If I were to have an epitaph someday, it should read “She tried.” I know this is all getting off to a morbid start…but wait, I am getting to the point. The point is my chronic inability to diet. I have had courtside seats to witnessing some of the truly awe-inspiring, supremely-motivating weight loss missions that my friends have undertaken. They have passed with resounding success, the kind that makes you want to thump your chest and pump your fist. You know the usual…triumph of the human spirit and all that jazz. Well, if there is one thing I have learnt by now, it is that I have a strange immunity to will-power. Everyone around me could be teeming with an abundance of this sweet human essence, but I have been innoculated against it. So the bottomline is that, if I am in the vicinity of carbs, be prepared for me to start inappropriately whispering “my preciousssss…”
So when we decided to bake Massa Sovada (Portuguese Sweet Bread,) I was fully prepared for heavenly pleasure that comes from sweet sweet indulgence and then for the abysmal guilt that would make me hallucinate muffin tops everywhere. Like Dickens would say, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (Ok, now I have officially taken myself too seriously!)
Anyway, point is that the bread is divine. And my diet is dead. But such is life. Moving on…
Massa Sovada is a traditional Portuguese bread, eaten during festive occasions in Portugal and baked traditionally in gigantic loaves that were sold in the marketplace. It has a delicate touch of lemon and cinnamon, which in my opinion, really elevates its status. The bread is typically baked in a round loaf pan, but you can use a regular loaf pan or a pie baking dish too. Unless you are a purist in the strictest sense, I don’t think that it really matters.
Recipe for Massa Sovada (makes one 9 inch round loaf)
Adapted from David Letite’s The New Portuguese Table
Whole Milk – 1/2 cup
Unsalted butter – 4 tbsp
Sugar – 2/3 cup + 1 tsp
Kosher sale – 3/4 sp
1 package dry yeast
Eggs – 3 large + 1 large egg yolk
Unbleached flour – 4 cups
Cinnamon – 1/4 tsp
Grated lemon zest -from 1/2 a lemon
Dissolve the yeast, 2 tbsp warm water and the 1 tsp sugar in a cup and let stand for about 10 mins
In a saucepan, heat the butter, milk, 2/3 cup sugar and salt on medium-high heat untul bubbles form around the edges (about 5 mins)
Beat 2 eggs in a bowl until light and frothy. Slowly pour in the milk-butter mixture and add the flour, cinnamon, zest and yeast mixture. Knead into a dough (adding more flour if needed.) Set the dough in a warm location and let rise. It will double in size in about 2 hours.
Picture below shows the dough before and after 2 hours
After 2 hours have elapsed, punch down the dough again and knead several times, forming a ball. Place this ball in a round pan, which has been greased with butter. Allow the dough ball to sit for another 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and remove the upper racks if needed, to give the bread room to rise.
Make shallow slashes on top of the dough. Brush the surface with the remaining egg to give it a glaze. Bake until the bread takes on the color of deep mahagony. It typically takes about 40-50 mins.
Remove and let cool.