So here’s the thing about me: I’m Portuguese. Ok, I’m not 100% Portuguese. Like lots of Americans, I’m an amalgam of all things European, most of which I don’t even know. But my dad is first generation American, which makes me a big ol’ hunk of Portuguese. That means I’m a workaholic, stubborn as hell, and built for pulling plows. Seriously. These legs are ridiculous.
I think it’s because the rest of my heritage is such a grab bag that I’m so fiercely proud of being Portuguese. It also makes me a bit of an oddity where I live; I think I’ve met a grand total of six Portuguese people here aside from my own family, and five of those were all related to each other. I keep telling myself I’m going to learn to speak Portuguese and go to the Azores to cook food in the volcanos like my people, but the reality is that I have zero time for anything but daydreaming about it.
And then…I found a cookbook. Remember those five Portuguese people I was talking about? Well, they have an amazing Portuguese winery–Coelho–so amazing, in fact, that I’m a wine club member there. During a visit to Coelho a number of months ago, I found David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table. A cookbook filled with Portuguese recipes?? I had to have it…especially when I discovered it had a recipe for one (just one, not five or seven) loaf of massa sovada, also known as Portuguese sweet bread. You may think that with the wonder of the internet, recipes for Portuguese sweet bread would be bountiful. They are, but they invariably fail. The last time I tried, I ended up with nine “loaves” (I use the term loosely) of dense, non-risen, disgustingly eggy disasters.
So naturally, I approached the act of baking massa sovada with great trepidation when I foolishly embarked on the endeavor around 7:00 last night. I say “foolishly” because it turns out massa sovada needs approximately 100 years to rise. But I can always sleep when I’m dead, and as it turns out, the end product was worth the sheer exhaustion:
I’ve heard the family lore about how my namesake–my great-grandmother, who never spoke a word of English in her life–used to make the best sweet bread. I don’t know how mine lives up. I can definitely see room for improvement, but then again, I’m pretty judgmental of my baking. But at the end of the day, I’m ecstatic to have finally found a successful Portuguese sweet bread recipe. I feel a little bit closer to my people.
Just whatever you do, do NOT ask me if it’s my dream to go to Brazil (it’s not), or if I like chorizo (I don’t, I like linguica–you know, the real stuff). PORTUGUESE PRIDE!