Reinhart’s Portuguese Sweet Bread: a Sure Winner! February 14, 2010

My dentist says I have an incurably sweet tooth.  That explains why she goes to great lengths to clear the plaque off my ivories.  I floss twice a day, mind you, but my sweet tooth negates all the diligent dental care I pay for.


One day, after having just finished my workout at the gym, I had this craving for a “sweetish” kind of bread.  I went scavenging on the Internet for a simple recipe, but none caught my fancy only because of information overload.  After 20 minutes, I gave up – there was just too many sweet bread recipes to choose from. 


Then I remembered.  I had Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker Apprentice (BBA).  Why don’t I try that? I settled on his Portuguese Sweet Bread (page 215 of BBA).  His recipe called for three kinds of extracts:  lemon, orange and vanilla.  I only had pure vanilla extract.  The store didn’t have the lemon and orange extracts so I bought Dr. Oetker’s artificial lemon and orange flavors, which come in small vials. 


One thing that intrigued me was Reinhart’s advice about this bread:  He said:


“Because of the high amount of sugar, the dough will brown very quickly, but don’t be fooled into thinking it is done.  It will get darker as the center gradually catches up with the outside, but it will not burn.  The final color will be a rich mahogany brown.


I was skeptical at first.  To me, bread shouldn’t be baked for that long.  I’m fixated on the “22 minutes” and unless I’m baking sourdough, 30 minutes would ruin the bread’s texture.   I reluctantly followed his advice of baking it for 50-60 minutes and Reinhart, the master bread maker, was right!  (Don’t argue with success, as someone used to say).


My loaves did have that rich mahogany color that he promised, and they were the exact color match of his photographed loaves.


sweet port1

This recipe is in my “keeper” file.  I can see how it would be the perfect Easter treat.  The combination of orange, lemon and vanilla tasted like spring.  You should have been at my place while they were baking.  The sweet scents pervaded every nook and cranny, lingering long enough after they were sliced and eaten.  Baking this bread gave my place that fresh and fruity ambiance!


The deep brown color of the crust was a stark contrast to the crumb.  Despite the long baking time, the bread was soft inside.  The crust wasn’t tough.  Here’s what the bread looked like after slicing:


sweetport2                         sweetport3

Peter Reinhart recommends the sponge method for this bread which you make 90 minutes ahead.  It calls for 1/2 cup of unbleached bread flour, 1 tbsp of sugar, 2-1/4 tsp of instant yeast and 1/2 cup of water at room temperature.  I wish I could post the recipe here, but I don’t think it would be fair to Reinhart. His book is copyrighted, and like a good citizen, I can’t violate the laws.  I’m sure your local library has it.  If it isn’t, ask your librarian if he’d do an inter-library loan for you.  The book’s title is Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, ISBN:  978-158008-268-6.


If you really want the recipe and can’t find it anywhere, e-mail me at  I’ll be happy to send it to you.  It’s just unethical to post it for the whole world to see (not that the world visits my blog!)


The other ingredient you should use is powdered milk.  Reinhart in fact almost always recommends powdered milk because he says it gives breads a distinctive taste and that once you use it, you’ll never want to use liquid milk again.  I’m not sure about that.  I think it’s because using powdered milk versus liquid milk will not drench the dough, making it difficult to handle.  I’ve worked with certain doughs before that seemed like an acrobatic feat.


You’ll love this Portuguese Sweet Bread.  Dr. Oetker’s artificial extracts, by the way, worked wonders.  They’re definitely not a bad idea if your runs out of the pure lemon and orange extracts.





George Greenstein, Do You Give Classes? June 22, 2009

greenstein2 In a bread discussion forum that I joined in early winter when I was struggling not to be such a greenhorn with breads, the book Secrets of a Jewish Baker kept popping up.  Members would praise it to high heavens and some thought it was the bread bible of the 21st century.  The author, George Greenstein, seems to be a favorite of many bakers and bread fanatics.

Lingering in the food section of my local library this afternoon looking for herbs and spices to write about for my other blog on translation, something caught my eye.  At first I saw the word “Jewish”, and then the other word “baker.”  That’s when it clicked.  I bent over and eureka – it was THE book that forum members have been treating with unusual reverence!  Others were proudly announcing that they had put an order on the book and couldn’t wait to start trying the recipes.

Secrets of a Jewish Baker must be in everyone’s kitchen.  At first I thought that Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice would suffice.  No.  You ought to add Mr. Greenstein’s book if you like creating bread – yeast or non-yeast.  greenstein The Reinhart and Greenstein combo will help increase your baking confidence.  Keep them within reach! 

What rare gems did I find in Mr. Greenstein’s book, you ask.  Plenty.

The first chapter deals with basic materials.  In chapter 2, he discusses bread making from A to Z.  The subsequent chapters cover all kinds of bread:  from different countries, from corn and potato breads of the Americas, from sourdough to rolls, biscuits and muffins.  He includes a menu program for what he calls a “Morning of Baking.”

What I enjoyed reading were the baker’s secrets that the book is generously sprinkled with.  I gained valuable tips and I don’t want to offend Mr. Greenstein by putting them all here.  Besides I do encourage you to purchase the book.  It’s available on Amazon for about $20.00 (ISBN:  13:978-1-58008-844-2 and ISBN-10:1-58008-844-9).  As I’m scrolling down the Amazon site, I see that Mr. Greenstein has also published Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets:  The Art of Baking your Own Babka, Danish, Sticky Buns, Strudels and More (April 2009).  Amazon does not have it yet on stock but will inform customers once the book arrives.

A few tips from Mr. Greenstein:

  • If you leave fresh bread flour to age for 5 to 6 weeks, its flavor and color are enhanced.
  • Before sprinkling seeds on challah, allow egg wash to air dry.  Brush bread with egg wash the second time.  This gives it more shine.
  • When you have empty muffin cups in the muffin tray (because you ran out of batter), put 1-2 tablespoons of water on the empty cups to keep them from burning.
  • “Irish soda bread made with whole wheat flour is nutritious and has a sweet, nutty flavor.”

When it’s time to return this book, I’ll have to order my own copy and maybe treat myself to his pastry book. 

A very minor disappointment with Secrets of a Jewish Baker: there are no color photos of Mr. Greenstein’s masterpieces.  But the absence of color photos does not in any way diminish the quality of the book.  It reeks of wholesome flavor…and expertise you don’t come across everyday!

So Mr. Greenstein, do you give classes?