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KHS Bakes Up Delicious Portuguese Sweet Bread

March 31, 2018, 10:01 AM HST
* Updated September 8, 10:57 AM
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The Kona Historical Society in Kealakekua on Hawai‘i Island draws visitors and locals every Thursday to witness the traditional Portuguese practice of baking bread in a large wood-fired oven called a forno.

On the Thursday before Easter, the bakers added a special holiday touch to the loafs to symbolize the special holiday.

“Every Thursday, the Kona Historical Society is known for baking 96 loaves of Portuguese bread in its large wood-fired oven,” said Kona Historical Society Program Director Kuulani Auld. “The difference on this Thursday is the whole egg nestled in the dough. It is a Portuguese Easter tradition to eat sweet bread with a hard-boiled egg baked into its center on Easter Sunday, with the egg symbolizing new life.”

Kona Historical Society in Kealakekua bakes traditional Portuguese sweet bread every Thursday. PC: Karen Rose

The Portuguese initially arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1878 to work in the sugar cane plantations.

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Some became land owners and were instrumental in the success of the island’s dairy industry.

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One of the customs they brought with them were their stone ovens used for baking delicious sweet bread.

“Our weekly Portuguese Stone Oven Program is a wonderful way for us to share a piece of Kona’s rich and diverse history with our visitors,” said Kona Historical Society Interim Development Director Dance Aoki. “As part of Kona Historical Society’s mission to collect, preserve and share Kona’s stories, unique food traditions practiced during holiday celebrations like Easter, bring to life the stories from Kona’s Portuguese communities who contributed so much to Hawaiʻi’s multi-ethnic culture.”

Every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., staff, volunteers and people from the community gather in the pasture below the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum to roll dough, bake bread and talk story.

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The stone oven located on the property holds over 30 loaves of bread. It takes four hours to heat up, requiring a dedicated volunteer to light the oven fire at 6 a.m. During the time the oven is heating, volunteers mix the dough and roll seven balls of dough for each pan (the Portuguese consider seven to be a lucky number).

The aroma of freshly baked bread fills the air between 12:30 and 1 p.m. as the first loaves are taken out of the oven.

The loaves are sold for $8 at their roadside table until they are all gone.

The Kona Historical Society will share their not-so-secret recipe for Portuguese sweet bread for those who wish to bake it at home.

The Kona Historical Society offices, H.N. Greenwell Store Museum and the Portuguese Stone Oven are located on Māmalahoa Highway (Highway 11), about 14 miles south of the town of Kailua-Kona, between mile markers 111 and 112. Look for the  sign on the makai (toward the ocean) side of the road.

Kona Historical Society in Kealakekua bakes traditional Portuguese sweet bread every Thursday.

Kona Historical Society in Kealakekua bakes traditional Portuguese sweet bread every Thursday. PC: Karen Rose

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