Portuguese Sweet Bread

Posted by Brette in Food

Today’s post is a guest post from my friend Kris Bordessa who blogs at Big Island on the Cheap and Honolulu on the Cheap (if you’re going to Hawaii, you need to visit these sites for some excellent tips). I’ve known Kris for many years and have been perpetually green with envy over her move to Hawaii. My family visited Hawaii 2 years ago and we fell in love with the islands, the people, and the food. Portuguese sweet bread is a special treat you can find in Hawaii. When we were there, we visited the Punalu’u Bake Shop to buy some (and it was soooo good). Today Kris is sharing her memories of this special bread as well as her family’s recipe, so please welcome her!

When I was growing up, my mom made Portuguese sweet bread once a year for Easter. I remember the smell of the proofing yeast and waiting for the golden brown loaves to emerge from the oven so that I could have a slice warm, with butter. I always thought it was such a shame that we only had sweet bread once a year.

When I moved my family to Hawai‘i years ago, I discovered one of the unexpected bonuses of island living: Portuguese sweet bread aplenty. Courtesy of the large Portuguese population here, it’s a staple on grocery store shelves, and the Punalu‘u Bake Shop is a Big Island destination for travelers with a sweet tooth. Visitors to Hawai‘i Island can even see bread made in the old style, courtesy of the Kona Historical Society. Once a week they fire up the forno, or stone oven, baking sweet bread in the traditional manner.

With Portuguese sweet bread so readily available, I was inspired to break out my mom’s recipe. My 17 year old son has become the family baker, whipping up a batch of sweet bread every week or so. I love the idea of passing the baking tradition on to my son, outside the confines of Easter. And while we can always pick up a loaf at the store, the loaves that come out of our oven always taste just a little bit sweeter.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

2 packages active dry yeast (4½ teaspoons)

¼ cup warm water

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk, scalded and still hot

¼ cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

6-7 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid or electric mixer, blend together sugar, hot milk, butter, and salt. Stir until butter melts. When cooled to lukewarm, beat in eggs and yeast mixture. Using the dough hook on low speed, beat 6 cups of flour into the liquid, blending until smooth. Add remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough holds together in a tight ball around the hook and its surface is smooth. Continue mixing on low for about five minutes.

Transfer dough to a buttered bowl, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise for about 2 hours (we place ours in the oven with the light on). Punch down, and divide dough into 2-3 portions. Form each into a round ball and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover the shaped dough with a clean towel and allow to rise again, for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Bake in a 350 oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: Obviously, this recipe can be made without the use of modern equipment like a mixer. You’ll just need to stir ingredients together and knead the dough by hand for 15-20 minutes.

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