Here’s another one from the books of tradition. Nelson’s thrilled that he’s perfected this one. When you grow up enjoying fresh sweet bread, then move away from it, you sure do miss it. That was the case for Nelson.
Back ‘in the day’, this bread was traditionally made in a wood burning clay oven; always at Easter, but occasionally also at other times throughout the year. It may seem odd to eat sweet bread with stew, but this was often the bread-of-choice to serve with the traditional ‘carne de molha’ (Azorean beef stew).
In our house, we don’t believe something this delicious should be reserved for special occasions only. So, since Nelson learned his mom’s recipe, he surprises us now and again…just because. Lucky us. We love this bread with butter for breakfast, and even at night, as a snack–dare I say that I’ve passed up dessert for a slice of warm sweet bread with butter (please don’t judge me–I’m only human…and a little weak for warm sweet bread).
This morning Nelson woke up early to prepare the dough and set it to rise throughout the day. The dough was in a big plastic bowl and covered with what we now refer to as our dough blanket–a big blanket lovingly wrapped around the bowl to allow the dough to rise slowly in a nice warm place. This is not a 5-minute bread–patience is required–but I assure you it’s worth the wait.
Our house smelled amazing this evening–with the delicious scent of sweet bread baking in the oven. Our youngest son even noticed and asked if dad was making sweet bread. He’s our little sweet bread monster (if there was a Portuguese Sesame Street, they’d probably replace cookie monster with this one ;-). Guess what I just snacked on before sitting down to write this post? You did guess sweet bread, right? Yum. Guess what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow morning? You see where I’m going with this?
Yup, this bread will be eaten up quickly. Good thing Nelson baked 3 loaves–two for us, and one to share. Something this nice should be shared with friends, don’t you think? That’s the way his mom does it, and Nelson’s carrying the tradition forward. Sweet…
- Yeast mixture
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs traditional active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water
- The dough:
- 2 lbs, 3 oz or 1 kg all purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar + 2 tbs
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 4.7 oz or 133 gr. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 6 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 tbs lemon rind
- ¾ cup warm water for kneading process (add 1 tbs if you find the dough too hard during the kneading process)
- To give the bread a nice shine:
- 1½ tbs butter at room temperature
- In a small bowl, combine the yeast, 1 tbs of sugar and ¼ cup warm water. Mix with a spoon and let sit for 15 minutes.
- In a large heavy mixer bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and nutmeg.
- Add the yeast mix, butter, eggs, lemon rind and water.
- Place the kneading attachment on your mixer and run the mixer on the first speed (very low) for 5 minutes.
- Stop the machine, and scrape any remaining flour from the bottom.
- Turn the machine back on low and continue to knead for another 5 minutes.
- The dough should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl while kneading.
- Once the kneading is finished, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and then a blanket to keep it warm. Let rise for 3 hours (see note below for mom's technique to know when the dough is ready). The dough should double in size.
- With a paper towel, butter 3 aluminum 8" plates.
- Divide the dough into three equal parts.
- Form each piece of dough into a ball (pic the bottom) and place it on the plates. Cover the three plates with a kitchen towel and let rise another 2 hours.
- Pre-heat the oven to 325 ºF and place the three plates in the oven for 55 minutes. The bread should have a golden colour. If you tap it underneath and you hear a hollow sound, the bread is ready. If you don't hear the hollow sound, leave the bread in another 5 minutes.
- Wile the bread is still hot, dip a scrunched up paper towel in room temperature butter and rub each bread to coat the entire top of the loaf with a thin layer of butter.
- Let the bread cool and serve.
For this recipe, we used a kitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment for all kneading.
Mom's technique to know when the dough is ready
Once the dough is kneaded and moved to the bowl. Take a pinch of dough out, about the size of a grape and shape it into a ball. Lightly flour this dough and place it in a glass of room temperature water. Once the ball of dough rises to the top, the dough has also finishes rising. This really works!
This bread is perfect with butter, jam, cheese, etc.
The people of the Azores will also serve this during festivals with the traditional beef stew to soak up delicious sauce.