Tuesday, January 12, 2010
BBA Challenge #27: Portuguese Sweet Bread
I never experienced "Hawaiian Bread" growing up. For us it was either the store-brand loaf of soft white bread, or it was the long family-size loaf of brownish bread. Every now and then, however, my father would buy a loaf of wheat bread with a split down the top which promised to have been brushed with butter. Though I always bit off that part of the bread first, it never really fulfilled its promise. The thing I hated the most as a child was that my father had a passion for Pineapple-Apricot Preserves, and while I don't remember explicitly detesting it as a child, I was always happy when he brought home Strawberry Preserves.
Nowadays, I don't eat much jam, and when I do, I prefer the Belgian fruit syrups on a slice of anything toasted. The crunch of a good slice of bread followed by the intense sweetness of 700% fruit just cannot be matched for me. I know this is a bit sacrilicious, but I'm one of those few people who rarely butter bread. I usually do it out of boredom or if the bread is so bad that I need to do something to it. Plus, there is this weird habit of buttering sandwiches here that I just cannot get used to. When I spread mustard on bread people nearly gasp in horror. And when I spread fig jam on the opposite slice of bread- well, you would think I was going against nature!
That all having come out, though, it distracted me from the Hawaiian bread, also known as Portuguese Sweet Bread. The first picture, above, is of this weird sponge made with water, flour, sugar, and yeast. I actually had a false start with one sponge, not because it didn't work, but because I had no extracts. I had to toss it before trying again this time.
Above, as always, the mise en place, with the vanilla extract separating out and sinking away from the oily citrus extracts.
One thing that I am always amazed of is how dough just comes together after a bit of mixing. Of course it always comes together faster in the machine, even when I put it on the lowest setting.
The other thing I love is the way dough looks when it has developed. Not that it actually pulsates, but it has this life to it. The kind of way it feels almost solid but still soft. Warm and inviting. You just want to curl up atop it.
My friend K. brought these pie plates back during a trip to the lovely country of Canada. I do wish they were not non-stick because they will inevitably get scratched from heavy pie eating, but they're from Chicago Metallic, so I really can't argue with that.
The dough is formed into a ball and placed in the precise center of the pie plate. I didn't measure, but I do have a good eye for these things.
Even before I began this recipe, I knew it wouldn't fill the pan. Other bloggers who baked before me confirmed this. I did have my fingers crossed, or, as they say here, my thumbs pressed- but, alas, it was the same.
What came out of the oven was something I was not at all expecting. Two, count them, two loaves of the most beautiful mahogany brown. When I pulled them out, I remember thinking that they looked like pillows made out of wood.
Even the bottoms were perfectly browned.
Plus they were as shiny as can be. I really can't remember the last time I did an egg wash- mostly hearth breads take up my time, and then they're usually covered with a dusting of flour.
The weirdest thing, though, was that they were not soft at all. Perhaps because my oven heats primarily from the top, the crust got a bit too dry. I'll have to bake them at a lower temperature or for a few minutes less. Or maybe just stick them in plastic bags for a few days to soften up.
The interior, however, was very moist. And toasted, the bread was just heavenly. It reminded me of my time in Providence, RI and the bread we would buy there. The Portuguese Sweet Bread was always a mystery to me, partly because it had this funny shape that is explained by the pie plate. Those breads always filled the pie plate, and thus, weren't really properly boule-shaped, but more like boule-in-a-pie-plate-shaped.
Because this was one of the last breads of 2009, I can't remember much about it! Too much time has passed. i know that we gave one of the loaves away- yes, we are a small household of two, so bread is always being given away.
Other Sweet Portuguese Bakers include:
Cindy from Salt and Serenity
Kelly from Something Shiny
Chris from Eating Is The Hard Part
Angela from Gourmet Hotdish Disasters
txfarmer's blog (in chinese, but with lots of pictures)