Fresh bread - the variety is endless

Portuguese Fresh Bread

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.

Fresh bread - the variety is endless
Fresh bread – the variety is endless

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.

Fresh bread - distinct regional variations exist
Fresh bread – distinct regional variations exist

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

6 thoughts on “Portuguese Fresh Bread

  1. Bread, this one of things I miss most here in teh UK. I always wonder why, being the UK so close to France, is the bread so boring here.
    REgarding your comment “…When it begins to go stale – and fresh bread here does tend to go stale pretty fast, usually within 24 hours of being baked …”

    I suggest you to try getting a homebaked bread “pão caseiro”, if real, it will last for at least a week and still in very good conditions.


  2. Thanks CcoR for the recommendation, I will try to get hold of some pão caseiro at the first available opportunity. It is such a shame that the UK is so uninspiring in its choice of breads, when the rest of Europe has so many delightful options!
    Best wishes :-)

  3. As always, I speak of the North of the country.
    The Variety in breads & rolls is really a fairly recent phenomenon….20 years ago it was either ‘Broa’ or two different shapes of normal bread, two or three shapes of rolls.Period. Coming from living in Germany the disappointment was intense and, with the passage of time, things have only improved marginally.
    Bakers with ambition would be well advised to send a member of their staff to work in a German bakery for a few weeks.

  4. Thanks dogoyaro, I love your suggestion of a bakery exchange scheme between different countries – it could only lead to good things for all of us! Best wishes :-)

  5. About 15-20 years ago there was a German bakery in Braga…I never visited it so I don’t know if they were baking German bread or Portuguese…or both. I don’t know its history but imagine that it would have survived in the Algarve….but the conservative North is another matter. No matter how good or innovative, there is a time for everything…and I think they may have been before theirs. Pity.

  6. Hi dogayaro,
    That’s a shame if the business did not survive, but great that at least the owners will have shared some new breads and cakes with Portugal while they were open. I will keep my fingers crossed that something similar opens in the Algarve!
    Best wishes :-)

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