ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Time now for a found recipe.
MARILYN BRASS: I'm Marilyn.
SHEILA BRASS: And I'm Sheila.
BRASS: We're the Brass sisters and we love Portuguese sweet bread.
SIEGEL: The Brass sisters of Cambridge, Massachusetts are back by popular demand. And today, they want to share a recipe with us that a friend and co-worker once shared with them. David Lima said his mother's Portuguese sweet bread was a holiday fixture when he grew up during the 1950s in Providence, Rhode Island. And the Brass sisters, curators of Heirloom Recipes, couldn't wait to try it themselves.
BRASS: The scent was heavenly. The taste was like the best French brioche with sugar added.
BRASS: But it had a Portuguese accent.
BRASS: It's like biting into a cloud or eating a cloud.
BRASS: Celestial. And I asked David what he put on it and he said, we just ate it as is. Virginia Lima was a really special person. She was married for more than 50 years. She had three children.
BRASS: David was the youngest and he used that to his advantage because...
BRASS: Just like you did.
BRASS: All right, we won't get personal, Sheila. He loved spending time with his mother in the kitchen. One of the things that David did was to give us a description of how she prepared his Portuguese sweet bread.
BRASS: It was obviously a traditional recipe.
BRASS: Almost a ritual.
BRASS: Right. Mrs. Lima used a red metal step stool. She used an enamel basin with two handles, a large one.
BRASS: It was sort of something that you would wash things in, but she was scrupulously clean about washing it before she used it for baking.
BRASS: She used rope to tie the basin onto the step stool.
BRASS: You know, with the two handles.
BRASS: She cracked open her eggs and she made a depression in the middle of the flour. Then, she added an unusual ingredient for bread. She added two teaspoons of whiskey to a shot glass and she just flipped that into the dough. And then, she rewarded herself, as the baker, by allowing herself to also have two teaspoons of whisky in the shot glass.
BRASS: And then she made the sign of the cross over the bread and she said a prayer and that prayer was that the bread would come out right and that it would nourish the people who ate it. Mrs. Lima would give most of the loaves away to family and friends in remembrance of those who had left, in remembrance and with love.
BRASS: When you think about some of the terms about bread, you think of the word companion, somebody that you break bread with together. And when you think about the prayers that are said over bread, bread is the staff of life and Virginia Lima knew how to sustain life for her family in Providence, Rhode Island.
BRASS: And we hope you'll get a chance to try to make this bread yourself and we hope you have a wonderful holiday.
SIEGEL: Sheila and Marilyn Brass, the Brass sisters, authors of "Heirloom Baking." And you can find the recipe for Portuguese sweet bread at our website, NPR.org.