Among the many Easter bread traditions that are found all over Portugal, I especially like three: one from the northeast region of Trás-os-Montes, savory and proudly displaying the good sausages from that region; the one from the southern city of Olhão, rolled and stuffed with a lot of cinnamon and sugar; and this one, from the city of Portalegre in the southeast, which is the one that brings me the sweetest memories.
My mother is from Portalegre and my memories of this Easter bread goes back to when I was little. It was traditionally offered by the godfathers to their godchildren at Easter. However, nowadays it is possible to find this sweet bread throughout the year and whenever someone from the family went to Portalegre, or someone from there came to pay us a visit, we already knew that there would be sweet breads in the luggage, along with other local delicacies like white sausages and egg candies. My mother came young to Lisbon, almost like her whole family. In Portalegre remained an aunt who eventually came to live with my mother when her husband died. More than an aunt, she was a kind of borrowed grandmother. A sweet lady, dedicated to others, who made tailormade suits and who liked to write rhymes about the family and the nearby mountains. Now, since there is no one else to bring these Easter breads on a trip, it’s time to bake them myself.
This, like the one from Olhão, is one of the most aromatic Easter breads, intoxicating in the aromas that releases: cinnamon, fennel and brandy. You can eat it like this, plain, or warm and coated with a thin layer of butter. With leftovers, if they exist, you can make toasts for breakfast the next day.
You can make this recipe without great difficulties. Problems may occur when you dissolve the yeast in the milk – be careful that the milk is not too hot, it must be warm at body temperature, otherwise it will kill the yeast – and place the breads on the trays with enough space between them so they can grow without sticking to one another. I like to cover the bowl with cling film for leavening doughs. I think it creates an hermetic environment that makes it easier to leaven. Then I put the bowl into the oven, without heating of course, and let the yeast do its magic. In winter I can still put a wool blanket on top, but this time of year it’s probably no longer necessary. The recipe makes 8 Easter breads, you can offer some, so you’ll need to bake them in two batchs. After 30 minutes in the oven test with a toothpick to check if they are cooked inside.
Looking for something different for your Easter lunch? How about these lamb stuffed baked zucchinis?
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