How to Make Papo Seco (Portuguese Bread Rolls)

Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside

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    A Delicious Portuguese Roll

    Papo Secos
    Pochove / Flickr CC 2.0

    Papo Secos are hard and crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, typical of most breads that were originally baked in brick ovens. They are used sandwich-style for Vinha D'alhos (Portuguese carnitas), sliced linguiça, or other meats, and are also great all by themselves as an accompaniment for soups and stews. They are also delicious simply sliced in half, toasted, and slathered with butter.

    Unfortunately, papo secos are not easy to find unless you are in a Portuguese community. But lucky for us, they are not hard to make at home!

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  • 02 of 11

    What You Need

    Papo secos are a typical yeast roll and thus call for common bread ingredients. You will need yeast, sugar, flour, salt, water, butter, and a little milk for brushing on the balls of dough before they go in the oven. Plan for two rising times and a bit of kneading, and have a pizza stone or two baking sheets ready; the second shallow baking sheet is to be filled with water to create steam while the rolls cook, mimicking the effects of a brick oven.

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  • 03 of 11

    Prepare the Yeast

    Yeast in water
    The Spruce / Wendy Ponte

    The first step to making papo secos is to prepare the yeast. Place 1/2 cup of warm water in a small glass or ceramic bowl—it is important that the water be room temperature or slightly warmer. Gently stir in 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a package of yeast (not the quick-rise kind).

    Allow this to sit undisturbed until it begins to foam (about 10 minutes).

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  • 04 of 11

    Make a Batter

    Mixing the batter
    The Spruce / Wendy Ponte

    Pour the yeast mixture into a large bowl. Slowly mix in 4 1/2 to 5 cups of flour (bread flour, white flour, or unbleached organic flour), 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 more cups of room-temperature water, and 2 tablespoons of soft butter. You should have a soft batter at this point. If the butter is not completely mixed in, don't worry. When you knead the dough later, it will become incorporated.

    Place the batter in a warm spot and cover it with a dishtowel. Leave it to rise for about 1 hour. It will almost double in size.

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  • 05 of 11

    Knead the Dough

    Knead the dough
    The Spruce / Wendy Ponte

    Turn the batter onto a floured surface. With floured hands, begin to knead another cup of flour into the dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. You may find you need more or less than 1 cup of flour to create a good dough. It should feel smooth and not overly sticky on your hands.

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  • 06 of 11

    Make Balls of Dough

    Dough balls on a towel
    The Spruce / Wendy Ponte

    Break the kneaded dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece gently between your hands to create round balls of dough.

    Place the dough balls on a lightly floured dishtowel placed in a warm spot. Cover with another dishtowel and let rest for about 30 minutes.

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  • 07 of 11

    Flatten Into a Disc

    Flatten and shape the dough balls
    The Spruce / Wendy Ponte

    One at a time, flatten each of the dough balls into a disc shape. With the side of your hand, karate-chop style, place a crease in each of the discs.

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  • 08 of 11

    Shape the Rolls

    Shaping the roll
    The Spruce / Wendy Ponte

    Now it is time to give the rolls their signature shape. Fold each of the discs in half, then pinch and roll each end. 

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  • 09 of 11

    Brush With Milk

    Pour about 1/4 cup of milk into a small bowl and using a pastry brush, lightly coat each roll with milk.

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  • 10 of 11

    Prep the Oven

    Pizza stone
    The Spruce / Wendy Ponte

    Set your oven to 425 F.

    A pizza or baking stone is really the best surface for baking your rolls; you will end up with a thicker, crustier outside and a better taste. Otherwise, a cookie sheet will work. Place either on the middle rack of the oven. Put another shallow pan (deep enough to hold an inch or so of water) on a lower rack. Allow both of these pans to heat up while the oven preheats.

    Boil some water to pour into the bottom pan in the oven; you will add this when you put the rolls in to bake. It will create steam in the oven, which duplicates the effect of a brick oven.

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  • 11 of 11

    Bake the Rolls

    The finished rolls!
    The Spruce / Wendy Ponte

    When the oven has preheated, take out the pizza stone or pan and arrange the shaped rolls on the pan. Return the pan to the oven (don't forget to use an oven mitt!). Immediately pour boiling water into the lower pan to about a one-inch depth. 

    Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown on top. Remove them from the oven and let them rest for 15 minutes.

    Slice and top with sandwich fillings, serve alongside salad and soup or simply eat as is.