January 12, 2016

Pan De Manteca (Cuban Bread)

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I have a Cuban cookbook for more than a decade now but I seldom cook anything from it. I borrowed another Cuban cookbook, The Cuban Table by Ana Sofia Pelaez, and compared the Cuban bread recipes. The bread and the sandwich have become very popular among food bloggers whether they are made at home or bought from restaurants. I haven't tried their sandwich nor have I been to a Cuban restaurant.

My Cuban cookbook uses olive oil and The Cuban Table cookbook has pork lard for the traditional bread, Pan de Manteca and omits it altogether for the Pan de Agua. The bread is okay, not great but it's good enough for a Cuban sandwich. Well, any sandwich with double the porky goodness is more than a-okay in my book. I will make the bread again but with a little sourdough or a preferment for a better flavor and texture.

The recipe has plantain leaf strips that are inserted in a slit on top of the bread. I really don't know why it's needed. There isn't any explanation and the instruction is rather vague. I used it because I always have frozen banana leaves but you can leave it out entirely.

Pan De Manteca
makes 3 large loaves or 12 small rolls
adapted from The Cuban Table by Ana Sofia Pelaez
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons lard, room temperature
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 frozen plantain leaf, defrosted and sliced into 6-inch strips, optional
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine water and sugar. Sprinkle yeast and leave for 2 minutes until mixture foams. Add bread flour and mix thoroughly. Leave for 5 minutes.
  • Attach dough hook. Add salt and lard; mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add 1½ all-purpose flour and mix on low until all flour is incorporated. Knead on medium-low, adding the rest of the flour if needed, 2 tablespoons at a time.
  • Knead on medium speed for 5 minutes until dough is smooth.
  • Transfer into a lightly oiled bowl and leave to rise for 2 hours.
  • Knead dough by hand to remove air bubbles. Divide into 3 portions (or 12 pieces for small rolls). Flatten one piece of (large)dough into a 12 x 6 inch rectangle. Shape into a baguette. Repeat with the 2 remaining portions. If using banana leaf strips, make a deep score along the length of the bread and insert the leaf strip. Place each separately on parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  • 30 minutes before baking, place a baking stone or tiles on the floor of the oven; preheat oven to 400°F. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is golden. Let cool on wire rack.
Your bread is now ready for your sandwich: soft butter or mayonnaise, sliced dill pickles, slices of ham, slices of Cuban roasted pork (this will be on a future post). Enjoy!

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