portuguese sweet bread.

There are baked goods that are best within the hour they are made, still warm from the oven and oozing warm chocolate all over your fingertips; there are baked goods that won't make it until sundown before they lose their spunk - you wake up the next day hoping for seconds only to find its gone stale during your slumber; and there are those who are fine and well the first few days, but their full potential is reached at the end of the week.

This bread is one of those things.

Fresh from the oven, it certainly stands on its own - a rich, eggy, buttery bread with a crackly, lacquered crust that shatters into a thousand bits and pieces once sliced. Spiked with a bit of citrus that hums gently in the background of each bite, all I could think about was how delicious it would be in its next life as French toast. Or lightly crisped in the toaster with a smear of sweet butter and a few spoonfuls of that strawberry-pineapple jam that's sliding around in the door of the refrigerator. I can't think of a better way for that bread to reach my belly if not by filling up every nook and cranny with jammy bits of fruit.

I fully intend to follow the French toast route early tomorrow morning after the bread has dried out a touch and stands ready to soak up puddles of creamy custard, and if that's the avenue you'd like to go, too, I suggest you start here. The custard has a slip of sticky honey in it, just enough to barely sweeten the bread just a touch more before it slides into the bubbling butter and onto your plate. For those of us who have been poring over a certain cookbook, a splash of maple infused butter will be meeting that French toast for breakfast.

This bread will be added to my list of post-honeymoon cooking - for the lull that comes after the gifts are unwrapped and the hype dies down and we realize it's just the two of us (well, three, but since his brain is the size of a walnut, we'll let it slide) and we may as well eat French toast on a Saturday morning in our pajamas. Yes, I think that's what we'll do.

Portuguese Sweet Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

The Dough

1 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, sliced
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon or orange peel, or 1 teaspoon orange extract/oil
7 1/2 to 8 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Make the sponge

Pour the water into a large bowl and whisk in the sugar and yeast. Stir in the flour and set aside in a warm place until the mixture is bubbly and doubled in size - about 20 minutes. It may be a little lumpy, but that's fine.

Meanwhile, scald the milk. Remove from the heat and add the butter, sugar, salt and whatever citrus flavoring you're using - zest or extracts.Whisk it all together then let it cool to lukewarm.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and yolk together until frothy. Switch to the dough hook and add the milk mixture and proofing sponge to the eggs. Add in 6 to 7 cups of flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix the dough until it is shiny and smooth - it will be relatively soft.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Scrape the bowl and work in the bits of dough. Lightly coat the inside of the mixing bowl with oil then turn the dough into the bowl, gently turning it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with a piece of greased plastic wrap and a clean tea towel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-2 hours. (I preheat the oven to about 200 degrees F, put the dough in, then close the door and turn the oven off. It's a warm, draft free place in my super-chilly house.)

After it has rise, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently deflate the dough. Divide it into two equal pieces and shape into two round loaves (for a 9 inch cake pan) or 2 loaves (for a traditional 9x5 loaf pan). Place the dough in the buttered pans, cover loosely with plastic wrap and cover with a clean towel. Let the loaves rise in a warm place for another hour or two until doubled in bulk.

Preheat your oven to 375°F for at least 15 minutes. Brush the loaves with the egg white and water mixture.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom with a finger. When the bread is done, remove it from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.


strawberriesinparis said...

brittany, I really love your writing. and its cute you are already thinking about what you are going to eat after you are married!

Brittany Elise said...

thanks so much for your sweet words. :)

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

It's nice to know that I'm not the only person who plans menus, days weeks and months in advance! I'm pretty sure I need that bread in my life, possibly this weekend!

akboucher said...

I can't WAIT to try this, Brittany. I grew up in Southern Mass; aka: the Portuguese Capital of the US and their local bakeries oozed with a million wonderful treats. The sweet bread was ALWAYS my favorite and the french toast it makes is phenomenal.

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