These papo secos are light and airy Portuguese rolls that are the perfect vehicle for the classic bifanas–marinated pork slices–or your favorite sandwich fillings or simply a smear of butter.
How to store papo secos
Because these rolls are homemade, they won’t last indefinitely in the bread box the way some store-bought buns can. They’ll keep for 2 days in a resealable plastic bag at room temperature. To perk them up, warm them in a 425°F (218°C) oven for 6 to 8 minutes. If you prefer to freeze the rolls, wrap each in foil and then slip them in a plastic bag.
Papo Secos | Portuguese Rolls
- Quick Glance
- 1 H
- 4 H
- Makes 10 rolls
- For activating the yeast
- For the bread
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the water, yeast, and sugar on low speed until combined. Let sit for 10 minutes until foamy.
Add the flour, water, and butter and stir on low until the ingredients are combined and a cohesive dough forms, 3 minutes. Cover with plastic and let sit for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the salt over the top of the dough and mix on low (speed 2) for 5 minutes. If the dough rides up the hook, use a spatula to scrape it down.
Bump the mixer to medium-high (speed 7) and knead for 2 minutes more. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and be slightly sticky. If the dough hasn’t released from the bottom of the bowl, add some more flour—a tablespoon at a time—until it does.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with plastic wrap, and place in a warm (68°F to 72°F | 20°C to 22°C), draft-free spot. The inside of your oven with the light turned on is ideal. Let the dough double in size, about 1 hour.
Reach down 1 side of the bowl and gently but firmly pull the dough up and fold it over itself. Don’t punch it down. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat. Continue turning and folding 2 more times. Cover and let rest until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Repeat the turning and folding process, cover with plastic, and let the dough rest until doubled in size, about 30 minutes more.
Divide the dough into ten equal pieces, about 4 1/4 ounces (120 grams) each. Lightly flour your hands. Cup one hand over a chunk of dough and roll it on your work surface in a circle to tighten the ball. Being somewhat neurotic, I count the turns—no fewer and no more than 40 revolutions. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with a floured non-terrycloth kitchen towel or a baker’s couche. Cover them with a kitchen towel. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Transfer the balls to your work surface. Heavily dust the towel again.
Flour your hands. Flatten a dough ball into a 6-inch (15-cm) disc. Using the side of your hand, make a deep crease (think karate chop) across the middle of the disc.
Grab both ends of the crease and gently tug them to elongate the dough into a slight oval.
Fold one half of the dough over the other along the crease. The dough will have a half-moon shape.
Twist the ends of the half-moon into fat points and, using your thumbs, flatten them a bit to seal.
Gently transfer the papo seco to the towel, seam-side down. As you shape more rolls, arrange them in a row, few inches apart. Pull the towel up between each row to create a ridge that will hold the shape of the rolls during proofing. Repeat the shaping and lining up the papo-secos, folding up the towel between rows.
Cover the rolls with a towel and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the middle of the oven and slip in a baking stone or tiles. Place an empty metal tray on any rack that won’t interfere with the rising papo secos. (Do not use a glass pan as it could shatter.) Crank the heat to 500°F (260°C). The oven and stone will need time to properly heat.
Have a cup of very hot tap water at the ready.
Coat a baking peel or rimless baking sheet with cornmeal. Carefully turn a few of the papo secos seam-side up and arrange them on the peel.
Place the front edge of the peel at the back of the baking stone and quickly yank it toward you to shift the dough onto the baking stone. Repeat with the remaining papo secos. Quickly but carefully pour the hot water into the metal tray and immediately shut the oven door to trap the steam. Immediately reduce the heat to 425°F (218°C).
Bake the papo secos until they’re puffed and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack. To get that characteristic crusty outside, let the roll sit out several more hours prior to devouring.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I grew up with these crusty rolls. They were delivered daily before breakfast along with one giant version, our daily bread. Warm. Crusty. This was our bakery white bread. My mom baked everything else but these. When my daughter started eating table food (pre-teeth and before words), she’d point to the papo secos and say "uhm...uhm..." Then, when she could talk, she’d call them pãozinho, the Portuguese word for "little bread," and shake all over with excitement. She still calls them pãozinho and up until last month, we only had them for very special treats from a Portuguese bakery so that we could look forward to the ones baked in the Azores during our yearly visits. Those were so special. They don’t home deliver anymore but you can get them from the bakery still warm almost any time of day.
With the physical isolation craze of baking and numerous social network posts sporting papo secos, plus the ugly chance we may not be able to visit the Azores this year, I also jumped on the homemade papo secos bandwagon. My first attempt was quite successful, but I found the shaping to be somewhat challenging and the crust to be short-lived. When I read this recipe, I just knew that I could get the shaping right. Although I want to believe it was the wording in the recipe that provided the “click” in my understanding, it’s possible that I had already been somewhat “primed” from previous recipes. This recipe also only had a crusty exterior for about 60 minutes then softened. Although not crispy, the crust was chewy crusty when compared to the interior which was light yet dense with very even crumb. This might have been from using all purpose flour since I neither had access to bread flour or vital wheat gluten to convert my AP flour to bread flour. However, I must say that the combination of this bun with the bifana did take me back to my years when I lived in the Azores and the light yet slightly dense interior was perfect for sopping up the bifana juices! Yum! Nevertheless, this recipe creates a roll that I’m pleased to call pãozinho!
This is a time-consuming recipe but it isn't difficult at all and the results are worth every minute.
Bread recipes can be daunting and working with dough can be challenging, but this dough was a joy. It came together and kneaded nicely in the mixer. By the time the kneading was done (I did 15 minutes), the mixing bowl was clean. It rose right on schedule (popping the bowl in the oven with the light on is the way to go) and was easy to work with when forming the balls and then the rolls. Instead of just rolling the dough to form balls, which didn't seem to "tighten the ball," as the recipe says, I used my thumb to press it in as I rolled it and that led to nicely shaped and tight dough balls. The forming instructions looked complicated at first glance but made sense when I was working with an actual dough ball.
The dough was quite airy and while I wouldn't call the rolls dense, they weren't as light on the inside as I expected. But they had a really nice crumb and, yes, a crusty exterior. As the recipe said, the crust got crisper after letting the rolls sit out for a few hours. But I started these in the morning and had one for lunch so I didn't wait for that! They really did taste just like the Portuguese rolls we get from the grocery store.