Thursday, August 30, 2012
This pattern of eating pão francês every day dates from the early 20th Century in Brazil, when the style of bread we call French became known to Brazilian troops in Europe during the First World War, and was brought home with them when they returned from the battlefield. At that time, crusty rolls were more popular in France than long loaves (baguettes) and to this day, rolls are preferred in Brazil. Over the course of time the original French recipe became Brazilianized, and today most bakeries sell pão francês that has a pinch of sugar and a touch of butter or some other fat added to the original recipe for French bread dough.
Brazilians have come to prefer a roll that has a very airy and fluffy inside - pão francês is much less dense than French bread found in France or other countries. What is most important to Brazilians is the crust - it must be nicely browned and extremely crunchy. Brazilians love a roll that breaks into small sharp flakes when cut into. Because bread crusts do not remain crisp in Brazil's hot and often humid climate, Brazilians demand the freshest of bread on their tables. Many families buy bread from a supermarket or a bakery more than once a day - once for the breakfast bread, and again later in the day for afternoon or evening eating. Bakeries, by customer demand, are required to have fresh bread coming out of their ovens multiple times a day, so that when a customer comes in the bread is still warm from the oven. One bakery in Fortaleza that is a favorite of ours advertises that they offer 40 different bakings per day in order to assure the freshest possible bread.
Next post, as a special treat for homesick expat Brazilians, we'll post a recipe for Brazilian-style pão francês for making in a home oven.