Most cultures have a sweet bread that speaks of nostalgia and home. These sweet breads are often associated with holidays. The first time I had Portuguese Sweet Bread was many years ago in Provincetown. I still remember the big round loaves on the bakery shelves with with their shiny dark crust and light, sweet crumb.
I’ve made the bread over the years using James Beard’s recipe. My breads didn’t duplicate the magical loaves from an authentic Portuguese bakery, but they struck a lot of the right notes.
Time marches on, and today I made the no-knead version that Gail Blakely adapted for Highfield’s Portuguese Classics class. The no-knead recipe, while streamlining the process significantly, strikes a lot of the right notes as well. I went on to adapt her version somewhat. Recipes often remind me of the telephone game we used to play as kids. The version of the story changes with each new player.
There are some definite differences from an authentic bakery loaf. First of all, being a no-knead recipe, time does most of the work. The James Beard recipe called for a cup of sugar, a stick of butter and four eggs. The one posted here is significantly less rich. In spite of that, the flavor is wonderful, and the crumb, while not being as light as the original, is tender and good. It also makes great toast.
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. instant yeast
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 TBS butter
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1. Put the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
2. Melt the butter in a two cup measuring cup in the microwave. Add the milk to the melted butter. Then whisk in the eggs.
3. Add the wet to the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand on the counter (or tucked in a microwave) for a couple of hours.
5. At this point, put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. The dough can easily stay in the frig for a couple of days before you use it.
6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator a couple of hours before you plan to use it. Then put in on a floured surface and form it into a ball and just let it rest for 45 minutes to an hour.
7. In the meantime, a half hour or 45 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, put a 3 to 4 quart Dutch oven with a heavy cover into a 425 degree oven to heat.
8. Remove the Dutch oven and put the bread in the pan. Return to the oven for 30 minutes. Remember that you’re dealing with a very hot pot. Use potholders!
9. After 30 minutes, uncover the pot. Bake for approximately 8 to 10 more minutes. Keep an eye on it. Since the dough contains milk, sugar and eggs, it has the tendency to burn. An instant read thermometer should read 200 or just slightly less when done.
10. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Don’t be tempted to cut into it for at least an hour.