I have a terrible weakness for sweet bread. Not the sticky-sweet-cinnamon-roll kind, but the yeasty, nectarous confections the French call Viennoiserie. They’re near-pastry but not quite; they beckon as croissant, pain au chocolat, panettone and other celebration breads that often appear at Yuletide in many cultures. Our cleaning lady, Isabel, is Portuguese, and she brings us a Bolo Rei, or King’s Bread, every Christmas. The wonderful aroma from the delectably large, ring-shaped loaf, glazed with apricot jelly, adorned in candied fruit and dusted with icing sugar wafts from its crisp wrapping, tempting me to perdition. I thank Isabel profusely and as soon as her back is turned, promptly cut the loaf into about eight pieces, freeze seven of them against immediate corruption and save them for a future splurge. The eighth piece has the half-life of a gnat as I immediately devour every delicious bite. No sharing.
Well, I decided to try my hand at making a version of Portuguese King’s Bread, sans the decoration of candied fruit, of which I am not awfully fond; it’s the bread itself I adore. This recipe is based loosely on a couple of versions found online, and I am happy to report it made a delicious addition to a breakfast of scrambled eggs. Several wedges are now residing in the freezer for later breakfast enjoyment alongside a bowl of yoghurt or as an afternoon pick-me-up with a cup of tea or a latte. I think of it as a workaday version of Bolo Rei. It omits the traditional candied cherries and glazed fruit decoration for a less decadent presentation.
This is a workaday version of a traditional celebration bread enjoyed in many cultures around the world for Twelfth Night. This recipe limits the dried fruit to golden raisins, dark raisins and candied citrus.
- 120 g (4.25 oz) golden raisins
- 120 g (4.25 oz) dark raisins
- 80 ml (1/3 c) brandy
- 210 ml (3/4 c) warm milk, divided
- 1 package (7 g or 1/4 oz) active dry yeast
- 840 g (29.6 oz or 7 c) all purpose flour
- 6 g (1/2 tsp) salt
- 285 g (10 oz or 1 1/4 c) butter at room temperature
- 100 g (3.5 oz or 1 c) fine sugar
- 6 eggs at room temperature
- 5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
- 120 g (4.25 oz) candied citrus
- 30 g (1 oz) pinenuts
- 40 g (1.33 oz) walnuts chopped plus 8 perfect walnut halves for decoration
- 40 g (1.33 oz) blanched, slivered almonds
- 70 g (2.5 oz) apricot jam for glaze
- dusting of powdered sugar
- Soak the raisins in the brandy overnight or heat the mixture in the microwave for 60 seconds, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, heat 1/4 c of milk to 96ºF. Add the yeast and stir until thoroughly mixed. Put to one side until foamy (about 7 minutes). Stir in 1 cup of flour and the rest of the milk. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
- Put the remaining 6 cups of sifted flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Stir to combine. Add the butter and mix thoroughly.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until foamy.
- Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix until combined. Remove the paddle attachment and attach the dough hook.
- Add the yeast mixture. Mix on medium speed to obtain a smooth and shiny dough. The dough will start out very sticky, but will gradually begin to detach from the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead for about 5 more minutes. The dough will be very soft, elastic and quite sticky; this is normal.
- Spray a large bowl with baker’s spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn it over once to coat the top with the oil. Cover with a clean tea towel or piece of plastic wrap sprayed with the baker’s spray and leave in a warm (80ºF) place to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Wash the dough hook and reattach it to the stand mixer. Transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and stir until deflated. Add all the raisins, candied citrus and nuts and mix to divide these evenly in the dough.
- Cover a 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter or a similar diameter jar with a 5″ wide strip of parchment. Tuck a bit of the parchment paper under and inside the cookie cutter or jar so the parchment doesn’t release. Spray the parchment with baker’s spray.
- Line a big square or round baking tray with parchment paper.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter top, Dust your hands with flour and shape the dough into a long log.
- Transfer the dough log to the baking tray and shape it into a circle, leaving a wide hole in the middle, attaching the ends of the log (the dough is sticky so it will form a circle easily). Put the lined cookie cutter in the middle of the circle so the bread doesn’t close in the center as it bakes. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 30 minutes or until double in size.
- Centre a rack in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 350º F. Decorate the bread with the halved walnuts and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the cookie cutter or jar from the center and continue baking another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown and it sounds hollow when you tap on it.
- Remove the bread to a cooling rack and while it’s still warm, brush with apricot jam to give it a shiny finish. Allow to cool completely and dust with icing sugar.
- The recipe makes one very large round loaf, two smaller round or rectangular loaves. It’s up to you how you wish to bake it.
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.