Pão Doce – Sweet Portuguese Bread (BBB August 2010)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Pão Doce – Sweet Portuguese Bread; information about Bread Baking Babes; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB)

Sweet Portuguese Bread (bbb) Thank goodness!! The BBBabes decided to use flour again. This month’s bread is “Sweet Portuguese Bread: Massa Sovada”. When the recipe was announced, I emailed the following to the others:

Now that the flurry of excitement from sprouting wheat is starting to abate, I'm starting to think about August's bread. I'm really looking forward to it. And this time, I'm determined that I'm going to read the recipe through BEFORE starting.

But I kept putting it off. Imagining that the disgusting muggy buggy weather wouldn’t last. Couldn’t last. I THOUGHT we were over the worst of it and it rolled right back in late Saturday night around 10:00pm. Just as I was mixing the sponge.

Of course I forgot about my vow to read the recipe through. (Are you surprised?)

I immediately got stuck at “osmotolerant yeast”. Osmotolerant yeast? Pfuuy. Over the past month, I did look for it on our supermarket shelves. And I learned from Susan (Wild Yeast) that regular yeast could be substituted for osmotolerant by adding 30% more. But I had a major brain failure (I think it melted in the heat) and couldn’t seem to figure out how to calculate 30% more yeast. I’m pretty sure it would mean 30% of 7gm, to use 9gm active dry yeast in substitution for 7gm osmotolerant yeast.

And then I forgot about it. And decided to just use regular old active dry. And then, sweltering in the kitchen, surrounded by dinner dishes, in the flurry of mixing the starter after a spectacular feast in the garden, I forgot that 7gm is about 2¼ tsp active dry yeast. (I was too lazy to measure the yeast with the scale. Even though I had the scale out….) I carefully measured out 2½ tsp (about 8gm). So I guess I inadvertently made somewhat of a yeast adjustment….

And the next morning things hadn’t really improved. There I was, early because I imagined that if I got up early, it wouldn’t be so warm in the kitchen (ding ding ding ding WRONG!!!), weighing flour and starting mixing things together, dripping – it was already a very warm and humid 24C at 7:00am, having dropped to a cool *cough* 23C for an hour just around sunup but 25C for most of the night outdoors.

I made an executive decision that 3 eggs were just too many. And added only 2, making up for the extra liquid by adding a quarter cup more milk.

And there in the semi-dark, dressed in loose cotton clothes, hair frizzed out in the humidity, I happily creamed sugar into butter, beat in eggs and then beat some of the flour in. I was thrilled at seeing the gluten strands begin to form. (For a few moments, I even forgot how hot it was.)

I then added the rest of the flour to “make a stiff dough”.

kneading What??!! This is NOT my definition of stiff at all. (Suddenly I remembered how hot it was. :stomp:)

This is slack dough!! Decidedly slack. Was it because of the high humidity? Was it because I switched to use milk for egg? Probably.

So I kneaded in a tiny bit more flour. Wheeee!!! Isn’t it fun following directions?

I did add a little more flour while kneading. But not much because the dough seemed so nice.

It was all because of seeing the following in the recipe:

Add remaining flour to make stiff dough

Of COURSE, I didn’t read further (until the bread was rising) to see:

Dough should be smooth, soft and very supple with a slight stickiness

Sigh. Maybe some day, I’ll learn to read….

But all was not lost. Keeping with the tradition of not reading, I decided to leave things as they were and not add any more flour to create a “stiff” dough. And what I ended up with was really beautiful and had already almost doubled after only an hour.

Causing the immediate thought, “Oh my. This is going to make a lot of bread, isn’t it? I think maybe our neighbours are going to love us because we won’t have room in the freezer for all the loaves.”

And I oozed out of the kitchen to wait the few moments it would take for the dough to almost triple, wondering if maybe this WASN’T the right year for us to decide to leave our air conditioner turned off.

Observed at: Toronto Pearson Int’l Airport […]
Temperature: 30.6C
Humidex: 41
Issued: 11:00 AM EDT Sunday 15 August 2010
Humidex advisory in effect.

-Environment Canada, Toronto, 15 August, 2010

And speaking of following directions…

For best demarcation of indents be careful to dust dough ball well with flour.

Did I notice that part BEFORE I made the indentations?? :lalala: Ha. Of course not. :stomp:

scoring At first I thought that the little rolling pin we have for Indian bread would be perfect for the scoring. But when looking at it and the size of the loaf, I changed what’s left of my mind and decided to use the handle of a wooden spoon. Looking at the shaped round, I thought, “Hmmm, looks like the handle will stick.”

So I floured the spoon handle.

It worked pretty well. For one indentation. And stuck like crazy for the next one. But then I thought… water!!! Use water!!! So I wet the spoon handle. That worked even better. Or seemed to anyway.

And then I was looking at the size of pie plate and thought, “Looks awfully large for that size of loaf….” So I buttered the lid of a small casserole dish and then buttered my hands and lifted the flacid thing from pie plate to casserole lid. And pushed the demarcations in again just to be sure they’d take. *cough*

Not wanting to waste the buttered pie plate, I flattened a third of the dough to make a jamroll bread ring and put it in there. (I’ll drone on about that in another post.) I then divided the third piece of dough into three and braided it.

It was so ridiculously hot here that the bread took no time to rise. (My desk thermometer said 31C.)

The sacrifices I make to be on-time for posting. :-)

Here’s the recipe we were to have followed.

And here is what I did:

Pão Doce – Sweet Portuguese Bread
based on Tanna’s Sweet Portuguese Bread: Massa Sovada (aka Pão Doce, Massa)


  • 72gm (~½ c) bread flour
  • 2½ tsp (8 gm) active dry yeast
  • 80gm (80ml) whey ¹
  • 34gm (34ml) water ²


  • 85gm (6 Tbsp) butter, soft ³
  • 50gm demerrara sugar 4
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • zest of one lemon
  • 180 gm (~¾ c) milk, room temperature 5
  • 340gm (~2½ c) unbleached bread flour
  • 120gm (~1 c) whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp (~16gm) flax seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp (~6gm) seasalt
  • milk, for brushing before baking, optional
  • butter, for brushing after baking, optional
  1. Starter On the evening of the day before you will be baking the bread, put the yeast, whey and water into a medium sized bowl (I used a small lidded pyrex casserole dish.) and whisk well til the yeast has dissolved.
  2. Add the starter and stir well with a wooden spoon to encorporate all the flour. This mixture is quite soupy.
  3. Cover the bowl and leave it in a non-drafty area of the kitchen (or in the cold oven with the light turned on if your kitchen is cold) overnight
  4. Dough On the morning of the day you are going to bake the bread, using the back of a wooden spoon, cream the sugar into the butter. Use the wooden spoon to beat in the eggs one at a time. Forget to beat in the zest.
  5. Add the milk and the starter (from above – it should be significantly larger than it was the night before and bubbling madly). Beat some more. Beat beat beat. (If you are hand beating, you probably can’t beat too much. Unless you are OCD and spend several hours each day beating various cake and bread batters.)
  6. Measure the flours into a separate bowl and put 340gm (~2½ c) along with the powdered flax seed into the milk/butter/sugar mixture. Beat beat beat beat beat some more; Tanna writes beat vigorously […] by hand lifting the spoon up should stretch the dough about a foot. I’m not sure that I managed a foot in the air (except my actual feet) but I had so much fun beating that I forgot it was horribly hot and sticky in the kitchen. When I began to see gluten strands forming, I decided that was probably enough beating.
  7. Stir in the remaining flour until it is encorporated.
  8. Kneading Turn the dough out onto an UNfloured board. Notice that the dough is quite sloppy and wants to ooze over the board. Generously sprinkle on some flour. Let these rest as you wash and dry your mixing bowl to turn it into your proofing bowl.
  9. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and silky and there are no lumps. Use a dough scraper to help you knead. Avoid adding any more flour.
  10. Proofing: Plop the dough into the clean bowl. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to be all that smooth. Cover the bowl and leave in a non-drafty area of the kitchen for about 30 minutes.
  11. Notice that a whole hour has gone by and that the dough is starting to rise significantly. Don’t worry. Very lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour – the merest dusting. Carefully turn the dough out. If necessary, gently spread the dough out (try not to disturb any bubbles). Using the dough scraper and still trying not to disturb any bubbles, fold the sloppy left side into the center, then the top into the center, then the right side, then the bottom. As you lift it into the bowl, fold it in half once more. Try to place it in the bowl smooth side up. Cover the bowl. Let it ferment at room temperature and allow it to ferment until it has almost tripled.
  12. Shaping First, butter two pie plates and put a largish sheet of parchment paper onto a cookie sheet. Now sprinkle a generous amount (but not too much) of flour onto the board and gently turn the dough out onto the flour, disturbing it as little as possible. Cut the dough into 3 even pieces. Take one of the pieces, and with the help of the dough scraper, fold the left side into the center (try not to disturb the bubbles), then the top, then the right side then the bottom. Turn it over. Continue to fold it underneath itself to form an even tight ball without actually deflating the dough. Place it seam side down onto the pie plate. Repeat this with the second piece of dough. OR. Flatten the dough into a long rectangle and spread the rectangle with jam. Roll it like a jelly roll and form the roll into a ring. Cut the third piece of dough into three and form three ropes. Braid the ropes, starting at the center and braiding to one end and then turning the bread around and braid from the center to the other end. (I hope that made sense!!) Cover the shaped bread with a clean tea towel followed by plastic bags. Even though I forgot to let the shaped bread rest, do as I say and not as I do: leave it in a non-drafty area for about 20 minutes.
  13. Uncover the two round loaves. Dip the handle of a wooden spoon into a glass of water and make the demarcations, pressing down quite firmly, almost to the base of the bread. Make a cross in the dough then turn the bread to make a second cross (4 crevices in all). Cover again and allow to the bread to rise in the same no-drafty area of the counter until is has about doubled. To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough. (1 to 4 hours, depending on the temperature of the kitchen)
  14. Preparing the Oven About fifteen minutes before baking the bread, make sure there is a racks on the second to the top shelf. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  15. Baking Just before baking the bread, notice that the demarcations have all but disappeared and that the loaf has risen remarkably. Refrain from wetting the wooden spoon handle again and pushing the marks back in. Unless you want a deflated loaf. Brush the loaves with milk. (Tanna suggests an egg wash. I avoid egg washes because I think the bread takes on an eggy flavour.) Place the loaves onto the second to top shelf of the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Half way through the baking, turn the bread around to account for uneven heat in the oven. The finished loaves should be golden brown, light to lift and sound hollow when tapped on the bottoms.
  16. When the bread is done, remove to cool on a footed rack. Brush the hot loaves with butter if you want a really glossy finish. Wait until the bread is completely cool before cutting it (it’s still baking when it’s hot out of the oven). 6

Allow to cool completely (it’s still baking when it’s hot out of the oven).


1. The whey came from draining some plain yoghurt through a cheesecloth to make yoghurt cheese to go with grape pie (remind me to rave about the grape pie!!) If whey is unavailable, use water. Tanna says that water from boiling potatoes is also very good. Tanna wrote “potato water or whey really make it extra tender & soft”. In the starter, use a total of 114gm (~½ c) liquid.

2. Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated. Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature, (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!) Or you can use a thermometer. The temperature should be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

3. I used 4 Tbsp of unsalted butter and 2 Tbsp salted butter. I thought the amount of salt in the bread was perfect. T thought it could use more salt. (I think he has lost a LOT of salt because of this insane heat…. :stomp:)

4. Tanna called for 30 to 100 gm brown sugar. We always use demerara sugar but when I was growing up, we always used “soft golden sugar” when a recipe called for brown sugar. When I made the bread, I didn’t want an overly sweet bread so struck a compromise and added 50gm. Next time, I think I’ll add a little more, perhaps as much as 80gm.

5. Instead of using actual milk, I whisked ¼ c powdered skim milk into the water.

6. Do you want warm bread? If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after the loaf has cooled completely. To reheat UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

scoring When I first put in the demarcations, I really went nuts, pressing RIGHT down to the bottom of the shaped loaf almost severing it. As Karen (Bake My Day) said, it was like an air mattress. Two indentations worked. But adding a third and the whole thing just popped right up again. And if I hadn’t redefined the lines (and deflated the loaf) mine would have looked like an overinflated air mattress after being baked. Perhaps there’s a reason that the traditional shape for this bread is apparently a simple round.

But who really cares about marks or no marks? The flavour, crust and crumb are great. Thank you, Tanna, for a delicious new bread recipe!

The only thing I miss is the taste of the lemon zest. I put in the zest of one (large) lemon and there isn’t even a hint of lemon flavour.

Remember that I said that we were going to donate some of this bread to our neighbours? Errrrmmmm. Sorry neighbours. I’m afraid we might have to eat all of it ourselves. :-)

Bread Baking Babes
Bread Baking Babes: Sweet Portuguese Bread

Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups) is the host of the August 2010’s Bread Baking Babes’ task. She wrote:

Friday, 9 July 2010
I have a wonderful Portuguese neighbor who grew up in the Azores in the 50s. As she told us about her mother one evening, she told us about this wonderful just sweet bread her mother used to make and how much she loved this bread. She still can get the bread but only once a year when she’s with her sister. So … I set out to replicate the bread for her. […] My neighbor’s favorite way to eat this is with a touch of really good unsalted butter.

If you’d like to bake along (of course you do!!) and receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site, bake the Sweet Portuguese Bread and post it before the 29 August 2010.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBB, please read:

Please take a look at the other Babes’ results:


BBBabes’ Anniversary

Please remember that the BBBabes’ anniversary is coming up in February. We’d like you to pick the Anniversary Bread recipe for February 2011. You have until November to think about it.

  • What’s your favorite bread?
  • What bread haven’t you ever been able to get to turn out the way you want?
  • What bread scares you the most?
  • What’s the bread recipe you’ve baked the most?
  • What bread do you dream about baking?
  • What bread do you…?

Scour your bread-baking cookbooks, recipe boxes and bread-baking sites to make your choice. We’ll ask you to submit your desired recipe in November. And in December, after we’ve narrowed the list down to a manageable number of choices, we’ll ask you to vote on one for us to bake and post for our anniversary in February.


Yeastspotting - every Friday (wordle.net image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


(By the way. Yes, I did learn my lesson from last time; I used the coffee spice grinder rather than pestle and mortar to grind the flax seed.)

15 responses to “Pão Doce – Sweet Portuguese Bread (BBB August 2010)

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    You just are my favorite all time whinner! ;-)
    I’m still hoping I learn to read one day soon.
    Your loaves look beautiful … not sharing with the neighbors? If you share you can bake it again ;-)
    The neat part about failing to get the indents is … you then get the perfect traditional round shape for the bread!

    edit 20 August 2010: I know. We’re very selfish… I can only say it again. Sorry neighbours! – E

  2. Görel

    Read? Did we have to read the recipe? No one told me that. I though you could just go with the flow, no?

    But seriously, given your not-reading I think you managed beautifully. And different flours have VERY different properties. Wait until we bake something with rye!

    edit 20 August 2010: Clearly, Görel, you’re right. Reading was optional. I must say that I do like the way that the bread just wants to be bread no matter how many times it was pushed and prodded. And yes, the flours do make a difference. I don’t usually use “bread” flour and I’m beginning to think there may be a good reason to choose the stronger flour. It seems to love to rise. (I just made rye bread with rye and strong wheat flour and the loaves are huge.) – Elizabeth

  3. Elle

    Poor neighbors…they really missed getting great bread. Who kneads recipes anyway? You did just fine your way. Probably just as well the neighbors didn’t get any…they might have thought you were crazy baking in that heat…of course they don’t know you are a BABE!

    edit 20 August 2010: They already think I’m crazy, Elle. – E

  4. Sara

    absolutely gorgeous bread! and by the way, reading is overrated. :)

    edit 20 August 2010: Thank you, Sara. You might have a point. Certainly reading afterwards to find out what has been done wrong is overrated. Because ignorance truly is bliss. – Elizabeth

  5. Astrid

    I love your writing style! It always puts a smile on my face. :)
    you bread looks lovely even tho you deflated it before baking. *whispers: I was tempted to do the same but then decided against…*

    reading the recipe? Hey at least you put in the salt *snickers*

    edit 20 August 2010: Thank you, Astrid. I’m so glad to make people smile. – Elizabeth (I have to admit that it’s always a bit of a miracle that I remember to put in the salt….)

  6. ap269

    I enjoyed reading your post so much – you made my day!!! Still trying to figure out what shape my Portuguese bread is going to have: traditional round, Tanna’s version with the intendations or maybe sweet little buns….

    edit 20 August 2010: Thank you, ap. Your bread will probably tell you what shape it will be. But sweet little buns sounds like a great idea! – ejm

  7. katie

    No where would the fun in baking be if one read the directions! They’re only meant to be guidelines… Aren’t they? Nice save…..

    edit 20 August 2010: Hmmm. I guess so, Katie. But even guidelines are supposed to be skimmed over at least once rather than ignored entirely. – Elizabeth

  8. Natashya

    Very pretty loaf! (and you knead air conditioning..)
    I like that you divvied it up in wedges like pie. :-)

    edit 20 August 2010: I think I knead my head examined, Natashya. And yes, I liked that the bread wanted to be divvied up into wedges. – Elizabeth

  9. Susan/Wild Yeast

    I don’t know what you’re talking about, your indentations look perfect to me! Your posts are so much fun to read.

    edit 20 August 2010: Thank you, Susan! – Elizabeth

  10. ilva

    Maybe we should start a reading school because I missed several things in that recipe!

    edit 20 August 2010: Good idea, Ilva!! We can call it “Bread Baking Babes’ Remedial Recipe Reading (BBBRRR)” – Elizabeth

  11. Mimi

    Each time I come across this bread, I want to have some. I love that you used it for two other loaves as well. It all looks delicous!!

    edit 20 August 2010: Do make it, Mimi. You can pretend it’s good for you because of the inclusion of whole wheat flour and ground flax seed. – Elizabeth

  12. natalia

    Ciao Elizabeth ! I had some heat problems too (and not only !) but this bread came out lovely , not as yours though …

    I thought your bread looked very fine too, Natalia. And you had the great idea to eat it toasted with marmalade. -Elizabeth


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