cornstarch) and half wheat flour. Always keep your eye our for a real Broa de Milho which looks just the same except yellow because it’s made with corn meal. Quite special.

That’s it for the basic range, all you can expect really from a bread truck. Next stop is your local pastelaria or dedicated padaria where you’ll find more interesting shapes and flavours, of infinite regional variety. My favourite regional bread is Pão de Alentejana, a cojoined-twin looking white loaf that a local café makes even though we are not in the Alentejo. Portuguese will argue it’s not authentic – if you want to be sure it’s the genuine article, you’ll have to go to the very region to find out. I’m not so pendantic about the names, just grateful that the baker is doing something slightly different.

portuguese-regional-breads

Darker wholewheat and black breads are hard to find in Portugal. Try organic markets where expat Germans and Dutch supply genuine home made artesanal breads, made with love and good health.

Surprisingly a good place to look for bread is in the freshly baked bread bread department of chain supermarkets. Maybe high turnover raises the quality, but perhaps breakmaking is an art and it’s all up to the individual baker and their oven. In Lousã, if you’re passing, the Lidl has great fresh bread and the baguettes and croissants at the Intermarché are an excellent imitation of the real thing. Really, nothing much beats the white stick of France, or for that matter, the black breads of Germany. And who doesn’t miss sourdough? If you have major longing for the bread of your origin you can of course, bake your own, or even buy a breadmaker and bread mixes from better supermarkets.

neighbour-at-truck

There are many sweet breads too if we are not being too precious about what is bread and what is not. Pão de Leite is like brioche. Pão de Deus is not like anything but is good with ham and cheese. Pão de Ló is like a sponge cake, so, not bread. Broainhos cannot be found on the internet so maybe they are an invention of Figueiró Dos Vinhos. They appear at Christmas and Easter and are small dark fruit breads which I insist on being toasted and buttered despite it being against Portuguese law. Broa Doce is a generic name given to another sweet bread but not Little Sweet Corn Bread.

Also to consider is this. The Bolo de Berlim. Not a bread. A cake. But not to be ignored.

bolo-de-berlim

 

17 Comments

  1. Johanna Bradley January 26, 2012 6:01 am Reply

    You should be taking part in our personal A-Z of Portugal! This would make a great “B is for…” post- so much detail!
    Have a look at it on my website if you want- you may like to join in? Julie Dawn Fox had the original idea but quite a few of us are involved now.

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.restlessjo.wordpress.com

  2. Simone January 26, 2012 7:23 am Reply

    Dear Emma, I’ve been quietly adoring you through your sensational blog and photos, vicariously satisfying my longings for the range life and embracing life in Portugal with renewed enthusiasm each time I read a post of yours. Keep on keeping on, my dear!
    Your non-creepy admirer in Lisbon,
    Simone

    [Reply to comment]

  3. Julie Dawn Fox January 26, 2012 9:59 am Reply

    My favourites of the breads you mentioned are the pão de agua and broa de milho, as long as they’re fresh. I think our bread man only does the crap white rolls so we don’t bother – got a bread machine now and found a mix in Continente/Modelo that’s got seeds in which works well. You’re right about the supermarket bakeries, though. Some of the local Intermarchés do really nice bread (except Arganil). And Lidl’s croissants are pretty good.

    Jo’s right, by the way. This would be a great B is for… post 🙂 Let me know if you decide to join in.

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.juliedawnfox.com

  4. Joana January 26, 2012 2:04 pm Reply

    oh man! I miss my bread! I came to US to study, and I have to say that the things that I really miss are the bread, the fresh fish, cheese and the expresso. Last time I went to PT I filled my luggage with bread (including broa and pão alentejano) and Maria cookies. oh yeah!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: January 26th, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    LOL I read that as an american in portugal and thought american bread? You miss fresh fish and you’re in lisbon? YOU MISS AMERICAN COFFEE??? Anyway much relieved now to get it right but feel like sending you a parcel to ease the saudades 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    http://soblushed.blogspot.com

  5. Zoe Francois January 27, 2012 2:24 am Reply

    This is fantastic, I am thinking of a trip to Portugal this summer to sample the breads, what a list I now have to start with. Thank you!

    Zoë

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.zoebakes.com

  6. Sami January 27, 2012 5:08 pm Reply

    I do miss the Portuguese bread too, I´m still to find nice bread in Australia, so I also bake my own in a bread machine.
    Bread bought at the bakeries can last 2 weeks without going mouldy, just shows how much rubbish must go in them!
    I do love the Broa de Milho! When I was there in November I ate plenty of Broinhas (the fruit breads) and of course Pao do Ló is just amazing with some oozy Queijo da Serra…..
    This would do a good B for the A-Z challenge as Julie says, join us, I´m doing A-Z of Australia of course!

    [Reply to comment]

    http://sami-colourfulworld.blogspot.com

  7. Isabel February 1, 2012 4:06 am Reply

    “The Cacete’s job is to make a good sandwich.”
    Nonsense. The Cacete’s job is to make a bunch of good rabanadas. Provided that you think of buying one 3 days before Christmas to make it just right stale.
    And the real broa de milho, in my world, is not yellow but grey, although it is made with pure corn meal. Grey, moist and slightly bitter. Heavenly with honey. Mel de urze, that is: the thick, dark brown honey, so strong that it is slightly bitter and almost makes you choke. I bet you can find both in Vouzela (did I tell you that Café Central’s pastéis de nata are to die for?). If not, in the next small town, Oliveira de Frades, where you should ask which shop sells Mafalda’s broa (Mafalda, from Pinheiro de Lafões).

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 1st, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    goodness me oh yes quite right rabanadas!

    [Reply to comment]

  8. Papgena February 1, 2012 6:30 am Reply

    I agree with isabel! The cacete’s job is to make a bunch of good rabanadas! 😀
    And you forgotten a broa d’avintes: http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broa_de_Avintes
    that’s unforgivable!!!

    [Reply to comment]

    http://papgenamadeit.blogspot.com/

  9. Paulo Silva February 3, 2012 8:56 pm Reply

    Hello Emma.

    You say : “Broainhos” can´t be found on internet. Isn’t “Broinhas” you’re looking for, or broinhas de casamento?

    Nice article, as always 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 3rd, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    I tried boinhos too! Still nothing! Is it because I’m using ggole.com and not .pt? And I can’t change that either? Do I work in the internet business?????

    [Reply to comment]

  10. Tiago February 7, 2012 12:07 pm Reply

    Great blog Emma!

    Just a note on darker wholewheat breads: it all depends on what part of Portugal you’re in. The South tends to use wheat primarily. In the North (i.e. North of Aveiro) you tend to find a lot more Corn (Maize) and Rye. Tras-os-Montes has some excellent Rye bread but I guess my favorite is Broa de Avintes – it’s a black bread that is usually found in any good bakery in the Porto region.

    http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broa_de_Avintes

    [Reply to comment]

  11. Priscilla (@ TWO and a half NOMADS) February 15, 2012 8:42 pm Reply

    Hi Emma
    I have been reading your blog on and off for a couple of months now. I love this summary of the Portuguese breads. We are Aussies from Sydney who are now in Portugal, Cascais. I love visiting the bakery and discovering new breads ! Bolinho de Berlim is my favourite! Have you done a post on the different Bacalhau dishes? keep up the good work.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 15th, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    top suggestion… I’ll have to spend a week cooking bacalhau… mmm… first need to convert The One to this idea

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.twoandahalfnomads.com

  12. Délio Faria May 12, 2012 3:02 am Reply

    A-Ha!!! You forgot “Pão de Centeio”, you should try it, it’s big and it lasts edible for 3 or 4 days, and it’s great toasted and then buttered also. Cheers, mate.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: May 22nd, 2012 at 3:32 am

    yes indeed… after writing this I began to see all kinds of different breads everywhere, especially darker ones which I suggested were rare. You just have to know where to look. For anyone around coimbra there’s an excellent bakery cafe near dolce vita and the stadium … it’s modern in pink and brown and quite visible…

    [Reply to comment]

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