Sunday, 22 November 2009

Portuguese Sweet Bread: BBA

Today in the bread-baking blog, we're making Bread #27 - Portuguese Sweet Bread.  This dough is so flavorful, I wanted to make cookies out of it instead of bread.  It uses some of the same flavorings that my favorite Holiday sugar cookie recipe uses, but it's an enriched yeast bread.  Delicious!  I loved making this bread but it took all day and most of the evening to do it.  Don't let that scare you - most of the time is spent fermenting and proofing the dough, so it really is just a matter of timing. If you plan to make this bread, be sure to start early in the day. It's definitely worth it!

It just so happens, that the  Artisan Bread Baker's Group chose Portuguese Sweet Bread for the Bread of the Month this month. That worked out great since I was already planning on making it for the BBA Challenge. I like it when that happens!  The Bread of the Month virtual bread-baking party started at the beginning of November and runs through the end of the month so you still have time to bake this delicious bread. Click here for details.

Portuguese Sweet Bread
Makes: 2 Loaves

Recipe found on page 215 of the Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.



  • 1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 64g) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 T. (.5 ounce or 14.18g) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp. (.25 ounce or 7.08g) instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 114g) water, at room temperature


  • 6 T. (3 ounces or 83g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. (.25 ounce or 7.08g) salt
  • 1/4 cup (1.25 ounces or 35.44g) powdered milk
  • 2 T. (1 ounce or 28g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 T. (1 ounce or 28g) vegetable shortening
  • 2 large (or 94g) eggs
  • 1 tsp. (.17 ounce or 5g or 5ml) lemon extract
  • 1 tsp. (.17 ounce or 5g or 5ml) orange extract
  • 1 tsp. (.17 ounceor 5g or 5ml) vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (13.5 ounces or 382g) unbleached bread flour
  • Up to 6 T. (3 ounces or 84g) water, at room temp

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp. water until frothy


Making the Sponge
Make a sponge by stirring together the flour, sugar, and yeast in a bowl. Then add the water and stir until all the ingredients are hydrated and make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse.

Making the Dough

To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter, and shortening in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of your electric mixer. 

Mix in the sponge and the flour.  Add water as necessary to make a very soft dough.


Kneading the Dough

Knead the dough by hand or use the dough hook on your mixer.  I decided to knead it by hand.  I don't like to miss out on this part.


The finished dough will be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky.  In other words, perfect!  It will take about 15 minutes to achieve the right consistency. This is because dough with high amounts of fat and sugar takes longer to develop the gluten.


Fermenting the Dough
Lightly oil a larger bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Roll it around to coat it with oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Ferment the dough at room temperature for 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.


Shaping the Boules
Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces.


Form each piece into a boule (refer to page 72).


Lightly oil two 9-inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down, in each pan.

Proofing the Loaves

Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Proof the loaves at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size and overlapping the edges slightly.  I proofed my dough for 7 hours and it still didn't completely fill the pan but I decided to bake it anyway at this point.

See that little dent in the left side of the loaf?  I dropped the extract bottle on it.  Don't ask!

Gently brush the loaves with egg wash.   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.


Baking the Loaves
Bake the loaves for 50 to 60 minutes. After about 30 minutes, check the loaves and if necessary, rotate 180 degrees for even baking. Due to the high amount of sugar, the dough will brown very quickly.  It will get darker as the center gradually heats through, but it will (should) not burn.

The final color will be a rich mahogany brown.


Cooling and Serving the Loaves

Remove the bread from the pans and place on a wire rack to cool. The bread will soften as it cools and will become a very soft, squishy loaf.  Let it cool for at least 90 minutes before slicing or serving.  Man, that's the hardest part!

Here is the cooled and sliced loaf.  Delicious!

Thanks for joining us this week in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.

The next bread in Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is Potato Rosemary Bread (page 219 in the Bread Baker's Apprentice). I'm looking forward to making this flavorful and delicious bread.

Happy Baking!

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