One of the things I've decided to do with this blog is share unusual recipes, or at least my favorite recipes, from time to time. This recipe is not original, but it is both a personal favorite and unusual. It is a recipe for Portuguese Honey Bread. My mother and I discovered it late one fall in the special Christmas edition of one of the "women's" magazines--I think it was Good Housekeeping, but I'm not sure. I no longer have the magazine, but Mom and I transcribed it later to contribute to a small, amateur booklet of recipes for our church, and that collection I still have, and would like to share.
Despite the fact that the bread is wonderful, we only made this recipe once. You'll understand why after you read it. Here is my paraphrase of it.
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2 1/3 cups butter
1 1/2 cups light molasses
2/3 cup honey
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cold mashed potatoes
1/2 cup sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 tablespoon anise seed
1/4 cup cinnamon (yes, 1/4 cup)*
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Royal baking powder
11 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 325 F.
In a large bowl, beat together at medium speed (with an electric mixer) the butter, molasses, honey, and sugar until fluffy. Add the mashed potatoes, sherry, cloves, anise seed, cinnamon, pepper, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix well. At low speed, beat in about half of the flour. At that point, the mixture will be too heavy to use an electric mixer; beat in the rest of the flour with a wooden spoon until all of the flour is just mixed in.
Transfer the batter to three (3) greased, decorated 2-quart cake molds or three (3) nine-inch cake pans. Place the pans in the oven so that none of the pans is directly above another pan. Bake 1 1/2 hours or until the bread comes away from the sides of the pan.
Cool the bread in the molds or pans on racks for 10 minutes before removing it from the pans. Let the bread cool completely to room temperature, then wrap it tightly in foil and let it "season," wrapped, for several days before serving.
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Take very seriously the advice about using a wooden spoon to beat in the second half of the flour if you do not want to damage the mixer. Mom and I were having trouble keeping the mixer in motion before the first four cups of flour were mixed in; by the time all 11 cups were in the bowl, the mixture was so stiff and heavy we could barely budge the wooden spoon. Despite that fact, the bread smelled so good while baking that, after we took it out of the oven, we attempted to pry a sliver loose from one of the loaves to taste it. At length, after nearly breaking a knife on the *extremely* hard loaf, we got a few slivers (and a lot of wisecracks from my father); it tasted of honey and cinnamon, but was dry and hard. So we wrapped it back up and let it sit for a week.
After about a week, the bread was not only cuttable and chewable, but it was moister, and wonderfully rich. It tasted a lot like gingerbread, if gingerbread were more like cake.
I have found two variants of this recipe on the Internet. This one uses only 4 1/2 cups of flour. It also contains ingredients that do not appear in the recipe I knew, such as candied fruit, port, and eggs. The other major variant, which you can see here, is more like the recipe I had, but it substitutes instant potato flakes for the mashed potatoes, includes candied fruit, and uses about 6 cups of flour. I would bet that neither of these recipes would be as hard to stir as the recipe my mom and I made, since all of them contain about as much liquid as the recipe above but much less flour.
* The parenthetical remark appeared in the original recipe.