- 10 cups (more or less) all-purpose unbleached flour
- 3 tablespoons active dry yeast, plus one teaspoon granulated sugar
- 9 large eggs (white or brown), at room temperature
- 1 cup salted butter
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2-¼ granulated sugar
- Zest of one large lemon
- Egg wash (one egg and a splash milk)
- Brown eggs top of bread, optional (I use three per bread)
My grandmother, Mary Isabel Furtado (her friends and family called her Isabel), made this delicious sweet bread at different times of the year. During the Easter season my grandmother (whom I loved dearly) would make this sweet bread with brown eggs in it signifying Christ’s Resurrection. The eggs represented life. Portuguese Sweet Bread is typically called “Massa” and at Easter time, the addition of brown eggs on top is referred to as “Folar.” I’m quite sure my grandmother learned how to make Massa from her grandmother while living on the beautiful Portuguese island of the Azores. One of the reasons I love to prepare food for and with my family and friends is because food utilizes all five of our senses. Seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling and even hearing the food while you’re preparing or enjoying it brings back special memories shared with others in times past.
One Easter weekend while kneading the dough for this wonderful bread, I remembered exactly what my grandmother’s hands looked and felt like as she gently kneaded the dough. She always indented a sign of the cross on the top of the dough before it rose. I suspected as the bread rose, and the cross disappeared, it signified Christ’s resurrection!
Unfortunately, like all of my Vavo’s recipes, this one was never written down, so I have done my best to replicate it over the years. Although this recipe takes some time to prepare, to rise and to bake, it is definitely worth it. I remember my grandmother making several of these breads for her family and friends. Vavo would be downstairs in her kitchen with her apron on, mixing, kneading and forming her breads all by hand. She would make large round loaves of bread, braided versions adn little breads with one egg in them she called “Pombianas.” Various large bowls with her dishtowels over them would be strategically placed in warm, draft-free areas in her immaculate, well-used kitchen…aahh…the sight and smell of Easter!
Take your eggs out of the refrigerator at least two hours before using. In a bowl, dissolve your yeast in 1/2 cup of water with one teaspoon of granulated sugar. Allow your yeast to proof. I love the smell of a “sponge”, a term used when yeast has proofed and become bubbly! Now, your yeast is now ready to go to w cupork for you!
Beat the beautiful yellow eggs until they are light and fluffy. Add your sponge to the eggs and mix in just enough flour to make a batter. Cover with a dish cloth and/or blanket until if forms bubbles. While this is set aside, melt the butter over low heat. Add the canola oil. When all has melted add milk and a pinch of salt and the lemon zest.
When the bread batter has formed bubbles, add your 2-1/4 cups of granulated sugar and the butter mixture. Mix well. Add the remaining flour one cup at a time, mixing well each time. This will be a very sticky dough – don’t panic! When it becomes to difficult to stir with a wooden spoon, pour out your the dough onto a floured surface (I use my island). Continue adding the remaining flour and kneading until the dough is smooth and not too sticky. Resist adding too much flour. You want a light and fluffy bread in the end. You will be kneading the dough for some time; watch your muscles grow!
Cover your bread dough with waxed paper and a towel. Let rise until it doubles in size.
Shape loaves of bread into the size you want and place them in buttered loaf pans.
If you are baking with eggs for the Easter season, this would be the time to push your eggs (I use three) into the top of the dough. Cover with buttered waxed paper and a towel until doubled in size. Brush each loaf with the egg wash to achieve a bright and shiny crust. Allow teh dough to rise a second time. If baking with eggs, the dough will rise around the eggs.
Bake for one hour on the low oven rack at 275 degrees.
Yields 2 large round loaves or several small rolls.
Note: Let the dough rise ( ball form and bread pan form) for about 4 to 6 hours.