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
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.