7th day of Christmas Gifts and Crafts

Today I am going to share one of my favourite recipes, especially at Christmas.  Hubby's eyes light up and the lip smacking starts when I mention that I am going to make Portuguese Sweet Bread.  It's a lovely braided loaf and the smell of it baking makes your mouth water.

I am a devoted bread baker... I love the smell in the kitchen each week when I bake bread.  Baking bread smells like home for me and the taste is so much better than what you can get in the store and I dare say sometimes at our local baker.  There are a couple of tricks that make a good loaf...

1. the correct temperature for the water (I always use a thermometer to check it),
2. a warm kitchen (my disaster this past week reminded me of this... when I took my bread out of the oven after rising, as soon as it hit the cold air, those lovely loaves collapsed... poof... they were as flat as a pancake)
3. a warm oven for rising the bread. Heat the oven to 400 degrees for exactly one minute, then turn it off.  It will create a lovely warm spot for your bread to rise.
4. Knead the bread to within an inch of its life (GRIN) I have a professional KitchenAid mixer that does a fantastic job for me... it kneads while I clean up. However, go gently with braid... it doesn't require the same amount of kneading as other breads.

So, get out your baking sheets and let's make  

Portuguese Sweet Bread braid...

  • 2 cups (500 mL) finely chopped, mixed candied fruit
  • 1 cup (250 mL) raisins, seedless
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) port or brandy
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated orange rind
  • 2 pkg active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) water, lukewarm
  • 7 cups (1.75L) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) milk, lukewarm
  • 1 cup (250 mL) toasted and chopped almonds or walnuts
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, melted
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) halved candied cherries
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) corn syrup

In small bowl, mix together candied fruit, raisins, port and lemon and orange rinds; cover and set aside, stirring occasionally.

In bowl, whisk together yeast, 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the sugar, the water and 1 cup (250 mL) of the flour until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place for 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

In large bowl, beat together butter, salt and remaining sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1 cup (250 mL) of the flour; beat in milk.

Stir down yeast mixture; beat into egg mixture until blended. With wooden spoon, mix in fruit mixture and nuts. Stir in as much of the remaining flour, 1 cup (250 mL) at a time, as needed to make soft sticky dough.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface; knead gently for 2 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup (125 mL) more flour if needed. Transfer to large greased bowl; brush top with butter. Cover and let rise in warm draft-free spot for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough; divide in half. Cut one half in three even pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll out each third into strip about 16 inches (40 cm) long. Place 3 strips side by side on parchment paper-lined (or silicone baking mat) cookie sheet. Press together at 1 end; braid strips together.  Repeat to make second braid.

Brush dough with egg. Decoratively arrange cherries over top, pressing into dough. I like to add slivered almonds as well.  Cover lightly and let rise in warm draft-free spot for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Bake loaves in centre of 375°F (190°C) oven (middle rack) for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Transfer to rack and let cool. These loaves can be wrapped and frozen for up to 2 weeks.  Thaw and reheat for 10 minutes.  Brush corn syrup over loaves.  This will make the loaves beautifully shiny and taste absolutely heavenly.

This recipe was found many, many moons ago in Canadian Living Magazine.

So now make yourself a cup of tea or a lovely latte and enjoy a piece of this scrumptious bread while it is still warm...till tomorrow,