I've caught the bread bug! After making the sourdough (and not being completely satisfied with the results) I had the urge to make some more bread. However, I was having issues with my starter and being the impatient person I am, decided to make something that wouldn't require days upon days of refreshments and monitoring. Since my first attempt at Portuguese Sweet Bread was a disaster I thought I'd revisit this recipe and see if I could correct my mistakes. I don't have a picture of my last attempt because it was THAT bad. Yes, yes it was I'm embarrassed to say. Dense, tough, mottled crust.....not my better baking moments. This time, however, I think I got it right. Or at least I'm stepping in the right direction for the perfect loaf.
After mixing the sponge I only had to wait about 30min before it became so bubbly that I deemed it ready to use.
So I mixed up the final dough and began kneading....and kneading....and kneading. I followed the recipe in Peter Reinharts book The Bread Baker's Apprentice and he suggests adding up to 6 tablespoons of water if needed for the dough. He also has 1/4c (I think...I don't have the book in front of me right now) powdered milk in the recipe. Both the powdered milk and the water were never added to my dough and I'm not sure they were even needed or would have made a huge difference in the final loaf.
With the first loaf, I was pretty sure I didn't knead the dough long enough because it never did rise, and it was dense and tough and bumpy. THIS loaf I knew after the first rise that I kneaded it enough because during shaping, one loaf had a little balloon of gas poking out...almost like my loaf was trying to blow a bubble.
After shaping the boules (which I definitely need practice), I popped them in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I took them out to proof on the counter before work and when I got home they were ready to bake. Another hint that I was on the right track.....they went from this....
So I threw some eggwash over them (I need to be more thorough in the application I think), and baked them for 30min. However, my loaves reached above 190 degrees after 35 minutes so I'm pretty sure they were done at 30min. They definitely would have been ruined had I baked them at the recommended 50-60min.
After resting and cooling I couldn't wait until morning to cut into and try a slice.
Significantly better than my first attempt and so far this is the lightest crumb I've ever achieved. The loaves are soft like they should be, the cumb is moist and light and the taste delicious! I think part of my success is the use of filtered, bottled water instead of tap. I've used tap water for as long as I can remember and New Orleans water is pretty rough. I don't know why it didn't dawn on me that the tap water could be preventing my little yeasties to do their thing. I'm not sure if that's what helped this time or not but I'm going with it!
To anyone who has made Portuguese Sweet Bread before...how did I do? Be honest please!