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Help with kneading, rising slack dough portuguese sweetbread

seanmachado's picture

Help with kneading, rising slack dough portuguese sweetbread

Hi everyone.


I am having trouble with trying to make Massa (Portuguese sweetbread) from a generations old secret family recipe.


My mother made the bread for generations until she passed away last year, her recipe box was thrown out, but myself and several nephews got together and came up with the recipe that she used.


I cut down her recipe (which was for 7 loaves at a time, and ingredients were measured in POUNDS).

I believe I have the recipe correct, and my last loaf (probably batch # 20) came out reasonably well.


The dough itself is VERY WET, it is almost a batter dough.  I made a batch last night, used my warm eggs and warm butter, and evaporated milk, and my yeast was proofed very well (it rose to 2 times the level at 6 minutes proofing, with 110 degree temp and 1 teaspoon of sugar).


(Usually you see sweetbread with a "normal" dryer dough appearance, but this bread always looked liquidy even when my mother made it)

I kneaded the bread for 30 mins (which involves grabbing a handfull, pulling,twisting over and over. I have found that a shorter kneading time makes it taste like a white bread, but longer kneading gets rid of the "pockmark appearance" on the top of the loaf and it rises quicker.

THIS BATCH howvever, instead of taking 6 hours for 1st rise sat for 10, and did not seem to double exactly.  I punched down the bread (by grabbing and kneading it a couple times) and the gluey mass went down, I discovered the dough was cold.  (I had let it sit on the counter all night with house temp at 70.  the dough did not seem to rise at all when I got yup at 330am, so I moved the dough to the oven, placed hot water under the bowl and went back to bed. When I woke at 1030, the dough had risen a tiny bit but I punched it down again anways).

Originally this recipe was made in Massachusetts, near sea level with a higher level of humidity,I now live in Ohio.   could this be an issue ?  Am I just kneading wrong or too long ?  Is my temperature not good for rising ?


I know if I try to "force the rise" by heating the oven and trying to rise the bread in the oven,  to make the bread rise quicker I get tasteless bread, almost like a white bread.  The longer rise the m,ore flavor and sweeter it seems.


Any help would be appreciated,





Cerues's picture

I love breads with wet or loose dough... it always tastes better to me. I've never made massa sovada but I can give you a little tip on a wet dough and low humidity - when you set it to rise, lightly flour the outside before you put it in the bowl. It'll help you get the dough out of the bowl and keep moisture in the dough. I also cover my bowl with a clean, wet dish towel but not so it touches the dough. If the house is on the colder side, I put the bowl in the oven with a pan of hot water. My oven is gas so I don't heat it in any way. The dough goes in for both rises.

Many recipes will change depending on the order you mix in the ingredients, which may be your problem. Adding salt directly to a yeast mixture will decrease the efficiency of the yeast (possibly the culprit in the low rises).

Edit: Longer rises do give more flavor but if you over rise your bread it will have an beer or alcohol taste. I prefer overnight rises in the fridge if I want a more complex flavored bread. The long, cold rise doesn't impart a beer taste because the cold inhibits the explosive growth of the yeast.

Trialer70's picture

I have used other Portuguese sweetbread recipes, but they have been dryer, as you mentioned.  Would you share your mother's recipe with me?  I would like to try it and see if it would be sweeter that the other ones I've made in the past--I think so, being that it is wetter.  Thank you.

DesertDebbi's picture

I know this is an older thread, but I also have a portuguese grandmother and the recipe above sounds very similar to mine.  Trialer70 here is my recipe for Portuguese Sweet Bread. I havent made it in  30 years, but I am making a batch right now so my DS4 can enjoy the taste memories I had when I was a little girl. As this is an older recipe, it used yeast cakes. I contacted Fleishman's this week to get a proper translation from cake to package, and included their comments in the recipe:

Amanda Brasell's Portuguese Sweet Bread

 ¼ lb butter

2 tsp salt

1c evaporated milk

1 tsp sugar

2 yeast cakes = 1 packet active dry yeast per cake so use 2 packets the Fleishman’s yeast lady suggested 3 packets for a better rise and said it won’t affect the flavor.

1/2c  water

6 eggs

1 1/4 c sugar

2 tsp vanilla

5 ½ - 6 c unbleached flour


Mix together ¼ lb melted butter, 2 tsp salt and 1c evaporated milk- keep warm. Dissolve 2 yeast cakes and 1 tsp sugar in ½ c warm water. Beat 6 eggs (which are at room temp) and 1 ¼ c sugar until it is lemon colored and sugar is dissolved. Add 2 tsp vanilla to the egg mixture. Then add the butter and yeast mixture and mix thoroughly. Add 5 ½ - 6 c unbleached flour. Blend and knead until smooth and satiny. Near the end of the kneading grease sides of bowl with Crisco so dough won’t stick to the bowl or your hands. Knead 6-8 more times and let rise until doubled then punch down and let rise again. Shape loaves and place in greased pans (grandma used round 8” cake pans) and let rise again. Cut a triangle on top of the loaves when risen in the loaf pans and rub the top with milk. Bake at 300degrees for 45 minutes. 

The Fleishman’s yeast lady said I can use the bread hook attachment on my mixer to speed up the process.