So the plan was to make Bolo Rei – a traditional Portuguese cake/bread. Bolo Rei is a sweet rich fruit bread laced with port that was originally made to be eaten at Epiphany (January 6th) but these days is eaten throughout the festive season. Bolo means ‘cake’. Rei means King.
But Bolo Rei is meant to have crystallised fruit on the top – highly decorative and colourful, reflecting the jewels in a Kings crown. I bought all my ingredients and then hit a hurdle when it came to the crystallised fruit. All three of my local (and large) supermarkets didn’t stock it and I was at a loss of where to go and short on time. Somehow I recalled that Bolo Rei without the crystallised fruit is called Bolo Rainha. Queen Cake then is my offering to you this Yuletide 🙂
The recipe I followed I found on Delia’s website here
100 g (3 1/2 oz) glacé citrus peel chopped
50 g (1 1/2 oz) raisins
50 g (1 1/2 oz) pine nuts – I used almonds as the shop was out of pine nuts (!)
100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) port
2 1/2 tsp dried yeast
100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) warm water
500 g (1 lb) strong white bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
100 g (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter softened
100 g (3 1/2 oz) caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
3 eggs beaten
For the topping
egg glaze made with 1 egg yoke beaten with 1 tbsp water
Sliced almonds (my addition as I think they look pretty)
apricot jam to glaze
Icing sugar to decorate
1. Soak the glacé peel, raisins, and pine nuts/almonds in the port overnight. Sprinkle the yeast into the water in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted water.
2. Use a wooden spoon to draw enough of the flour into the yeasted water to form a soft paste. Cover the bowl with a tea towel. Leave to sponge until frothy and slightly risen, about 20 minutes.
Ok so I fell at the first hurdle by not quite understanding the instructions (I don’t bake that often!). After mixing all the yeasted water with ALL the flour I realised I hadn’t got anything like a paste – oops. I started again, this time mixing the yeasted water with about half of the flour to make the paste like consistency required.
3. Beat the butter with the sugar and lemon and orange zest together in a separate bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add the mixture to the flour well, then mix in the flour from the sides to form a soft dough.
I’d like to add that stage 3 was where I discovered my grater was as blunt as a bottle nosed dolphin and had to resort to finely chopping my zest – which took forever…
4. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until soft, smooth, silky, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Knead in the peel, raisins, and pine nuts until evenly distributed.
I discovered here that maybe I should had drained off the port from the soaked raisons and pine nuts…
5. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Knock back, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Ok so after an hour I just thought ‘this is never going to rise’ and moved on to the next stage. Next time I will find a warm place instead of leaving it in the freezing kitchen AND leave it for the required 2 hours…
6. Shape the dough into a ring (I separated the dough and made two rings), then place it on a buttered baking sheet. Put a jar or bottle in middle to hold shape.
7. Cover the dough with a tea towel, and leave to prove until doubled in thickness, about 1 hour.
Ok this time I figured the kitchen was too cold so left it in a warmer room and saw a little improvement…
8. To make the topping. Brush the dough with the egg glaze then decorate with the glacé fruit and the caster sugar. Bake in a preheated oven 210c for 45 minutes until golden. Warm the apricot jam in a saucepan over low heat until liquid, then brush the top and sides of the bread with it to glaze. Brush? I’m supposed to have a cook’s brush? Ok, spread thinly with clean fingers…Leave to cool on a wire rack.
After around 25 minutes in the oven I peeked and discovered both my cakes had risen like crazy, closing the holes in the centre. Note to self, next time make the holes much bigger or cook around a jam jar perhaps…
After the required 45 minutes my bolos where starting to look very brown yet the insides seemed uncooked. Frustrated at this point with my significant lack of cooking skills I took them out of the oven and fought the impulse to throw them both straight in the bin. They did however smell good so I cut both to see how they had cooked. Of course both were boiling hot at this point so I didn’t consider how the texture would change or that they would continue to cook until the heat dissipated. The fabulous Christmassy aroma however soothed my bruised cooks pride and I decided to let them cool down to see what happened.
A while later I realised that I had two very tasty if rather hacked-to-pieces cakes. I gave some to a certain Portuguese person who informed me that it tasted good. Happiness! I think it tastes rather fine too. He also gently informed me that he doesn’t know anyone who cooks Bolo Rei or Bolo Rainha back home as everyone just buys them from on of the myriad of shops that stocks them. After my kitchen trials I’m thinking no surprise there! That said, I have some ingredients left and a willing heart. I might just make another…