Fresh bread is an important part of the Portuguese diet. It’s also something that I have become rather obsessed with since moving here.
The range of breads available in Portugal is enormous. Our local shop, which is equivalent in size to something like a Londis shop or Spar in England, bakes nine kinds of bread and rolls daily. It also sells two different sorts of loaves and three different kinds of rolls from nearby local bakeries. A small range of pre-packed sliced bread and burger buns is available too, but as they cost far more than the freshly baked bread and taste far less good, I’m not going to refer further to them in this article.
I’ve always loved bread. As a child one of my favourite snacks was a slice of bread dipped in salad cream, but it wasn’t until I moved to Portugal that I began to appreciate the variety of textures and flavours that fresh bread can provide.
Bread is particularly important to the Portuguese diet. It is cheap, filling and versatile. When it begins to go stale – and fresh bread here does tend to go stale pretty fast, usually within 24 hours of being baked – it is used to make dishes such as açorda, a thick, creamy bread-based stew.
Corn bread, soda bread, tiny cheesy rolls, dark rye bread, bread with grains on top, bread with fruit baked into it – the list of fresh breads in Portugal is seemingly endless. One of my favourites is pão com chouriço, little rolls with slices of chouriço baked into them. Pão com torresmos is equally good, but features torresmos (like soft pork scratchings) baked into the bread instead of the chouriço.
Another of my favourites is pão do céu – a light, almost cake-like bread. The version I prefer has a lovely delicate coconut undertone and is perfect eaten just on its own or smothered with a dark berry jam.
Such is the Portuguese love of bread that an enterprising chap in our village decided to sell it out of the back of a van. Every weekday he parks at the end of our road, puts a sign in the van window saying ‘pão quente’ (hot bread) and waits for customers. They come in droves, stopping on their way home from work to stock up on loaves, rolls and pão com chouriço still warm from the oven.
Portugal’s different regions all have their own styles and specialities of bread, so despite having lived here for over three years I still haven’t managed to sample it all. I’m going to try my best to do so over the coming years though, which no doubt will only serve to further my obsession with Portuguese fresh bread!
Image credits: Wikimedia