Okay so not the typical “Mom can you bake cupcakes for school next week?” I thought hmm I can do that over the weekend, Friday afternoon we are battling the rush hour traffic to the Airport for a weekend visit in Atlanta. It is followed with but add cinnamon and sugar. I’m thinking cinnamon and sugar? and answer, that’s not Portuguese sweet bread. My son replies “its for Spanish class, we are having a fiesta and my Spanish teacher thought that it would be even better to make it multicultural”. I’m like thinking, “okay”, add this to my to do list for Sunday night, check ingredients and schedule this in, probably Monday, laundry, dog pickups, lesson plans….
From my memory as a child, making sweetbread always seemed difficult and time consuming. I remember the big green plastic Tupperware bowl my mom would cover in layers of tablecloths and dish towels, set next to the radiator in the corner of our dining room, to keep it warm for rising. There was always many loaves and in various shapes and sizes. It always seemed daunting with many crucial steps and something she only did during Easter. As with Portuguese tradition, Mom would put whole eggs in the dough to decorate as the loaves baked.
Negotiating our way to the Callahan tunnel, I resolve my bread machine will cut out all that fuss. I have just finished my first semester of teaching cooking and have gained a better understanding of how to bake bread.
I think my poor mom’s challenge is that she never had an oven that worked. She always had to adjust her recipes to work with an oven that burnt everything. I’m happy that finally in her retirement she has a new oven. Her sweetbreads have improved and Mom has revised her recipes over the year to create “Alligator bread” as the family has named her creation. Its sweetbread that has been braided. Sometimes she adds candied friuts or nuts during Christmas.
Arriving home later on Sunday night then I had planned on I resolve that on Monday I will stop at the grocery store buy any ingredients I need and a sweet bread just in case!
Monday evening the kids are at ski club and I have the kitchen to myself. I realize I have done zero prep and scour the cabinets to see if I have what I need, again replaying in my mind that I have plan B of buying a loaf and calling it a day as back up( if they have one). I look through my file of recipes for the best sweet bread recipe that my Aunt Lila makes. This recipe is part of an index card file I have collected from my bridal shower 17 years ago. Reading it, I notice its calling for a 5lb bag of flour. Portuguese women cook big! Well I figure I can cut it down, then as I look further into it, it calls for sweet potato. No wonder it has such beautiful color, density, just enough moisture and height. Too complicated for the time I have left so I call mom for her recipe.
Her’s is large but together we together cut it into thirds, a manageable bread machine size using not more then 3 cups of flour. I notice it calls for a 1.5 cups of sugar, much more then the sweet bread recipe my bread machine came with. I was concerned that it would burn so I selected the light bake setting. It still came out dark. The yeast had a best used by date of a year earlier but it seemed to rise so I was still good to go. By the time I had to pick the kids up from Ski club the bread was in the baking cycle. No trips to the store needed!
The next day I sliced it up and sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on it and it was a nice alternate to the usual way of serving it plain. It was more like dessert versus breakfast bread.
My son was happy and his teachers and classmates enjoyed it. Teaching cooking and baking bread in class has broken down my fears and anxiety of baking bread. It no longer is a challenge left for the weekend only. I hope to do it more often. In fact I bought some sweet potatoes for my next time soon