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World Bread Day 2006

Well, the macarons are just going to have to wait because today is one of my new favorite days: World Bread Day! I don’t really need an excuse to celebrate bread but it is sure good to stop and smell the grains once in a while. Thank you Zorra for launching this event!

When I first moved to the US, one of my first quests was to find a decent bakery in downtwon Charleston, preferably specialized in European breads. I was not being a snob, just too far away from home for comfort and trying to find familiar foods and ingredients. That lasted for about a month…every visit to the grocery store or farmer’s market was teaching me more and more about local specialties. It is also thousands of miles away from home that I became more acquainted with other cultures' foods, isn’t that ironic? I ate more lasagna, empenadas, kebabs, bagels, pastillitos, curries in one year than I had in 20 years in France. My senses were awakened and my horizons expanded everytime I would open my mouth and eat.

Isabel lived in the downstairs apartment and she was a beautiful, graceful woman in her fifties. She loved and lived to cook and the smells coming from her kitchen were enough to make everyone miss the sidewalk passing under her window. My room was right above her kitchen and the wonderful aromas of freshly baked breads and pastries were an awful distraction. I remember taking my books to her apartment and lying in the hamoc while she was mixing, kneading, swirling…If I were a man I think I would have had the biggest crush on her. She spoke Portuguese all the time so that nobody would disturb her, but one day I begged for hours on hand for her to speak English long enough so I could copy down her Portuguese Sweet Bread recipe.

It is similar to a brioche but less buttery and the consistency is a little bit denser. I love making it and freezing half for French toasts on sundays.
I saw Isabel the other day at the market and realized it had been months since I had made a batch so it was a great way to celebrate friendships, cultural differences and World Bread Day

Isabel’s Portuguese Sweet Bread:
1 package yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3/4 warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve yeast in warm milk and add the sugar, butter and salt; stir until butter is melted. Add the eggs, previously beaten slightly.Add 1/2 the flour to the milk/sugar/butter/salt, and mix until smooth. Continue to add remaining flour to make soft dough. Remove it from the bowl and place on floured board. Knead until smooth and satiny (about 15 mins.). Shape into a ball and place in buttered bowl. Cover and let rise until double in size (2 hours). Punch risen dough down and divide it in 10 pieces Place in a greased pan (8-9 inches round). Let rise in warm place until double in size (1-1/2 to 2 hours). Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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Anonymous October 16, 2006 um 10:13 pm

What a lovely memory! I know what you mean about tasting new foods though – during my time in Korea, all I had was Korean or American food…and upon coming to Australia I discovered the world through the many cuisines on offer 🙂

The bread looks absolutely divine, and sounds like it’d be marvellous toasted and smeared with a pat of butter 😀

Anonymous October 17, 2006 um 1:12 am

Excellent contribution to WBD!

Anonymous October 17, 2006 um 2:40 am

That’s beautiful! Happy Bread Day!

Papilles et Pupilles October 17, 2006 um 8:13 am

wonderful recipe !

Anonymous October 17, 2006 um 9:54 am

Nice story, receipe and pictures!

Julia October 17, 2006 um 10:43 am

yummy! It looks great and your description is so mouth-watering…really making me hungry!
well done + happy bread day! =)

Anonymous October 17, 2006 um 1:50 pm

That looks lovely Helene, and what a nice sweet story to accompany it!

Helene October 17, 2006 um 3:47 pm

Ellie: this food culture is one of the things I love about the US and try to convey to my guests when they come and visit and expect burgers at every meal.
Bring on the butter!

Peabody: thank you!

Yvonne: thank you!

Papilles: merci!

Beah: je viens d’aller voire ton blog et j’adore l’idee du pain en cocotte. Il va falloir que j’essaye.

Julia: thank you. Hope your Paris plans are on track.

Avital: je me souviens de cette recette. Isabel est une extraordinaire cuisiniere et je regrette ne plus l’avoir comme voisine!

Monisha: thank you! I can’t believe we already ate half of it!

Brilynn October 17, 2006 um 4:03 pm

I’m still waiting for those macarons!

World bread day is a good reason to wait though, pull apart bread looks very tasty!

FH October 17, 2006 um 6:19 pm

Beautiful looking bread there!! YUM!! Great entry for World Bread Day!!

Bron October 17, 2006 um 10:24 pm

Beautiful bread, almost seems a shame to pull it apart…nah! YUM!

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