Pão de Deus, the bread of God (heavenly bread), also called arrufada or estaladinho is one of the most typical Portuguese buns traditionally eaten on All Saints Day.
What comes to mind when you think of Portuguese cuisine?
The most obvious answers are probably bacalhau (salted cod), sardinhas (sardines), feijoada, caldo verde or pasteis de nata. In reality, Portuguese cuisine is more than just that. Let’s talk about it !
Portuguese cuisine, one of the tastiest cuisines in Europe, features influences of both Mediterranean and Atlantic cuisines, given the location of Portugal, with borders with Spain and close to the Atlantic Ocean. Portuguese cuisine has its origins in the gastronomy of the Lusitanian people, an Indo-European people who colonized the western part of the Iberian Peninsula, or what is Portugal today, and which was conquered by the Romans, eventually becoming the region of Lusitania.
In this Portuguese cuisine, you will find the basis of the traditional Mediterranean diet, consisting of the trilogy of bread, olive oil, and wine, as well as an abundance of fruits and vegetables, many fish, including the famous salted cod and also meat-based dishes, especially pork, which is also processed to produce several kinds of sausages including the traditional alheira.
It should also be noted that in recent centuries, Portugal colonized many countries such as Brazil, Mozambique, Kenya, Morocco, East Timor, Indonesia and parts of India, so its cuisine is also influenced by the cuisines of all these remote areas and vice versa, especially with regard to the use of spices.
Saber comer é saber viver, or “to know how to eat is to know how to live”, is a famous Portuguese saying, which is part of the country’s food education campaign.
Indeed, the attention paid to a healthy and balanced diet in Portugal is very important, so much so that in 1977 the Roda dos Alimentos (the food wheel) was created. It is recognized by the World Health Organization, and it helps to choose and combine the foods that should be part of the daily diet. This roda (wheel) obviously has a circular shape, which looks like a dish. It is an educational resource that, via an image, aims to transform complex nutritional information into simple and easy-to-use tools.
Roda dos Alimentos has made the Portuguese diet adopt the Mediterranean diet that includes 7 categories of foods, each indicated with a recommended daily percentage:
Tubers, cereals, etc: 28%
Dairy products: 18%
Meat, fish and eggs: 5%
Fats and oils: 3%
In addition, in 2015, the Parliament instituted the National Day of Portuguese Gastronomy, which takes place every year on the last Sunday of May. It celebrates the importance of food as a cultural, economic and social element of the country.
Among all the famous Portuguese dishes, soups are very important in Portuguese cuisine. Virtually every region has its typical soup, whether served hot or cold. As an example, let’s mention picada (a cold chopped cucumber soup), caldo verde, açorda and the Portuguese version of gaspacho.
In addition to the famous recipes mentioned above, the main Portuguese dishes, often considered as unique dishes, include the following:
– Cozido: a stew made of various pieces of pork and chicken, beans and lots of vegetables
– Rojões: a pork stew, cooked with bacon and served with roasted potatoes
– Arroz de pato: rice with duck
– Bolinhos de bacalhau: salted cod croquettes
– Bacalhau asado: salted cod cooked in the oven with potatoes
On the Portuguese table, you will also find petiscos (Portuguese tapas) made with seafood such as amèijoas (clams), or sardinhas asadas (grilled sardines).
Let’s talk about bread, and our heavenly bread of the day!
Bread is undoubtedly one of the staples of Portuguese cuisine. They are of different types, usually large breads made to last a few days.
Bread is an integral part of many Portuguese dishes such as torricado, a toasted bread coated with garlic and served with olive oil and acorda alentejana, a slice of bread served in a broth with a poached egg on top as well as fresh cilantro.
Thousands of Portuguese children roam the streets on All Saints’ Day asking for bolinho (small cake) or pão por Deus, an ancestral tradition that is similar to American Halloween.
While in the United States, children go door to door on the eve of All Saints’ Day (October 31st) shouting their famous trick or treat, in Portugal, they do it on the morning of the holiday, without any threat of tricking towards those who give nothing.
The Portuguese children, carrying their bags, roam the streets and alleys of villages and towns and knock on the doors of their family members, their neighbors and strangers by saying the traditional phrase: Ó tia, dá bolinho? (“Oh, auntie, are you giving a little cake?”) In the absence of this cake, the offerings include chocolates, candies or money.
According to historian Travaços Santos, specialized in ethnological questions, this tradition, which has been practiced throughout the country, goes back to Christianity, “It is a gesture of solidarity and love towards others, mainly children”, he said.
In the past, when the famine was common, it was the day when the children “killed their hunger,” said José Travaços Santos, adding that it is: “a morning devoted to children”.
In Portugal, All Saints’ Day is also known as dia do bolinho.
Our pão de deus is a typical Portuguese bun, that is traditionally eaten on All Saints’ Day.
Pão de deus is a soft brioche, topped with a coconut and egg-based cream. Its texture is very similar to that of the traditional French pain au lait.
Pão de deus can be enjoyed as much in a breakfast sweet version as in a savory version. Indeed, it is very common in Portugal to eat sweet buns with savory foods such as ham, cheese and other cold cuts.
I prepared these little wonders for a family snack on the beach of Tel Aviv. We tasted them freshly baked and we all loved them!
- 10 cups flour
- 2 cups milk (warm, 95F/36C)
- 3 eggs , beaten
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 pinches salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter , soft and cut into small pieces
- 3 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 2½ cups grated coconut
- 5 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons water
- Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm milk. Let stand for 15 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and dig a well.
- Add the brown sugar, eggs, milk and dissolved yeast.
- Knead for a few minutes using the dough hook.
- Slowly incorporate the butter while mixing. Add the salt.
- Knead for 5 minutes at medium speed or until smooth and non-sticky.
- If necessary, add a little warm milk if the dough is too compact or some flour if it is too soft or sticky.
- Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. It must at least double in volume.
- Shape the pães de deus either in the shape of a ball about 2 inches in diameter or in your preferred mold.
- Cover them with a cloth and let them rise again for 45 minutes in a warm place.
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C, and prepare the bread topping in the meantime.
- In a bowl, vigorously whisk the eggs, grated coconut and sugar.
- In another bowl, beat the two egg yolks and water and brush the bread with this mixture.
- Place the coconut cream on top of each pão de deus.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.