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A Sweet Digression

May 22, 2010

Portuguese sweet bread, with its tender crumb and intriguing flavor, was a comforting staple of my childhood.  My favorite way to eat it is toasted and lightly buttered, but it also makes a wonderful accompaniment to spicy soups and stews.  The unique flavor of the bread comes from a blend of citrus oils and other spices — I’ve tried recipes that call for orange and lemon extracts, orange and lemon zest, vanilla, and sometimes even ground mace.  Inspired by a recent gift of clementine syrup, I decided to return to my favorite Michael Ruhlman basic bread ratio for a playful riff on this familiar theme.  The result did not suck.

Clementine Sweet Bread

8 oz. warm water

1/4 cup clementine syrup

2 tsp dry active yeast

1/2 cup non-fat dry milk powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1 tsp salt

4 cups all-purpose flour
(if you’re whole grain obsessed like me, you can use half whole grain white,
but you will sacrifice some tenderness of texture)

Mix the warm water and clementine syrup in a large bowl, and sprinkle yeast over top.  When yeast has bloomed, stir in milk powder, vanilla extract, and egg until well blended.  Slowly work in the flour and salt.  Knead for 15 minutes, judiciously adding additional flour if dough is too sticky to handle.  When the dough becomes smooth and elastic, place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel, and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk.  Punch down, knead for another minute, shape into a boule, and let rise on a baking sheet for about half an hour.  Beat together an egg white, a Tbsp of water, and a splash of clementine syrup, and brush all over the top of the boule.  Bake at 325 F for 40-45 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

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