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Pão de água

Sat, 11 June, 2022

Portuguese pão de água, which means ‘water bread’, is a white, airy and light loaf, perfect for sandwiches.

pao de agua

Portuguese water bread

This is an elusive bread, and I’m not quite sure whether it actually exists. The only reliable recipe I have managed to find comes from the Thermomix recipe site, Cookidoo.

There is another, which intrigued me greatly as it made for completely liquid dough, but it certainly was a recipe for disaster, not for water bread – only the first word was apt in the name.

I borrowed the idea of using sparkling water though and I think it’s a great discovery. It adds a lot of lightness to the texture, which is logical, as carbon dioxide produced by yeast is what makes bread rise, and air bubbles are the proof of success in most breads’ crumb.

portuguese water bread

How is pão de água made?

The process takes place over two days with the ferment prepared the night before baking. Sparkling water and yeast, plus approximately half the amount of flour and you can mix it with a spatula or a spoon.

It sits on the worktop overnight, bubbling like mad. In the morning it might even look like it has collapsed a little with all that effort, but that’s perfectly fine.


After the addition of the remaining flour and salt, it needs some work: either 10 or so minutes in the standing mixer or about twice as long by hand, on a flour dusted surface.

It will still be quite sticky as the hydration of this dough is relatively high, but it should become less so, and smoother and more elastic.

Proving should take about one and a half hours, until the dough doubles in volume.

main dough

It will fit a 2-pound loaf tin which ought to be thoroughly buttered.

When the dough has risen, it needs to be handled very gently as there is virtually no second rise. None of that punching down or knocking out air!

Turn it out onto a floured worktop very gently, then arrange with your hands into a rough rectangle, as wide as your tin. The only shaping involved is folding a third of the dough width wise towards the middle, then folding the opposite third over it and delicately pinching to seal.

To transfer it into the tin it’s best to roll it into it, laid on its side. You should aim for the seam to be at the bottom but, trust me, it never happens.

shaping loaf

And that’s it – it’s off to the oven, together with a generous squirt of a water spray.

It takes about half an hour to bake and it comes out browned and risen, and impressively crusty. Watch out for shards of crust flying everywhere when you cut the first slice!

baked loaf

Easy to make, satisfying to eat

Let’s be honest: for the true afficionados of sourdoughs and elaborate loaves, this is surely a substandard, bish-bash-bosh product.

But the ease will be appealing to other, not so proficient bakers. And sometimes you really need just a plain white, fluffy loaf, baked in a tin, and great for sandwiches.

It also toasts like a dream.

portuguese pao de agua

More easy bread recipes

Classic Jim Lahey’s no knead bread is a very easy recipe, unfailingly successful especially if you have a Dutch oven or an ordinary cast iron casserole dish.

This one is not only no-knead, but also no-shape! Lazy bread ferments over 18 hours to gain flavour but there’s no real effort involved in making it.

Cheat’s sourdough or how to get close to the sourdough taste in 24 hours. Crusty on the outside, chewy crumb, you might be easily fooled into thinking it’s the real thing.

water bread

Pão de água

Servings: 1 small loafTime: 4 hours plus overnight ferment
Tags: bread, easy


  • 330ml sparkling water
  • 6g fresh or ½ tsp instant yeast
  • 430g strong white bread flour, divided
  • 6g (2 tsp) fine sea salt


1. Prepare the ferment the night before baking. Pour the water into a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer and add the yeast. Stir in 200g flour, cover the bowl with cling film and leave overnight at room temperature.

2. The following morning the ferment should have bubbled and collapsed slightly. Add the remaining flour and the salt, and mix to rough dough.

3. Knead it in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment for 10 minutes at medium speed. If working by hand, turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead by hand until it’s smooth and less sticky. Let it prove in a bowl, in a warm place for 1 ½ - 2 hours until doubled in volume.

4. In the meantime butter a 2lb (23 x 14cm) loaf tin.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface taking care not to deflate it much. Gently shape it into a rectangle the width of the tin. Fold 13 of the width onto itself, then fold over the other 13 to form a fat roll. Gently pinch the edge to seal.

6. Turn the tin on the side and gently roll the dough in, aiming for the seam to be at the bottom. Leave it to prove for about 30 minutes while the oven heats up to 250C/475F/gas 9.

7. Place the tin on the middle rack and spray the oven with water. Bake for 30 minutes until the loaf is well-risen and browned on the top.

8. Turn it out onto a wire rack and cool completely before slicing.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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