Happy Chinese/Lunar new years eve! Tonight will be spent with family over dinner, at my childhood home, that lucky enough, my parents still live in, where the age of the home is starting to show through every time I visit. Since no longer living at home, I do miss the overwhelming smells of oil, sauces and spices of traditional Chinese cooking. Needless to say, anytime I visit, my parents always want to spoil me with food – the way some parents show love.
Chinese new years was definitely one of my favourite holidays growing up, not just because of all the lucky money we would receive from family, but because you got to spend time with aunts, uncles and cousins you rarely see. Playtime with cousins was the greatest, playing whatever games we made up with whatever silly rules we could come up with. Such freedom and creativity that runs wild in a child!
The more ‘adult’ I become, the more I appreciate simple things such as this – just spending time with the important people in your life that have shaped you into the person you are today. Time is fleeting and leaves no one behind and so we must not forget these moments.
To not exclude my other half in the celebrations, for the first time ever, I baked bread! It’s a Portuguese sweet bread and tastes exactly like that – a sweet bread. It’s lovely. We had slices with a steaming pot of an apple-y, nutty flavoured tea. I was extremely relieved that after taking his first few bites, he was more than satisfied with my work. He mentioned that it tastes like something his grandmother would have made. YES – success! Anything that I attempt to make and that he gives approval on and better yet can transcend him back to happy moments of his childhood are recipes to permanently add to the collection.
My technique could be improved upon, but anything that turns out half-decent on the initial try is good to me! Warning the recipe does take some time and a little bit of patience.
Here is the recipe for Portuguese Sweet Bread:
- 2 packages of yeast (I used Fleischmann’s yeast – active dry)
- 1/4 cup of warm water
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Roughly 6 cups of all purpose flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 egg, beaten
- In a bowl dissolve the yeast into the water (or follow the directions on the yeast packet to activate the yeast properly).
- In a larger mixing bowl combine the sugar, butter (cut up into smaller sized chunks, if using a stick) and salt. Scald the milk and pour into the bowl. Let the milk sit and melt the butter – stir gently to promote melting and combining of ingredients.
- Stir in 2 cups of the flour into the sugar, butter, salt and milk mixture. Mix until smooth.
- Add the 3 beaten eggs and yeast into the mixture. Continue mixing.
- Stir in 3 more cup of flour to make a very soft dough.
- You can either turn the dough mixture out onto a floured board and continue kneading until the dough is very smooth and satiny (15 – 20 minutes), remembering to add more flour, as needed or just knead the dough in the mixing bowl (if the bowl provides enough room). I found that kneading it on a board was very messy and sticky, so in passing, I would have kneaded it directly in the bowl,
- Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a buttered bowl, turning all sides of the dough to make sure it is covered in the butter.
- Cover and let it sit in a warm place for 2.5 hours, until it has almost doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and let it sit for 10 more minutes.
- Divide the dough in half, shaping into a flattened round loaf or if your baking/bread making skills are more advanced than mine, you can braid/shape the bread in other designs.
- Place the shaped dough on a parchment papered/greased baking sheet and again, let it rise in a warm place for another hour.
- With the last beaten egg, brush the bread tops.
- Bake the bread at 350°F for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown. (Mine took closer to 30 – 35 minutes)
- Let the bread cool, then slice and serve!
Until next time,