Saturday, April 25, 2009

Portuguese Sweet Bread: A Lazy Bakers Project

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Melinda said, "Even if it's not my turn, I'd like to make the Portuguese bread in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Is that okay with you?" "Sure," I said. Melinda is such a sweet talker. Also I'd never made Portuguese bread, or, to my knowledge, tasted it, and I figured it would be some relative of French or Italian bread. When I looked at the recipe, though, I got a little uneasy. First, it's Portuguese sweet bread, not just Portuguese bread, and it's got quite a bit of sugar in it. Also vegetable shortening, which seemed odd. And vanilla, orange, and lemon extracts, which seemed even odder. And a description of a loaf that turns out "squishy." Not so appetizing. Also I couldn't figure out what I was going to do with it. It sounded like it wouldn't make great sandwiches, and, although Peter Reinhart says it makes excellent bread pudding, I didn't see a bread pudding in my future.
Here's what Wikipedia says:
Portuguese sweet bread (Massa Sovada or simply Massa, Pão Doce and the Easter version with eggs is better known as Folar) is a bread made with milk, sugar and/or honey to produce a subtly sweet lightly textured loaf. It was traditionally made around the Christmas and Easter holidays (often with hard boiled eggs baked into the loaves for the latter holiday) as a round-shaped loaf, but today it is made and available year round. The bread is usually served simply with butter and is sometimes eaten with meals (breakfast in particular), but often as a dessert. Portuguese sweet bread is common in both Hawaiian cuisine and New England cuisine as it was brought to those regions by their large Portuguese immigrant populations.
That description sounded okay (except for the baked-in hard-boiled egg part--thanks for not choosing that version Melinda!)
This is an easy bread, although it does take most of the day to get it to the ready-to-eat point.
You start out with a sponge, but it's a very simple version: just stir together yeast, water, bread flour, and sugar, and let it alone for a few hours until it's bubbling away.

Mixing the dough is also pretty easy, but there were a few things that gave me pause. After I added the orange and lemon extracts, the smell of fake citrus and alcohol was very strong and not particularly pleasant. Also, although the dough was easy, it took about 15 minutes to mix it in the KitchenAid. If you mixed it by hand, you'd be ready to shoot yourself by the time it was done. Portuguese ladies must have biceps of steel. I advise adding all the water (the recipe calls for 6 T. of water, to be added "as needed" to make a soft, supple dough). The dough seems pretty soft, even without any extra water added, but I think it needs the entire amount of water to get to the point where the gluten is developed.

It's a slow riser. It took over two hours--maybe closer to three--until it had risen enough to be shaped into two boules.

Reinhart says to shape them and put them into pie pans, which is just what I did.

Another hour or two to let rise as shaped, and I had long ago given up on the idea of having bread with dinner. In fact, the whole idea of dinner had fallen by the wayside, and we settled for crackers and hummus and wine for dinner. I personally love having appetizers for dinner, but Jim looked pretty morose at this offering. I appeased him with assurances of fresh bread and butter as a midnight snack. This is another recipe with an egg wash, which I love because of the shininess it imparts.

It's so shiny it almost glows in the dark!

The aroma coming from the oven during the last half-hour of baking is fabulous! I don't know if I've ever baked a bread that smelled better (or maybe it was just because I hadn't eaten dinner). It smelled yeasty, and sweet, and the three extracts somehow merged to add something faintly exotic but not at all overpowering.
When I ate the first piece, I still wasn't quite sure whether I liked it. The bread was very soft and tender, but it was definitely sweet--a surprisingly sugary first bite that mellowed to a more subtle sweetness. By the second slice, I decided I liked it, and by the third slice, spread with soft butter, I decided I liked it a lot.

I remembered that my neighbor Laurel loved to go to Portuguese restaurants and bakeries when she was visiting New England, so I gave her the second loaf on Sunday morning. She said she'd made French toast, and the bread was so flavorful and sweet that it didn't need syrup--just butter.
Lazy Bakers--I hope you like this as much as I did.

--from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart


1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 T. (.5 ounce) granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp. (.25 ounce) instant yeast
1/2 cup (4 ounces) water, at room temperature

6 T. (3 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tsp. (.25 ounce) salt
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces) powdered milk
2 T. (1 ounce) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 T. (1 ounce) vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp. (.17 ounce) lemon extract
1 tsp. (.17 ounce) orange extract
1 tsp. (.17 ounce) vanilla extract
3 cups (13.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
6 T. (3 ounces) water, at room temp.

Egg Wash
1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp. water until frothy.

1. Make the sponge. Stir together the flour, sugar, and yeast in ia small bowl. Add the water and stir until mixed. Cover the howl with plastic wrap for 60-90 minutes, or until the sponge gets foamy.

2. Make the dough. Combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix with paddle attachment until smooth, then add eggs and extracts. Switch to dough hook attachment and mix in sponge and flour. Add water. The finished dough should not be wet or sticky. It will take at least 12minutes, maybe more, to reach the right consistency. Oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

4. Remove dough from bowl and divice it into 2 equal pieces. Form each piece into a boule. Place boule, seam side down, into an oiled pie plate. Mist tops with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

5. Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until dough fills the pans fully, doubling iin size.

6. Gently brush the loaves with the egg wash. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

7. Bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes (mine were done at 50). After 30 minutes, rotate 180 degrees. Because of the high amount of sugar, the dough will brown very quickly, but it will not be done. The final color will be a rich mahogany brown. (The bread looks very dark, but it really didn't burn).

8. Remove the bread from the piei pans and place on a rack to cool. The bread will soften as it cools, resulting in a very soft, squishy loaf. Allow the bread to cool for at least 90 minutes before slicing or serving. (But the sky won't fall if you only wait an hour).


Melinda said...

I am so pleased to see you have made this already. And that you liked it.
I have never had Portuguese bread either. I thought the recipe looked similar to a panetonne. Any similarity in taste?
I haven't made mine up yet (surprise) but want to make it by Wednesday.
How beautiful your bread looks! I love the yellow glow of the bread, and the beautiful shiny crust. Very showy.
I am thankful for my Kitchen Aid when I see 15 minute kneading times. We are so spoiled.

(Poor Jim, having to have just crackers for dinner.)

evil cake lady said...

I still get surprised when I look at my blogroll and see that you've already made the next project. When will I learn?

I have had Hawaiian sweet bread, which is tasty, so I am sure I will like this bread too. I am very thankful for your detailed photos and well documented baking adventures. When I looked at the recipe I got a little nervous, but now not so much!

I hope, for Jim's sake, you have a better dinner tonight.

Bunny said...

This is a beautiful loaf of bread! My potato bread recipe is kinda sweet so I think I'd like this espicially with he extracts in it. I really enjoyed your pictures as well!

jini said...

well, how interesting. i suspect you made a sweet bread as you are mourning missing dessert on monday. hah.
now i have another loaf to add to my list!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so glad you made the first loaf, now we have a good reference for when we do ours!!!LOL! I have been looking on other websites for some tips and hints about this bread but now I can go ahead with more confidence after reading your notes.

Your loaf looks wonderful, I hope I can make mine look as good and of course the taste is important ,now we know what to expect, something sweet and a bit different. I must try and do mine before I meet up with Melinda so that we can swap experiences. Jeannette

breadbasketcase said...

It's somewhat similar to panetonne, without the fruit, but it's a much softer loaf and more tender crumb. You know how I love projects! Give me an assignment and I can't wait to finish it.
"Poor Jim" had hummus too, very healthy, not just crackers. And a few leftover shrimps. And he had a lovely breakfast not ten hours earlier.

breadbasketcase said...

I used to be able to buy a Hawaiian loaf at my grocery store--King's, I think--but I haven't seen it for years. I don't know if they went out of business or if local stores stopped carrying it. I think you'll like this recipe a lot, Ms. Cake Lady - it is sweet enough to be used as a coffee cake, with butter and, if you want to gild the lily, some lemon curd.

breadbasketcase said...

Let us know if you try the bread. It's probably considerably sweeter than your potato bread, but it would be interesting to compare. I had it for toast this morning, by the way--quite good, although you do have to watch to make sure it doesn't burn.

breadbasketcase said...

Why do you have to remind me that I'm missing dessert? Please take notes if there are any good hints on making or shaping pie crusts--one of the things that casts fear in my heart.

breadbasketcase said...

It's not at all a difficult bread to make, except for the length of the kneading process, which isn't hard with a mixer. (Yes, we are spoiled). When are you meeting up with Melinda? I wish I could be there too.

Goody said...

Strange-I haven't thought about this sort of bread in oh, I don't know-maybe thirty years, and then last Friday, I bought one. Strange enough that I would buy bread, but stranger still that it would be a sweet bread. Here we are on Monday looking at your beautiful bread (so much nicer than the not-so-special one I bought) and I'm thinking I really need to try my hand at this recipe.

When the good versions of this bread go stale, they make the world's best croûtons.

breadbasketcase said...

That's kind of an amazing coincidence. Yes, you should try this recipe--it's much better than the Hawaiian bread that I remember, and I think you'd like it. By the way, your chocolate and apricot whatchamacallit looks wonderful!

Doughadear said...

What a lovely shiny bread. I think every European country has a version of a sweet bread. At Easter I received as a gift from my nephew's girlfriend who is part Portuguese a beautiful round loaf of sweet bread with whole hard boiled eggs baked into the bread and peaking out of the top. I put it straight into the freezer because I had so much sweet bread around and now I am wondering if that loaf is a Portuguese bread.
I recently found a recipe for Panetonne Bread Pudding which was wonderful. I am new to eating bread pudding because it never appealed to me. I made one a couple of weeks ago with Pandoro which unlike Panetonne has no fruit in it,and much lighter in texture so I added a couple of handfuls of raisins and currants to the mix and it was fabulous. I think Portuguese Bread would also make a wonderful bread pudding.

breadbasketcase said...

I'm sure it was a Portuguese sweet bread. I almost made a Greek celebration bread around Easter, but then I never got around to it. That's also a sweet dough, but it has fruit in it, like most sweet breads. The Portuguese version seems unusual to me in that it's not gussied up.
I love bread pudding, but rarely make it. Maybe next time I'll make one of these breads to eat and one for bread pudding.

Janet said...

I have made this BY THE BOOK Twice this weekend and it seems to me that this second loaf is going to be as disappointing as the first 2 were! I followed the directions to the LETTER but could never get the windwopane effect on the dough, the boules were so tiny they aren't much bigger than a hamburger bun, AND the flavor left ALOT to be desired!! I worked in Massachusetts for more than a year and LOVED the PSB so was VERY excited when I found this recipe! I am so disheartened!! I am not a novice baker and have been been baking breads for more than 30 years!! I sincerely hope you have beter luck with it than I did!! From now on, I will either make my own recipe or just order some PSB to be sent to me here in Florida!!

Anonymous said...

Janet -- the problem is likely the water you're using in Florida. We used to live there and there is so much chlorine in the tap water that it kills yeast. Try using bottled spring water and see if you have better results.

Anonymous said...

Portuguese Sweet Bread or Massa Souvada is so much better than the wannabe Hawaiian Sweet Bread...It has a wonderful texture and aroma that's lacking in the Hawaiian variety. Try'll like it!
Uma Senhora Portuguesa