Pão de Deus can be translated into “God’s Bread”. It is a brioche-kind of soft roll with a coconut topping just lightly sweetened and toasted in the oven. Sublime and heavenly are good words to describe it. Part of the Portuguese rich cuisine, any bakery in the country offer this delicacy from North to South. Easily many people would have it for breakfast in one of these local bakeries, served with a slice of cheese or ham or both, together with the morning coffee. Another way to eat it is picking the coconut topping first tasting all its flavor and then pulling pieces of the fluffy bread while enjoying it slowly. I never mind to eat it like that with a hot green tea for a mid-morning snack.
I didn’t use a traditional recipe to make the dough. Instead, I adapted this recipe I found a while ago that uses yogurt instead of milk. Other ingredients I used were raw honey (I’m very pleased with our local honey producer) and extra virgin olive oil. The bread comes out fragrant, soft and incredibly good.
Heaven on a plate. Hey, look I ate one (or two) with homemade marmalade my mom sent me by mail (marmalade in Portuguese is specifically quince jam, deriving the word from “marmelo” which means quince) – de-li-ci-ous! This is definitely a must-try. And while the Pão de Deus falls in between a bread and a pastry because of the coconut topping sprinkled with icing sugar, you can always prepare just the dough-base as a wonderful recipe for soft rolls.
Pão de Deus – Sweet Rolls
Preparation time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes
Makes 12 rolls
For the rolls
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp active dry yeast (1 envelope)
3 Tbsp raw honey
1 cup warm water (100 F)
1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2% fat)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
For the topping:
4 oz unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp natural cane sugar
1 egg white
1 egg yolk (to brush the rolls before adding the coconut mix)
powdered sugar for decoration
In a bowl combine the flours. In a large bowl of a stand-mixer, add 1/2 cup of the flour mix, the active dry yeast, the honey and the warm water. Stir well and let sit for about 10 minutes until foamy.
Insert the bowl in the stand mixer and attach the dough hook. Mix in 1 cup of yogurt, 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Keeping the mixer on mode stir, gradually add the remaining flour and let it knead until the dough detaches from the sides of the bowl (about 5 minutes). At this point the dough should be soft and elastic.
Transfer the soft dough into a large bowl lightly coated with olive oil, turning the dough all the way around to be greased with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise about an hour or until doubled in size.
After that time, turn the dough onto a working surface, lightly floured, and deflate very gently using your hands to create a rectangular shape. Using a pizza cutter, divide dough into 12 pieces.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Now shape each piece into a ball, by folding each corner of the little square down together and pinching them to seal. Place them in the prepared baking sheet. When all the rolls are formed, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise about 25 minutes (do not flatten the balls at this point; you want to end up with very soft rolls).
In the meantime preheat oven to 375 F.
Mix together the topping ingredients (coconut, sugar and egg white), stirring well. Brush each roll with the beaten egg yolk. Spread one tablespoon of the coconut mixture on each roll.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a roll comes out clean.
Sprinkle powdered sugar on top.