Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Portuguese Sweet Bread

December 8, 2018

Kris Camealy


For as long as I can remember, I have eaten my Grandpa’s Portuguese Sweet Bread on Christmas morning. If we happened to be visiting my Dad’s side of the family at Christmas, my Grandpa would always have 2 loaves of it, freshly baked, and on the Christmas’ we stayed home, my mother made it. For the last nineteen years, I have kept the tradition by making it first for my husband and myself, and later, for my children as they have all come along. 

I don’t know the origins of the original recipe—I don’t know if it came with my father’s family when they immigrated from Portugal as indentured servants, or if it is something they developed once they settled in Hawaii all those generations ago. What I do know is that when I take out my recipe card written in my Grandpa’s hand writing, when my kitchen fills with the aroma of nutmeg and lemon, I feel a connection to my personal history. This bread tells a story—probably lots of stories, actually, and when I bake it, the story continues. This beloved recipe transports me to Christmas’ past, and one day, I hope my own children will carry this recipe into their own families.



6 cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cup sugar

¼ (1/2 stick) butter

½ cup hot tap water

1 TBSP grated lemon rind

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp. water

2 packages of active-dry yeast

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 cup milk

3 eggs

¾ tsp. nutmeg


Combine 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Stir well to blend. 

Add butter.

Heat milk until warm to touch.

Add water and milk to the dry mix and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes in mixer.

Add eggs, lemon rind, nutmeg and 2 more cups of flour. Beat for 2 more minutes.

With spoon, stir in remaining 2 cups of flour until dough is thick.

Turn out onto floured board, knead for 10 minutes. (Dough will be slightly sticky).

Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 min.

Divide dough into 3 equal parts and place in greased bread pans.

Cover pans with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours.

Remove from refrigerator and let sit for 30 minutes.

Brush tops of the dough with egg yolk/water mixture (*see note below).

Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.

Allow loaves to cool.

Serve with butter and/or jams.


Brushing the egg yolk on the bread gives it a beautiful glossy, but dark crust. If you prefer a lighter crust, cover the bread with foil until the last few minutes of baking, or omit this step entirely.

The dough can also be made into rolls, if that is preferable over loaves. Bread does not last more than 2 days before drying and hardening. If this happens, it does make a delightfully sweet French toast. Loaves can also be frozen to be enjoyed later! 

Images in this post are courtesy of the author, Kris Camealy.


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