When I was writing for a national newspaper’s food section, Suzana B. reached out in search of a sweet Portuguese bread her husband used to enjoy. After a little testing, I sent her this version. With ginger, mashed potatoes, and some of the water used to boil the potatoes in the mix, the bread bakes up into nicely textured loaves with deep-orange hued crusts. I like to braid and curl the dough into rounds topped with little quail eggs for an Easter-y spring celebratory brunch. The scent as they bake is divine! Try the bread toasted, spread with butter and perhaps a drizzle of honey.
Makes four small round loaves
• 1 dozen hard boiled quail eggs
• 3 small potatoes, peeled, and cubed to make 1 cup of mashed (You will use ½ cup of the water used to cook the potatoes in the dough)
• 2 envelopes active dry yeast
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• ½ cup whole milk
• ½ cup butter
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 6 extra-large eggs, beaten (Reserve 1 tablespoon of the beaten eggs for egg wash)
• 1 ½ cups sugar
• 7 cups flour, divided
• 1 tablespoon butter, to brush on baked loaves
1. In a sauce pot over medium heat, simmer potatoes in 2 cups water until tender. Save the potato water by draining potatoes in a colander placed over a bowl. Mash potatoes to make 1 cup mashed.
2. In a large bowl, add ½ cup of the water you used to boil the potatoes. Stir in yeast and 3 tablespoons sugar until dissolved. Add mashed potato and ginger, stirring until smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.
3. In a microwave at 50 percent power, heat milk until lukewarm. Melt butter. Combine milk with salt and butter. Set aside to reach room temperature.
4. Beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in 1½ cups sugar. Combine egg/ sugar mixture with yeast/potato mixture, blending well. Sift in 2 cups of the flour and mix to combine. Add the melted butter/milk mixture. Add two more cups of flour, beating for five minutes. Gradually add in two more cups of flour, beating until dough gathers up. On a clean work surface, sprinkle the remaining cup of flour and knead the dough for 10 minutes.
5. Turn dough into a well-oiled large bowl, turning once to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down. Place dough on floured board and divide into four parts. Working with one dough ball at a time, divide each into three parts, rolling the three pieces into long ropes. Working with three of the ropes, braid. Coil the braid, tucking ends under to make a round. Repeat to make four loaves. Coat quail eggshells with a little oil; tuck eggs into the indents in the braids of the loaves. Cover lightly with plastic wrap that you have sprayed with oil. Let rise until doubled in bulk.
6. Combine reserved 1 tablespoon of beaten egg with 1 teaspoon water; brush loaves, avoiding the tucked-in quail eggs. Position baking rack at center of oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 35 minutes until deeply golden hued. To give the finished loaves a little shine, brush lightly with a tiny bit of melted butter. Serve fresh and warm, or cool loaves, toast slices, and spread with butter.