Our daily bread
Flour, yeast, water and salt. The key ingredients of bread, a component of diets the world over, couldn’t be simpler. The complexity – and the “secret” of any particular bread – is in how you put them together. To bring the best fresh bread to tables across Portugal, the Jerónimo Martins Group launched in 2008 a pioneering project in the country: a fresh dough factory to ensure it could sell an industrially produced bread with the quality of an artisanal product.
varieties of bread and cakes
tonnes monthly average of fresh dough
tonnes Pão da Avó per day
The fresh dough factory started up in 2009, in Azambuja (on the outskirts of Lisbon). The first oven loads dispatched to Pingo Doce stores were a success, and by late 2022 almost 40 varieties of bread and cakes were being produced, from white bread, pão de mistura (rye and wheat), with seeds, sourdough, chocolate pastries and bolo-rei, the traditional Portuguese Christmas cake. This is the factory that each day sends out three tons of Pão da Avó (Grandmother’s Bread), one of Pingo Doce’s flagship products and a huge success in Portugal. On average, the factory turns out 500 tons of fresh dough each month, supplying dozens of Pingo Doce stores.
To sell an industrially produced bread with the quality of an artisanal product – that’s the aim of the fresh dough factory.
The process starts with the arrival of the raw materials, various types of flour carefully selected and “whenever possible from Portuguese suppliers”, as explained by Joana Afonso, production manager at the factory. The quality of the ingredients, the devotion to the breadmaker’s craft and the commitment to healthy products, by reducing the quantity of salt used, are all constant features of its work, along with respect for the best practices in terms of quality and food safety. The human touch is what makes a difference. Joana Afonso tells us that “the factory is above all the team we have here. It’s not the walls, or the machinery. It’s this team. A team that is enormously dedicated, takes pride in its work, that achieves small miracles every day”, seven days a week.
Production is geared to respond to the orders coming in from the stores, and a computerised system ensures that recipes are followed to the letter. The ingredients for each type of bread are placed in a vat, in the right quantities. Other ingredients needed for the recipe are added by hand, and after kneading, the fresh dough proceeds to the production lines. With the exception of Pão da Avó, the leavening process takes place at the stores.
“The factory is above all the team we have here. It’s not the walls, or the machinery. It’s this team.”
To halt this process, chillers are used to bring down the temperature of the dough. Lastly, the product is placed in crates for transportation, ready for the trip to the stores. This dough is transported during the early hours and, already at the stores, once it has risen, bread and cakes are baked. This means they reach the customer still warm, soft inside, with a crispy crust and the irresistible aroma of bread fresh from the oven.