Saudade & God's Bread
There's nothing more Portuguese than saudade. The word doesn’t even have a direct translation into English, and the correspondent feeling - so many times sang by fado, the national song - couldn't say more about the Portuguese character. Saudade it's when you miss something. But it’s much deeper than that. It's the unattainable, the untouchable. Or just the feeling of nostalgia of past moments and good old days. I miss my grandma badly. And how I use to buy a Pão de Deus at the local bakery and have it in the street walking back home.
Portuguese bakery being a rich part of our cuisine, every local has a favourite cake. In fact, semi industrial bakery has a very strong tradition in Portugal. One portion cakes, more or less decadent, more or less sophisticated can be found a little everywhere from street cafes to fancy tea houses. So what is my favourite cake? I'm not much into cakes but I'm crazy about bread. Pão de Deus falls in between with a soft crumble, topped with coconut. Most people have it with cheese or ham but I love it simple, with my morning coffee. Pão de Deus means literally God's Bread. I don't really know where the name came from... It does reminds me of my childhood and it tastes like heaven!
Pão de Deus
3 large eggs
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup milk, warm
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved, seeds scraped
pinch of salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp dry baker's yeast
topping for 6 (if willing to top all cakes, double the quantities)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg to brush
icing sugar to sprinkle
In a small bowl, use your fingers to rub the vanilla seeds and the bean with the sugar for the dough and for the topping. Set aside. Remove the bean before using the sugar for the dough and the coconut topping.
In a large bowl, mix in flour, yeast, and sugar. Make a hole in the middle, add eggs lightly beaten, warm milk and salt. Use a fork or your hands to combine into a manageable dough - if the dough is too sticky add a tablespoon of flour at a time until you can use your hands (slightly floured) to knead. Slowly incorporate the butter. Place dough onto a floured surface. Knead well for 10 minutes or until dough is elastic and shinny. It should be soft but less sticky at this point. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Prepare the topping by combining coconut and sugar with a lightly beaten egg in a bowl.
Divide dough into 10 or 12 equal parts. Use the palm of your hands to form round shaped cakes. Place the balls on parchment paper on a baking sheet, allowing enough space between every cake to rise. Cover with a tea towel and let rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180ºC (360ºF).
Brush the cakes with beaten egg and top with a spoonful of coconut mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove and allow to cool on a rack. Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.
This is my entry for Homegrown Gourmet, hosted by Michelle from Culinography. Michelle chose for the sixth Homegrown Gourmet challenge the theme Breakfast. I just happen to *love* breakfast! It's God's meal. ;)