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Get Baked! Making Portuguese sweetbread with Kona Historical Society



“I love the interaction with visitors,” says Dot Seymour, a longtime historical society volunteer, who was present at the oven’s first official firing. “I don't care where they come from or how old they are. I just like talking with them. You learn so much.”

With a little help from visitors, Kona Historical Society bakers produce more than 90 loaves of sweetbread each Thursday in an oven holding 30 loaves per baking. The first batch of ambrosial, piping-hot sweetbread is taken out of the oven at 12:30 p.m. and sold, still warm, roadside on Māmalahoa Highway, just outside the historical society’s headquarters. There, loaves priced at $7 each are quickly snapped up by Kealakekua residents and visitors, with proceeds supporting historical society programs.

get_baked_Portuguese_sweetbread_Kona_Historical_Society
The Kona Historical Society's lava-rock forno holds more than 30 loaves of sweetbread per baking. It was modified after the ruins of an oven on an old Kona dairy farm.

Shortly after baking begins on my morning visit, a family from Austin, Texas, inspects the forno, lured by a road sign near the Kona Historical Society promising, “Bread Baking Today!” Among them are seven children, ages 4 to 12, anxious to roll the dough into fist-size balls.

“I can make balls,” declares one of them, smiling.

“You can. And you will,” Freshley says, handing each child a ball of dough. “Make it really smooth, OK? You want the pretty side on the top.”

The technique isn’t the most important part—the bread will still taste as sweet—but passing it along, together with the area’s cultural traditions, feeds more than just mouths.

“We want to provide something that connects people to Kona’s history,” Holland says. “This is a program people really love, we really love and we aim to keep doing it.”  


Portuguese Stone-Oven Baking at Kona Historical Society
10 a.m.-1 p.m., Thursdays • 81-6551 Māmalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, Big Island • (808) 323-3222 • www.konahistorical.org


Photos: Catherine E. Toth; Kona Historical Society (pg. 3 only)


(This feature was originally published in the September/October 2013 issue of HAWAII Magazine.)


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