Saturday, December 28, 2013

Portuguese Sweet Bread (Masa) Or Is It Hawaiian Bread?

If you believe everything you read, Portuguese sweet bread called Masa is the origin of our Hawaiian sweet bread.  Now I ask, how and when did the Portuguese get to Hawaii? or their bread?  I can't find anything that will provide me with this information.  I would love to get to the bottom of this.

I saw a video on ChefSteps (excellent!) about this wonderful sweet bread.  I highly recommend that website, they have some awesome recipes and their Hawaiian bread recipe is amazing.  I fell in love with their crumb.  The texture of their Hawaiian bread is very bread-y and I got the recipe for my bread from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice and I must say it turned out exceptionally well.  My only tweaking of the recipe is the addition of liquid.  Living here in South Florida I always have to adjust liquids to any recipe that includes flour.  It has been a real Christmas in July for us down here as the days have been hot and wet in true Florida form, YUCK!  But I digress, the bread has been a shining beacon for sunshine and cool days.

Here is my yeast foaming up in a sugar, water and flour mixture to create a sponge.  The sponge sits around at room temperature for about 60 to 90 minutes.

Add the sponge to sugar, salt powdered milk, unsalted butter, vegetable shortening, eggs, lemon extract, orange extract, vanilla extract and flour.  Then you add up to 6 tablespoons of water until it comes together into a soft but firm dough and then knead.  I veered from my usual hand kneading and used the machine for about 15 minutes.  Then removed it from the machine and did my traditional hand kneading for about 5 minutes and made sure it wasn't sticky and passed the "window pane test". I learned this from the book where you rip off a small bit of dough and pull it just so it becomes translucent and does not tear.  
My next step is the boring rising situation. Just the standard oiling of the bowl and rising for about 3 hours. I however, had started late in the day and let it slow rise in the fridge for about 9 hours.  This actually turned out very well and I made the same recipe the next day and did not notice any difference in the final product.

There is a short final rising in the actual baking tin.  Next came the shaping and I stuck with a traditional boule for my shape.  I was very tempted to make a large conglomerate of rolls but I did not want to take the time to weigh and shape the small rolls. Hey, it's Christmas and I didn't have time. I am still surprised I found time to make not 1 but 2 boules!  So as is the case with all these involved and time consuming baked goods the baking time is usually 350 for about 1/10th the time it took you to put it together.  In my case 40 to 55 minutes in the oven until very dark and mahogany brown.  The recipe states that the dark color is due to the sugar content.  It actually doesn't contain much sugar, go figure.

It turns out crusty but soft which is a very nice combination.  The crumb resembles a brioche type of bread even though there isn't the same high amount of butter, or in fact, fat of any kind in this bread.  I can totally see this bread taking the place of a babka or brioche bun in any way.  I made my version of bahn mi because I always use a sweet bread when I make my own version of bahn mi and I must say it turned out quite well.  So this has been my more complicated recipe this Christmas and I hope to get some more stuff together. I've got a prime rib roast in the fridge drying and that will make it to the oven sometime this evening.  Crossing my fingers!

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