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.

Pão de Deus

Makes 10-12

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

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.

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