So, apparently, this recipe is really of Portuguese origin. Why it is then called Hawaiian Sweet Bread, I’m not sure, but my guess would be because it has been adopted widely and is an integral part of the local culture there. That’s just conjecture, but I did find so many options – some with citrus, some without, some made with potatoes, some with ginger, or pineapple – that I think it supports my theory that there are many versions out there and adding one more to the mix won’t hurt!
I’m still in a bit of a bread heaven coma, so that’s my story and I’m sticking too it.
By no means am I implying this is the most authentic version – but my impression from what my online research showed was that since there are as many versions as there are families that make it with their ‘traditional’ recipe that I could just kind of relax and go a little island style and go with the flow. I have another (non-citrusy) version I’ll be trying next and will let you know how that one goes!
This version of the bread is sweeter than usual and in this case is also citrus scented. It is soft and the only word to describe the texture is squigdy. It’s not a word. I don’t care. It’s that moist, cloud like texture of the softest rolls you can imagine. I am a total bread lover and usually love to put jam, butter, honey butter or something on my rolls. These rolls don’t need a single thing… except perhaps for a bit of privacy so you don’t feel entirely guilty when you realize you’ve just demolished an entire pan.
Yeah. That happened. Thank goodness the recipe makes two pans. One for me and one for dinner!
I’m not gonna lie. The recipe takes a while. Most of that time is completely passive prep (just waiting and waiting) but it adds to the texture and flavor, so just go with it. You can either start the dough in the morning and have rolls in time for dinner, or you can start it the early evening before and let the shaped rolls chill in the refrigerator overnight… you’ll still have to wait for them to rise and it will take a while, but if you start the following morning you could have rolls in time for a late brunch or lunch. The great thing is they can definitely be made ahead because they keep very nicely for a few days.
Homemade Hawaiian Sweet Bread
(Makes 20 rolls)
FOR THE SPONGE:
1/2 cup unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon cane sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup room temperature water
Whisk together in a medium sized bowl until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a draft free place (like your oven while it is turned off, but with the light on) for 60 minutes or until it is very bubbly, looks ready to collapse and is foamy.
FOR THE DOUGH:
1/2 cup cane sugar
zest from 1 small lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
zest from a small orange (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1/4 cup warm milk
sponge mixture from above
In a large bowl (stand mixer with paddle attachment or by hand) rub the sugar with the lemon and orange zest. Add the vanilla, butter and salt and mix well to combine. Add the eggs and beat to combine. Add the flour and sponge mixture with the warm milk and beat well. Knead thoroughly – 15 minutes by hand, 10 minutes with the dough hook and mixer. The dough should be smooth, elastic and slightly tacky but not sticky. Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour as needed to get the texture right but don’t add too much – only 2 tablespoons or so if needed.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place it in a clean, oiled bowl, turning the ball to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a draft free place to rise till doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean work surface. Divide the dough into 2 halves, then divide each half into 10 pieces to make 20 rolls. Lightly oil two 9-inch round pie plates and set aside. To shape the rolls take each piece of dough and cup it in the curve of your hand between your thumb and forefinger, then roll it by pushing forward with your hand and pressing the edge of the dough to tighten it into a ball.
Place each shaped dough ball into the lightly oiled 9-inch round pie plate in a flower shape – 7 pieces around the outside and three in the middle as shown above in the pictures. Lightly spray with oil and cover with plastic wrap. At this point you can place the dough in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding, or you can set it aside in a draft free place to rise again at room temperature until well doubled in size – about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If you refrigerate the dough then when you take it out of the refrigerator before baking it will take twice as long for the dough to rise – think of it as 2 hours to come back to room temperature, then about 2 hours to actually rise.
When the rolls have risen and are puffy preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake rolls for 22-25 minutes or until dark golden and baked through. Allow them to cool in the pans before eating or cutting or they will seem doughy. Store them in an airtight bread bag or container and use with 5 days.
Recipe adapted from Bread Baker’s Apprentice