Although there are supermarkets in most of the larger villages selling bread and cakes, the baker is still very noticable here in Central Portugal. Towns such as Gois , Lousa, Arganil and Coja all have several bakeries in the town . They supply the local shops and supemarkets and their vans visit all the small villages, where many villagers don’t have the means of getting to the shops .In most of the bakeries it is possible to have a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of wine and a cake of course, so they are similar to a small café ! Often outside you will see a sign saying PAO QUENTE , which means hot bread , and is an easy way to spot a bakery.
There is a good selection of different breads for sale .White,wholemeal, breads with different cereals on top, corn bread, and some bakeries also sell soya bread. I have started to really enjoy the corn bread, I had never had it before coming to Portugal. It is quite a heavy texture but has a lovely taste and stays fresh for several days.
Small white bread rolls are very popular.The locals seem to buy bags of them at a time .
I am still struggling to learn the names for these white rolls. I bought some lovely small very soft white rolls one day and asked what they were called . I was told PAO REDONDO . However the next time I asked for PAO REDONDO, I was given completely different rolls , more crusty with a texture of ciabatta.I am not fussy and both are nice , so I just wait and see what I get on the day !
From what I have seen so far, the Portuguese love cakes and pastries almost as much as the British . There are a fair selection to choose from, which I am sampling slowly but surely.
They have many variations of cakes with flaky pastry filled with custard, a bit like a vanilla slice . Some have icing on top, others powdered sugar and cinammon .They also have lovely custard filled doughnuts and pastries filled with chocolate, similar to the french chocolate croissant .
Probably the most well known sweet pastry (and my favourite) is a Pastel de Nata.It is sold in all bakeries, and is made fresh daily . It consists of a flaky pastry case, filled with a thick sweet custard that is caramelized on the top giving it a rich slightly toffee taste . It looks very much like a mini egg custard , but is more gooey and sweet . I find it almost impossible to buy just one, infact it would be so easy to scoff at least 3 with a pot of tea at any time of day
However if you don’t have a sweet tooth , the bakery also has some very nice savoury snacks to try . Mini pasties calles Rissoas are delicious .They are deep fried and are filled with either meat(carne), cod ( bacalhau)), shrimp( camaroes) or sometimes suckling pig leitao).
So if you visit Portugal, do visit a small family run bakery and treat yourself to one ( or more )of the delicious cakes or pastries , and let me know what you think .