Breakfast in Brazil

Breakfast in Brazil

I had the opportunity to travel quite a bit over the past 20 years – some of it for business – most of it for pleasure.

I made my first trip to Brazil in 2000. The company I was associated with at the time had an opportunity to purchase a small island just off the coast near the old colonial city of Parati. My job was to evaluate the island for development. The island, unfortunately, proved unsuitable for anything more than a vacation rental. But… it did leave me with a ton of free time before I was scheduled to fly home. So I decided to head out and see Sao Paulo, about 4 hours away.

Now… when I travel.. I like to get away from the Hyatts, Hiltons and any other global homogenized lodging. I.. stay.. cheap. If I can find a room for under $30.00 a night..I’m a happy camper. Forget about the electric showerheads that shock the crap out of you when you touch them, the questionable sheets, the far from sanitary hallways. If it’s affordable lodging, you can rest assured there wont be any other Americans around clogging up the elevators and berating the staff.

The room I did find was centrally located – and that was really my only requirement. I checked in, opened the windows, checked the bed for critters…and drifted off to sleep.

The bonus, I didn’t find out until the next morning – when the bakery / convenience store on the 1st floor started baking the bread. Most quick stop type stores in Sao Paulo all bake bread. In addition to the other sundry items you might need, they carry Brazilian style breakfast items. In city of 17 million – everyone has to eat somewhere.

6 AM comes, and I wake to the delicious aroma of fresh baking Pan de Sal, (a Brazilian interpretation of a French Roll). I stumble, half awake, to the lobby, out the door and into the store packed with  city workers waiting on those first loaves out of the oven.
I bought a dozen of those crispy crusted torpedoes with the light, soft, tender insides…and some sliced ham…and some Brazilian mozzarella (don’t think of it as regular mozzarella – its yellowish, very stringy and smells a bit of old milk)…and ate them all.

On my future trips to Brazil, I made sure that there was always a Pan de Sal store within a block of the hotel.

Pan De Sal
Makes 12 Loaves

2 Envelopes Active Dry Yeast
1 Cup Hot Water (100 to 110 Degrees)
2 Tablespoons Sugar
3 1/2 Cups Bread Flour
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening
2 Teaspoons Salt
2 Baking Pans
1 Pastry Brush

Note** Most bakeries that I came in contact with in Sao Paulo still use potassium bromate as a flour improver and a strengthening agent in the bread. However…Bromates aren’t terribly accepted in most countries these days and have been banned in favor of natural rising. To get the same effect, and a little of the same taste that the bromates would impart – finely crush up 1 ascorbic acid tablet and add it in with the flour. The acid will aid in the rising, and strengthen the flour structure a bit. Read more about bromates Here.

  • Stir together first 3 ingredients in a 2 Cup liquid measuring cup.
  • Let yeast mix bloom for 5 min.
  • Stir together flour, shortening, and salt in bowl of a heavy-duty¬† stand mixer.
  • Add in yeast mix, and beat at medium speed with mixer, using dough hook attachment for 6 min.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 12 equal portions.
  • Knead each portion 3 times – letting the dough rest for 5 minuted between kneads.
  • Shape each portion into a 6-inch log and place on 2 lightly greased baking sheets (Only put 6 loaves per baking sheet – you don’t want them to touch too closely, otherwise, you wont get the nice crust all around).
  • Cover dough, and let rise in a warm place (85 to 100 degrees), free from drafts, for 40 min (dough won’t double in bulk).Most newer ovens have a bread proofing setting – these are always great as it lets you get the dough out of the way while you’re working.
  • Cut a shallow slit, lengthwise, in top of each loaf. (About 1/2″ deep)
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 10 min or until just golden .
  • Open the oven and quickly brush the top and sides of each loaf with cold water.Use a pastry brush
  • Close the oven and cook for an additional 3 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and cool on racks
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