My grandmother, Mary Grace Deschenes, was an unusual woman for her day. An accomplished artist, she studied at Pratt Institute in New York in the early 1900s, eventually returning to her native New Bedford, Massachusetts, where she married and had her only child, my father.
As a little girl, I often visited Gramma at her home at 563 Dartmouth Street, the oldest house in South Dartmouth. There was a big, old-fashioned kitchen with a painted wooden table, and the whole place was full of brightly colored china, nautical decorations, and my grandmother's paintings.The luscious smell of Sweet Bread in the oven and Soupash (Portuguese Kale Soup) on the stove was as certain as a big hug on my way in the door. Luckily for me, I inherited both her artistic talent and her recipes for these authentic Portuguese foods.
"Massa Suvada," or Portuguese Sweet Bread, is traditionally served on Easter, with the eggs symbolizing new life in the Resurrection. Sometimes a whole egg is actually baked into the bottom of the loaf. We had it hot out of the oven, then toasted on a fancy wire toaster that looked like a four-sided pyramid. This bread is too good to eat only once a year.
Scald 1 cup milk. Add 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter (not shortening), 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and stir until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool.
Soften 1 package or 1 cake yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Add to cooled milk mixture. Transfer to large bowl. Beat in 4 eggs. Add 1/2 teaspoon mace and 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (optional); stir in 5 to 6 cups flour. Dough should be firm and only slightly sticky.
Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. When it's a round ball and feels as smooth as a baby's behind, it's OK.
Place dough in a greased bowl covered with waxed paper and a clean cloth. Let rise double slowly, 3 to 4 hours in a cool place, or overnight in the refrigerator.
When the dough is well risen, punch down, re-cover, and let rise again, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Punch down again, shape 2 loaves, and place in greased pans or on greased sheet. Cover and let rise double, about 1 hour.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake until loaves are well browned and sound hollow when tapped, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on rack.