Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun          
Most of the Convent Sisters love to cook and even those who may not, learn to, so that everyone can help prepare meals.  All are encouraged to be creative, which makes for a great deal of variety in our menu. As a result, we can actually go around the world in a week without ever leaving home.

Thursday evening has been established as Italian night. Many sisters love Asian and Thai cooking. Mexican is a long-time favorite, and Sisters who have spent time in Germany, Korea, and India all like to have a chance to relive their experiences there through cooking dishes native to each country…..thus the great diversity of our meals. We never simply have “the same old thing.”

But one day a week we choose to have only very plain food. Basically bread, cheese, fruit, and a simple soup. This has led to baking many different kinds of bread and one of our favorites has become this beautiful Portuguese sweet bread.

Portuguese Sweet Bread
3          packages of yeast
1/2       cup warm water
2          cups warm, milk
1          Tablespoon sugar
5          pounds flour
12        eggs
3 1/2    cups sugar
3          Tablespoons lemon juice
2          sticks butter melted
2          Tablespoons salt

Egg Wash
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon water

Dissolve yeast  in warm water, (not hot). Add warmmilk and 1 Tablespoon sugar. Whisk together and set aside to proof yeast. In a separate bowl, add eggs, sugar, and lemon juice. Beat well and then add melted butter. Add yeast mixture, the remaining flour and salt. Mix well and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes. Continue mixing until dough begins to pull away from bowl or knead with greased hands until dough pulls away from your hands. This takes a while and the dough is sticky unlike bread dough. Place in greased bowl and cover to let rise to double, about 1 to 3 hours. Punch down, turn over, and let rise to double a second time. Carefully break away about 2/3 pound of dough at a time, rolling dough into a nice loaf shape and place into greased loaf pans. This should make about 5 to 7 nice loafs. Let rise until double in the pans for a third rising. Make two to three 1/4-inch slits on the top of each loaf and then brush tops with 1 beaten egg mixed with water. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes and then reduce heat to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit for another 25 to 30 minutes. Remove loaves from the oven and lay them on their side on a rack for a couple of minutes before removing from the pan