Friday, February 06, 2009

Portuguese Sweet Bread

Bread making is truly an art.  One that I have only just begun to explore.   This is another recipe from the "Bread Baker's Apprentice".   It is somewhat similar to the sweetness and softness of Hawaiian bread.  Looking at the recipe you might feel it may be difficult, but it really is much simpler than it looks.  One thing it does require like most yeast breads is time.  This one from start to finish including 90 minutes of cooling takes approximately 9 hours so start it early in the day if you plan to have it with dinner.

Makes 2  1-pound loaves


1/2 cup unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2-1/4  teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup water, at room temperature


6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups unbleached bread flour
about 6 tablespoons water, at room temperature

Egg Wash

1 egg, whisked with one teaspoon water until frothy

1. To make the sponge, stir together the flour, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl.  Add water and stir until all the ingredient are hydrated and make a smooth batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 60 - 90 minutes, or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse. 

2.  To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter and shortening in a 4- quart mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer).  Cream together with a sturdy spoon (or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer) until smooth, then mix in the eggs and the extracts.  Knead by hand (or switch to the dough hook attachment) and mix in the sponge and the flour.  Add the water, as needed, to make a very soft dough.  The finished dough should be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky.  It will take 10-12 minutes with the electric mixer and close to 15 minutes by hand to achieve this consistency.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

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

4.  Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces.  Form each of the pieces into a *boule shape (round).  Lightly oil two 9- inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down in each pan.  Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap.

5.  Proof at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size and overlapping the edges slightly.  (if you only want 1 loaf, you may retard the second in the refrigerator for 1 day, although it will take 4-5 hours to proof after it comes out of the refrigerator. )

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

7.  Bake the loaves for 50-60 minutes, after 30 minutes check the loaves and rotate 180 degrees, for even baking.  Because of the high amount of sugar, the dough will brown very quickly, but don't be fooled into thinking it is done.  It will get darker as he center gradually catches up with the outside, but it will not burn.  The final color will be a rich mahogany brown.

8.  Remove the bread from the pie pans and place on a rack and 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. 

(A) Gather the dough to form a ball.  (B) to create surface tension, stretch the outside of the dough into an oblong, being careful not to squeeze out the gas trapped in the dough anymore than necessary.  (C) Repeat this stretching motion, bringing the opposite ends together to make a ball.  Tighten the surface tension by pinching to seal the bottom of the dough where the creases converge.  (D)  Set the boules aside for proofing or to rest for further shaping. 

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