The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Please help me copyedit this recipe!

Felila's picture

Please help me copyedit this recipe!

I'm rewriting/copyediting a cookbook that will be sold in supermarkets on Hawai'i's Big Island. I've found one bread recipe so far. It looks problematic to me. Here's the author's first version:

5 pounds flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1-1/2 cups melted shortening
About 4 cups water

Yeast mixture:
2 packages dry yeast
1-1/2 cup lukewarm water for yeast (110 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar

Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, shortening, then add yeast mixtures. Knead until spongy. Uses more warm water while kneading, if necessary, until dough is spongy but not sticky.

Pat dough with flour, cover well and let rise until three times in size, 2 hours. Make into buns of loaves and place in greased pans.

Let rise until double, 1 hour.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown or place in a brick oven and bake until brown and gives a hollow sound when tapped.

Here's my version, with comments to the author in brackets:

Portuguese White Bread

Makes XXX sandwich loaves

Takes approximately XXX hours from start to finish

2 packages (XXX teaspoons) instant dry yeast
1-1/2 cup lukewarm water (110 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
5 pounds all-purpose or bread flour; white is traditional
1 cup sugar1 tablespoon salt
1-1/2 cups melted shortening [can’t we make this butter? Shortening is BAD for you.]

Approximately 4 cups water

[There might be something wrong here. I bake; I read baking forums. My favorite white bread recipe has 5 cups flour (approximate 1.25 pound) to 2 cups water. I sometimes have to fiddle with the flour and water amounts, but not by too much. If one followed that ratio, this recipe would require 8 cups of water, not 5.5 + 1.5 melted butter, or 7 cups liquid. No wonder Evelyn suggests adding more water. It doesn’t seem that 8 cups is enough! It’s much better, as I say below, to have the dough too wet before you knead it, as it’s much easier to add flour as you knead. Of course, I could be wrong, as I have never made bread in such huge batches, or with that much butter.]

Dissolve the yeast and the teaspoon of sugar in warm water. Let the mixture set until the yeast has dissolved and started bubbling. That means that it’s active.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, and shortening [butter?] into a large bowl or a bread bowl, then add the yeast mixture. Mix well. The dough should be moist and supple, but not too wet to handle. It’s better, however, that it be too moist than too dry; you can add extra flour as you’re kneading.

If you are using a traditional wide, shallow bread bowl, you can knead the dough in the bread bowl. If you don’t have a bread bowl (and many of us don’t!), you can turn the dough onto a floured counter or bread board, and knead.

Do you know how to knead bread? Push the dough away from you with the heels of your hands, so the dough is stretched out; fold it back on itself, turn the bread a quarter turn, and push the dough out again. You’ll probably need to do this for 5-10 minutes. Well-kneaded dough should be stretchy. If you pull it out, you should see long strings of gluten (the protein in bread flour). You might have to keep sprinkling flour on the counter and the dough to keep it from sticking.

If you’re lucky, you have a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook. In that case, you don’t have to get all sweaty. Just put the dough in the mixer and let the bread hook knead it. No longer than 10 minutes! It is possible to over-knead with a stand mixer. This is a LOT of dough, so you will probably have to knead this in four batches unless you have a large commercial mixer. Don’t burn out your mixer motor doing this. Watch the dough; sometimes it climbs the hook and tries to engulf your mixer.

[Would it be possible to cut the proportions in this recipe in half? That’s a lot of bread, and a lot of work kneading that much bread, even if you have a mixer.]

Pat the dough with flour, cover well and let rise until it has tripled in size, or approximately 2 hours. The speed at which it rises will depend on the heat and humidity in your kitchen. The yeast beasties love heat and humidity. Usually not a problem on the Big Island, unless you live up Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa.

[I am familiar with recipes that require you to OIL the bread bowl, unless you’re letting the bread rise in couches or bannetons. If you let the bread rise in the bowl in which it was mixed, you usually just cover it. All the recipes I’ve seen recommend that the bread should rise to double its original size, not three times. Most of them also require more than two risings. I usually do four, counting the last rising after the bread has been shaped into loaves. I fold rather than punch down between risings.]

Form the dough into buns or loaves and place it on greased cookie sheets or into greased loaf-pans. Let it rise until doubled, or approximately one hour.

Bake the bread in a pre-heated oven, at 350 degrees, for 20-25 minutes, or until it is golden brown. If you have a traditional brick oven, slide the bread into the oven and bake until brown. You can check the loaves by pulling them out and tapping the top with your fingernail; the bread should sound hollow. If it doesn’t, slide the loaves back into the oven and give them a few more minutes.

[I bake at 500 degrees for the first five minutes, then 15 at 425 to 450. I also bake with steam from a pan full of water. I’m wondering if large loaves would be fully baked at 350.]

[Bread should cool at least half an hour before you cut into it. Letting it cool until it’s at room temperature would be the best, but who can wait that long? The bread is continuing to cook as it cools. Cutting it early can turn it into gummy, under-cooked bread. Your family may not want to wait even 30 minutes. If so, let them demolish one loaf while you let the rest of the baking cool properly.] [OK to add?]

I'm wondering if she actually baked this, and how it turned out. The author seems to be a recipe collector rather than a dedicated cook. She consistently gives vague directions that would lead a novice cook into disaster.

I hate to give readers a recipe that won't work; on the other hand, as I haven't baked this myself, I could be unnecessarily pessimistic. Perhaps I'll cut the recipe to a quarter of the quantities given and see how it turns out.

PaddyL's picture

Even if a recipe calls for melted butter, I almost always use vegetable oil.  By "XXX" do you mean 3?  I wouldn't use more than 2 tbsp. of yeast, but I think I'd use more than 3 teaspoons.  I've made bread that called for up to 12 to 14 cups of flour and it isn't impossible to knead that much, but it is a lot of work, so part way through I just let it (and me) rest for about half an hour.  When I go back to it, I pick it up and slam it down a few times and it comes togethr wonderfully.  You could try scaling it by half and see if it makes a difference.  Seems like a heck of a lot of sugar, though.

Felila's picture

Oh, the XXX is for "you have to give me an AMOUNT, author." If she says "one package of yeast", how do I know how much that is? I buy my yeast in bulk at the health food co-op.

Much of the work in copyediting a cookbook is foreseeing pitfalls. The author knows exactly what she means and doesn't understand that her readers are reading a book, not her mind.  

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL 2-1/4 tsps., more or less.  Most cookbooks settle on a tablespoon as as equivalent to one of the little packets.  A 14-cup-flour recipe can be easily raised with two tablespoons, a little less if you're using the instant yeast which I, too, buy in bulk.  A cup and a half of melted whatever (butter, shortening, or veg. oil) seems like an awful lot, especially in the original recipe which also has 4 cups of water.  I always start my kneading right in the bowl before turning it out onto a lightly floured surface; I sort of fold it over while adding bits of flour and that way, it doesn't fall all over the place when I do turn it out.  350 deg.F. sounds about right, though you could always go up 25 degrees, but I'd leave it in for 30 or 35 minutes, maybe check it at 25, and if it doesn't sound hollow, leave it out of the tins right on the oven rack for another 5 minutes.

Felila's picture

I'm going to have to compare this recipe to recipes for pao doce, Portuguese sweet bread. Perhaps this recipe makes sense if you think of it as sweet breakfast bread, with lots of butter and jam. Or spread with dulce de leche ... If it is sweet bread, it should be retitled.

Portuguese sweet bread is a popular island food. I've never made it, and I don't buy it, because I like sourdough whole wheat with oatmeal and similar "bobo" (bourgeois bohemian) breads. If I'm going to make a sweet bread, I struggle with brioche. Or better yet, just bake some cake, or some gingerbread, or some buttermilk scones. Dang, now I'm getting hungry. 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

You don't need to, and shouldn't, proof instant dry yeast. It should be added to the dry ingredients and kneaded in. Active dry yeast should be proofed according to the manufacturers, however I've never found it necessary.


It is preferable to use an unmelted solid oil for many breads. In "Bread Science" Emily Buehler refers to a test that showed bread made with solid fats rose better than ones made with liquid ones. Even when the liquid fat was a solid one that had been melted.


110F is really too warm to proof yeast, if you insist on proofing, which I don't. I wouldn't go past 100F.


The dough does seem a bit dry, but oils act largely the same as water to hydrate a dough, so it might not be as bad as you think. I think the real answer is to make the recipe as it is given. Also, the mix of pounds and cups is probably a bit confusing to many people. 5 pounds is easy, if you buy flour in 5 lb sacks, or have scales. I'd either go all weight or all volume, but I would specify very carefully how a cup should be filled.


I'd also drop the references to brick ovens, unless they are fairly common in Hawaii. Even if they are, you can figure that people who know how to use a brick oven should understand baking and can work with instructions for a regular oven.


Good luck,


Felila's picture

I compared the recipe to a few pao doce recipes I found online. It's not pao doce; it doesn't have eggs and milk. I think the sugar is there to ensure a super-quick rising.

I'll guess I'll have to make a scaled down version of the original recipe to see if it works or not. I won't bother to proof the yeast, however, or melt the butter. Good points! Thank you!

No way I'm going to make the full thing. I'm too broke to waste a whole bag of flour on it. Plus I don't want to have to knead four batches in the Kitchenaid, or struggle to hand-knead a huge mound of dough that may not turn out well.

But, while I was looking for pao doce recipes, I found one from Peter Reinhart. I definitely *want* to try that one.

Felila's picture

The brick oven directions are in the recipe because this is a traditional Hawaiian-Portuguese recipe. When Portuguese (actually folks from Madeira and the Azores) first arrived in Hawai'i in large numbers, to work on the sugar plantations, the men immediately built brick oven(s) so that their wives could bake bread. Often there was one large oven shared by a whole community. That may be one reason this recipe makes so dang much bread. The oven probably wasn't fired every day, so that housewives would make lots of bread to feel large families until the next time the oven was fired.

Hawaiian for Portuguese is Pokiki. Pidgin for Portuguese is Podagee. Just in case you wondered. 



Cooky's picture

Thanks for the info, Felila, and the evocative tales of Hawaiian bread history. I have only visited twice, and I'm permanently homesick for the place.

 Good luck with the book project. It sounds like fun, and a lot of work!


"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

Felila's picture

I divided the original recipe by four and made a 1/4 batch this morning.  I didn't proof the yeast and I used softened room temperature butter.

As I feared, the recipe was too dry. The dough clumped into three hard little balls and bumped around the Kitchenaid mixer bowl. I added more flour and butter, for a total of 5 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1/2 cup butter (!!!!). Looking back on it, I probably should have increased the water rather than the butter. Finally, the dough was supple and kneading properly. 

With two tablespoons yeast and the sugar, it rose like gangbusters. I formed it into two boules and let them rise. As directed, I baked at 380 degrees for 25 minutes. 

The bread was still gummy, very soft, and had no structure. The boules had flattened out rather than keeping all the height they achieved while rising. 

I think I could make this recipe work if I made it exactly like Lloyd's pain sur poolish, which is my daily bread too. 5 cups flour and 2 cups liquid/butter could be broken into 1 cup flour and 1 cup water for the poolish, then add 4 cups flour and 1 cup water/butter the next morning. I'd let it rise more than once, to get some structure.

Finally, I'd either bake it longer, or at a higher temperature. Perhaps it would have worked in a brick oven, or on a bread stone/quarry tiles. Or perhaps it would be OK as buns. 

I wonder if the cookbook author actually MADE this recipe before putting it in her cookbook.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the  "1 cup Sugar"  is maybe sugar cane juice? 

It might then make sense.  After all that's what they were there for at the time and juice would be plentiful esp. at harvest time. Just a thought.

The amount of butter doesn't seem to bother me because I have observed that many old cane plantations also had cow barns, and raised cattle.  If you had lots of milk, and lots of butter,  what better way to use extra?  How does it compare to brioche?

Mini O

Felila's picture

Doesn't taste like brioche -- no eggs. Portuguese sweet bread, which is close to brioche, has eggs and milk.

I've made Floyd's recipe as white bread, replacing the approximately 1 cup of water it requires in the second stage, with one egg plus enough milk to make one cup. That makes what I'd consider a good white bread. Tender, but not gummy.   

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I like your suggestion of a poolish method, a good idea, also plausable method at the time. 

Mini O

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

it could also be possible that the cane juice had the yeasties growing in it, a by-product while Rum making.  Maybe some of this pre-rum ferment is the cup of "sugar" mentioned.  With the introduction of Commercial Yeast, this step was dropped from the recipe (never to return again.) OK too far fetched... just exercising the brain cells here...

Mini O

Felila's picture

The original recipe, as given in the cookbook, calls for "packages" of yeast and  some shortening. It can't possibly be what the ladies were baking in 1880 (when they might well have used a poolish, and raw cane sugar). It sounds like a 1950s recipe to me -- but adapted to making lots of loaves for a church bazaar. Probably in a brick oven; those would still have been in use at the time, I think. A fair number of the "ethnic" recipes in this cookbook read like church bazaar recipes. In fact, the author mentioned learning to make malasadas (Portuguese donuts, with no hole) from the tutus (grannies) who made them for bazaars.

The loaves I made (boules) were brown on top but white on the bottom. I think they might have baked better if slid into a brick oven on a peel, so that the bottoms would brown too.