Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Portuguese Sweet Bread

Yesterday, my mom, little sister, and I made the grueling ninety-minute trek to the Central Valley to visit my grandparents and learn from my grandmother how to make Portuguese sweet bread. (Background: my grandma is very, very Portuguese and a very, very skilled cook) After waking up at 7AM to hit the road, spending an additional 30 minutes trying to find a Starbucks off of the freeway, and discussing the definition of feminism for the majority of the trip, we finally made it to our destination.

Now, I'm no baker - nor will I ever be given my severe lack of patience - but I must say that I'm quite proud of myself for devoting an entire day to making Portuguese sweet bread from scratch. Of course, this feat wasn't done alone. To be honest, 97% of the work was done by my grandmother and not me, so I really don't deserve much credit at all. But I was there lingering over her shoulder snapping photos the whole time, so I suppose that counts for something. 

Here's the recipe:

All the best recipes are hand-written on index cards.

I apologize for my extreme laziness but for the sake of saving time and also because I don't remember every minute detail, I'm not going to add descriptions to every one of the photos I took. However, I do have them in order of when the steps occur so you can have an idea of what to do.

Baking part 1: adding all the ingredients, letting the yeast rise, and of course - licking off the doughy leftovers.

Look at that dough. Just look at it. Years and years of perfecting the recipe and the routine will do the trick!

Baking part 2: molding and beating the dough, letting it rise, and shaping it into small balls (key: the trick is to continuously pull the dough backwards to make the rolls layered).

Like I said, I'm unnaturally impatient. I spent probably 15 minutes peering into the oven watching the rolls darken... But it was worth it! We made a couple batches of rolls: one was softer and the other had a crispier top, which is my favorite.

Baking part 3: finally, the finished product!

In between mixing, letting the dough rise, beating, letting the dough rise, and baking, we had a lot of down time. So, like any family would, we spent the time pressing our hands into wet cement, making turkey sandwiches for lunch, and snapping hundreds (I kid you not: I had an additional 200+ pictures on my memory card after returning from our excursion) of photos in the orchards. I'll save those for another post though. Not all 200+ though. Let's be real... Even I wouldn't go through all those.

So, there you have it! Portuguese sweet bread. Fluffy, soft, and slightly lemony - just perfect. I definitely recommend taking a free day and spending it baking this stuff. Want the bread but don't have the time? No problem. We always buy King's Hawaiian rolls, which are a similar, store-bought version (but of course, they aren't quite as satisfying as the real thing).


  1. Oh my goodness! They look delicious!! I learned how to make something very very similar from my Oma while I visited her in the small village of Rastenfeld, Austria. Of course, we had nothing but our hands to mix the dough (and allowed it to rise on the back of her wood stove). We place just a spoonful of apricot (my fav) or raspberry filling in the center of each 'roll'. They pull-apart so nicely when baked... they look identical to your sweet rolls. Now I make my Oma's version for my mom who is 89. Oh happy day!

    1. Wow, your experience makes it seem like we were working with high-tech resources! I ought to pass that recipe idea along to my grandma to see if we can make something similar. There's certainly something special in carrying on an ethnic tradition with your family.

  2. This portuguese sweet bread seems so delicious!
    Ortherwise, i wanted to say to you that i'm following your tumblr for years and i like it so much. Your selection is so nice!
    I don't have tumblr account, so it's difficult to comment.
    Thank you and happy new year Kathryn!