From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Expectations almost always do me in. I've made Portuguese sweetbread for over 40 years now using the James Beard's recipe which I keep, here. The recipe makes a loaf with a tight crumb and brioche-like mien that is both rich and sweet, but I've long suspected bears no resemblance to the bread that's actually sold in Provincetown. I was looking forward to trying several loaves of the "real" thing while we were on the Cape this summer, but, as it happened, we sampled only one. I had expected too much from the bread and the spongy commercially packaged version I found was a real disappointment. I can hear my mother's voice coming from the recesses of memory now whispering, "Say something nice, Mary". So, out of respect for my mother, I'm going to fallback on my old standby for bread that disappoints and say, "It makes great toast". I've made a lot of toast in my lifetime. Now I'm perfectly willing to concede that mine is a minority opinion. Thousands of these loaves are sold every summer, so the fault probably lies more with my expectations than the bread itself. l had hoped to find a bread that would kindle memories of Portuguese peasant kitchens and that didn't happen.
Now, I don't give up easily. If I couldn't buy it, I would make it and so I began a search for the quintessential Cape Cod cookbook, one that had a recipe for Portuguese sweet bread that used ingredients found in a peasant, as well as a castle, kitchen. I found the book and recipe I was looking for in the Journey Around Cape Cod and the Islands Cookbook, by Heather and Martha Zschock. The recipe I'm sharing today appears exactly as it was written. I've made no changes to the ingredient list, but I did depart from their instructions when I made my loaves. The dough for this type of bread can be very sticky and hard to work. I decided to let my stand mixer do most of the work for me. I mixed the ingredients using the paddle attachment. When the dough became shaggy I switched to the dough hook and continued mixing/beating until the dough began to climb the hook. At that point, I turned it onto a floured work surface and manually worked the dough until a smooth ball was formed. I followed the recipe from that point on. I really like this bread and highly recommend this recipe to you. Here is how the bread is made.
Portuguese Sweet Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Heather and Martha Zschock
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1) Sprinkle yeast over hot water and stir to dissolve. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until mixture begins to look a bit foamy.
2) Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat to melt butter. Let cool slightly. Pour into large mixing bowl.
3) Whisk eggs, sugar and salt into milk mixture. Add yeast and gradually add flour, mixing until mixture forms a ball. Dough will be very sticky at this point,so flour your hands before beginning to work the dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth, soft and elastic.
4) Oil a large mixing bowl. Add dough and turn to lightly coat all surfaces. Cover bowl with a warm damp towel and allow dough to sit until it has doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.
5) Punch dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 3 minutes. Grease a pie pan, form dough into a ball and place in center of pan. Cover with a warm damp cloth and let sit until dough has doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.
6) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake loaf in center of oven for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes before transferring loaf to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 1 loaf.
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