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Learn how to make homemade Portuguese sweet bread using this easy recipe! All you need is all-purpose flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, butter, milk and salt. Makes enough dough for 16-18 light and fluffy rolls or 2 loaves. Also called pão doce or massa sovada, Portuguese sweet bread is best served warm with butter.
This post is sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill and all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. I highly recommend using Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White All-Purpose Flour for this recipe! It’s a premium, organic baking flour milled from the highest quality wheat, and I get perfect results with this product every time!
Although hugely popular around Easter-time, I enjoy eating Portuguese sweet bread first thing in the morning with a glass of milk, hot tea or coffee. It’s super-easy to make and requires very basic ingredients – I’ll bet you have everything you need to make this easy recipe already in your pantry!
Pão doce is Portuguese for ‘sweet bread’ but this type of bread is also referred to as massa sovada which means ‘beaten dough’ in Portuguese. Portuguese sweet bread is very similar to brioche, which is also made of flour, yeast, eggs and butter.
What I love about this recipe is that it yields just enough dough (massa) for about 16 rolls or 2 loaves of sweet bread. Leftover bread can be stored in the freezer. One of my favorite ways to use up leftover bread is this roasted tomato soup with sweet bread croutons recipe!
Portuguese Sweet Bread Ingredients
Like I said, this recipe uses very basic ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry! Refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities and measurements.
- Quality all-purpose flour
- Whole milk
- Large eggs
- Granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- Active dry yeast
- Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- Cooking spray for greasing the bowls and baking pans
- 10-inch round baking pan for rolls or two 8-inch round cake pans if making loaves
- A stand mixer is highly recommended but you can manage without one if needed.
- If using a stand mixer, you’ll need a paddle attachment for creaming the eggs, butter and sugar and a dough hook for kneading.
- A kitchen thermometer is helpful for measuring the temperature of the hot milk (you don’t want to kill your yeast!)
- Kitchen scale helps with portioning the dough into equal-sized rolls
- Dough scraper for portioning and lifting the dough from the kneading surface
- Pastry brush for applying the egg wash
How to properly measure flour
When baking, it’s important to make sure you’re measuring your flour correctly.
Spoon the flour out of the bag into a measuring cup made for dry ingredients. Don’t use your measuring cup to scoop the flour of the bag!
Once your measuring cup is full, use the flat edge of a butter knife to level off the flour. Don’t pack the flour down, because this will introduce more flour into the recipe than what is needed.
Active-dry yeast vs. instant yeast
This recipe calls for active-dry yeast. Active dry yeast is proofed, which means that it’s added to warm liquid before adding it to the dough. Proofing the yeast lets you know whether your yeast is alive or dead.
Instant yeast doesn’t need to be proofed and is mixed right in the flour. I prefer using active-dry yeast over instant yeast because you can test it before mixing it with your dry ingredients.
I show you how to proof the yeast in recipe steps below.
How to make Portuguese Sweet Bread
Step 1: Mix eggs, butter, sugar and salt
Use the paddle attachment on your stand mixer to mix the eggs, butter, sugar and salt together. It’s ok if your butter doesn’t dissolve all the way. Set this mixture aside.
If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a fork to cream the butter and then a wooden spoon or spatula to combine the butter with the eggs, sugar and salt.
Step 2: Heat the milk
Heat milk in a small saucepan until it reaches a temperature of 115°F. If your milk is too hot, you could kill your yeast so it helps to use a kitchen thermometer.
Once the milk reaches 115°F, pour half of it into a cup and pour the remaining half into the butter/sugar and egg mixture.
Step 3: Proof the yeast
Mix 1 teaspoon of sugar into the cup of milk (the sugar helps activate the yeast). Add the yeast to the cup, mix it and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Your yeast should foam and expand in volume.
If your yeast doesn’t foam or expand like in the photo above, that means it’s dead. You’ll need to start this step over with fresh (unexpired) yeast and new milk.
Step 4: Form the dough
Add the proofed yeast/milk to the bowl with the wet mixture. Replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook. Turn your mixer on low speed and add ½ a cup of flour to the bowl at a time.
The dough will start to cling to the dough hook. Once all of the dough is on the hook, shut the mixer off. Use a spatula or bowl scraper to transfer the dough to a floured surface.
If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can form the dough by hand by putting the flour in a large mixing bowl and creating a well in the center. Pour the wet mixture into the center and use a rubber spatula to fold the flour into the wet mixture.
Step 5: Knead the dough
Dust your hands with flour before handling the dough. Knead the dough on a floured for 7 full minutes (10 if you formed the dough by hand).
You shouldn’t need to add much flour to the dough to keep it from sticking. If it starts to stick to your hands or surface, just give it a very light dusting of flour.
Step 6: Let the dough rise
Once you’re done kneading, shape the dough into a ball. Transfer the ball of dough to a greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot for an hour and a half.
Tip: One of the best places for dough to rise is in a warm oven. Use your warm setting to let the oven heat up and then put put the bowl of dough in the oven and close the door. Shut off the oven temperature while your dough is rising, and keep the door closed so the heat doesn’t escape.
Step 7: Form the dough into loaves or rolls
After the first rise, remove the dough from the oven. The dough should be almost doubled in volume. Remove the plastic wrap and punch the dough down to release the air.
If you’re making rolls, you can use your dough scraper to cut the dough into 16 rolls or you leave the dough in the bowl to keep it warm and hydrated. Pull pieces of the dough and place on a kitchen scale one by one. Each roll should weigh 2.5 ounces.
Shape the dough into rolls by pulling the portioned dough into a tight little ball, cupping it in your hands and turning it against a flat surface. Place each roll into a greased 10-inch round baking pan.
If you’re just making loaves this step is much easier! Just divide the dough into 2 portions and shape them into round loaves using the cupping/turning method shown in the photo above. Place each loaf in an 8-inch round cake pan.
Step 8: Second rise
Cover the baking pan(s) with a kitchen towel this time, and let rise again in a warm place for 1 hour.
The bread will expand even more during the second rise, and it’s ok if it rises above the top of the pan.
Step 7: Brush with egg wash and bake
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Make an egg-wash by mixing 1 whole egg with 2 teaspoons of water. Gently brush the egg wash over the rolls using a pastry brush.
Bake the sweet bread at 375°F for 25 minutes. Use your oven light to watch the color of the bread closely.
I usually check the color around the 15-20 minute mark. If it’s starting to look dark, place a sheet of foil over the bread and let it continue to bake for the remaining 10-15 minutes.
Step 8: Let the bread cool and serve
Sweet bread can cool fully in its pan. Allow to cool for 30-40 minutes before slicing the loaves or separating the rolls.
You can use your hands to pull the rolls apart but I like to slice them apart using a sharp knife. Serve with softened butter and a cup of milk, hot tea or coffee.
- You can substitute active dry yeast with equal parts instant yeast. Check the date to make sure it’s not expired!
- Replace whole milk with equal parts evaporated milk for a nuttier, sweeter taste.
- Don’t sweat it if you only have salted butter. It shouldn’t affect the flavor much, but don’t omit the salt from the recipe! Salt helps with the formation of gluten which gives the dough elasticity.
- If you don’t have cooking spray to grease the pans, you can use softened butter.
Storing and freezing leftovers
Wrap leftover sweet bread in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. It can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. Rolls can be placed in a resealable freezer bag.
Sweet bread can be frozen in freezer bags for up to 3 months. For an added layer of protection against freezer burn, wrap the rolls/loaves in foil or plastic wrap before placing them in bags.
Thaw your sweet bread at room temperature. Once defrosted, sweet bread can be reheated in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes.Print
Easy Portuguese Sweet Bread Recipe (Pão Doce/Massa Sovada)
Easy Portuguese sweet bread recipe using all-purpose flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, butter, milk. Makes 16 light and fluffy rolls or 2 loaves.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Rising Time: 2.5 hours
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours and 20 minutes
- Yield: 2 loaves or 16–18 rolls 1x
- Category: Sides
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Portuguese
- 5 and ½ cups quality all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 teaspoon for proofing the yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 and ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (this is equal to 2 packets)
- egg wash: 1 large egg + 2 teaspoons water
- Mix the eggs, butter, sugar and salt together using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Refer to the steps in the post above if you’re not using a stand mixer.
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it reaches 115°F. Pour half of the milk into a cup or small bowl, and pour the other half into the butter/sugar and egg mixture.
- Proof the yeast by stirring 1 teaspoon of sugar into the reserved warm milk and mixing in the yeast. Let the yeast sit for 10 minutes. The yeast should foam and expand in volume.
- Make the dough by adding the proofed yeast to the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix on low speed for a few seconds. Replace the paddle on your stand mixer with a dough hook, and add the flour into the mixture ½ cup at a time. Stop the mixer once all the dough clings to the hook.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead by hand for 7 full minutes. Dust your hands with flour before touching the dough so it doesn’t stick. You can add a tiny amount of flour as you are kneading if the dough sticks to the surface.
- Shape the kneaded dough into a ball. Place it in a greased bowl that’s large enough for the dough to double in volume. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place.
- After the first rise, uncover the bowl and punch the dough down to release the air. Portion the dough into 2 halves or into 2.5-ounce rolls (16-18 rolls in total). Pull dough and tuck ends under to form the loaves/rolls. Place the rolls in a greased 10-inch round baking pan (they will touch) or place each loaf in a greased, 8-inch cake pan.
- Cover the loaves/rolls with a kitchen towel and let rise again for 1 hour in a warm place. They’ll expand in size and likely rise up over the top of your pans.
- Preheat oven to 375°F and make an egg wash using 1 egg mixed with 2 teaspoons of water. Gently brush the loaves/rolls with the egg wash using a pastry brush.
- Bake the bread in the oven for 25 minutes. Check the color of the bread around the 15-20 minute mark and cover with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Close the oven door and let the bread finish baking.
- Let the bread cool fully in its pan. For loaves, allow to cool for 40 minutes before slicing. Allow rolls to cool 30 minutes before pulling or slicing them apart.
- It’s ok if the butter doesn’t dissolve completely when mixing, it will melt once you pour in the warm liquid
- Use a kitchen thermometer to measure temperature of the milk. You could kill your yeast if your milk is too hot.
- Refer to the recipe photos for an example of what proofed yeast looks like. There should be no question of whether the yeast is alive or dead.
- If you’re forming the dough by hand, you should knead it for 10 full minutes.
- Refer to recipe photos for a visual on how to shape the dough into rolls.
- Leftover sweet bread should be wrapped in plastic wrap and can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Leftover bread can also be frozen in freezer bags for 2-3 months.
Keywords: sweet bread, rolls, loaf, Portuguese, baking, oven, massa, homemade, pão doce, massa sovada