Portuguese bread or ‘Pao’ is a kind of bread that is commonly served in almost all Portuguese meals. Usually, the breads prepared in Portuguese cuisine are sweet in taste and served both for breakfast as well as dessert. Rye bread, corn bread or simple white loaf is also quite common in Portuguese meals. Portuguese breads also include soft rolls, sweet buns, crisp and light croissants and even dried fruits and raisin breads
Warm and fresh-baked breads are the highlight of the baking culture of Portugal. It is regarded a cultural faux-pass in Portugal to buy packaged breads from the super marts when several bakeries are available to buy freshly baked breads at very low prices.
History of Bread in Portuguese Cuisine
Bread is indeed the vital foodstuff consumed daily by the people of Portugal. Bread has been considered a source of life in the Portuguese culture. According to the dogma of transubstantiation (the Catholic encyclopedia), the bread signifies the Christ’s body, hence, most of the Portuguese families in olden times used to kiss the piece of bread if it had fallen on the floor.
During middle Ages, millet was introduced in Portugal and became an integral component of bread making in Portuguese households. Corn was grown in Portugal only after its introduction probably by Spain, but, only milled corn is used in Portuguese breads.
Whatever be the Portuguese bread recipe, this food stuff constituted the essential nourishment for the Portuguese upper classes with meat during Middle Ages. A round loaf was typically served with a slab of meat to the people of upper classes, whereas, leftover bread was soaked with meat juice and served to the servants and dogs.
Easter, Christmas and many Catholic holidays have special significance of bread and a huge variety of breads are traditionally served on these occasions in Portugal.
Popular Portuguese Breads
Here is a guide to few popular Portuguese breads:
- Pao de centeio – It is a kind of rye bread in Portuguese cuisine that is specially prepared in Northern Portugal. Stone miller’s flour is typically used to make this bread. This flour has compact grains that are able to provide a unique flavor to the bread as well as reduced the gluten.
- Broa di Milho – Northern Portuguese soil is considered harsh for wheat growth, hence, in Northern Portugal, corn and buckwheat are generally combined to make breads. This bread imparts a hearty and very rich flavor and has a yellow interior due to corn flour. It is one of the most liked breads in Portuguese cuisine. It tastes best when slathered in cheese or butter.
- Pão Alentejano - A kind of wheat bread prepared having compact grains that make the bread lighter and dense. It is also known as ‘Head bread’ owing to a visible lump on the bread that generally pops out of the loaf when baked. Although this bread is a great food stuff on its own, a traditional Portuguese dish called ‘Acorda’ typically includes pieces of head bread soaked in broth flavored with cilantro and garlic. Poached egg is also topped on the prepared broth.
- Bola de carne – A great pan-baked, soft Portuguese bread that contains sausages, bacon and ham. It is typically served around Christmas and throughout during winters as an appetizer.
- Bolo de Ferradura – It is kind of sweet anise and lemon flavored celebration bread from the regions of central and west Ribatejo. This bread is traditionally prepared in horseshoe shape and served as a wedding gift to guests by the bride.
- Pão-por-Deus – This bread is typically prepared on ‘All Saints Day’ in Portugal, a day observed as a Catholic holiday. Raisins and pine nuts are added to this bread for extra flavor and crunch. It is kind of sweet ‘broa’ that is provided to the children roaming in the streets of Portugal to collect ‘bread for God’.
In Portugal, due to preparation and texture of the breads, few breads are called as cakes.