Thursday, February 07, 2008

Recipe: Nana's Famous Portuguese Sweet Bread

Hawaiian sweet bread is well-known and even mass-marketed, but what you may not know is how sweet bread became Hawaiian: it was brought there by Portuguese immigrants from the Azores, who of course did it much better. Here is the authentic recipe that my Portuguese grandparents used to make. I am copying it off my index card that is in my grandmother's handwriting, so it also contains my grandmother's tips and hints (I've corrected for spelling and grammar). My grandparents used to make the dough in the afternoon in a big "panala" (very large metal pan) and wake periodically during the night to knock it down, then bake it in the morning. It was a lot of work, but oh, it was sooooooooo good! The crust was so tender and sweet that it was the best part of the bread and we would fight over who got the "cauda" (end of the bread). We especially loved the Easter breads. My grandmother would bake them in the shape of a basket, with a hardboiled egg hidden in the center. That was the best!

This is a very, very large recipe; it makes a whole bunch of loaves. Trust me, you will need them all.

Portuguese Sweet Bread
5 lbs. flour
4 c. sugar + 1 c. Sweet & Low
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 lb. butter
1/2 c. shortening
12 eggs
4 yeast cakes
3 c. milk

Dissolve yeast cakes in 1/2 c. warm water (110 degrees). Place in bowl with 2 Tbsp. sugar to activate yeast cake. Melt butter and shortening; add milk. Heat to 110 degrees. Slowly add sugar and salt to mixture. Slightly beat eggs that have been at room temperature for several hours. Mixture should be at 110 degrees. Eggs cannot be brought to that temperature but I place them in a bowl and set it in hot water to help warm them up but not cook them. What a disaster that was for me!

Add to flour liquid mixture, eggs, yeast cakes, mix and knead till smooth. Cover, let rise till double. Knock down twice. Put in greased and floured pans. Let rise about 1 hr. Bake at 300 degrees for approximately 50-60 minutes depending on size of pan. Brush tops with melted butter. Enjoy.