Cuban Bread (Pan Cubano)

No matter where we ate in Cuba, the bread was delicious – almost always freshly made, even warm on occasion. Sort of a cross between French and Italian, sometimes like a heavy sandwich bread, sometimes more like a baguette. Then of course, there were those little bite size rolls at El Guarjirito… Needless to say, I came home itching to make bread.

A weekend visit to our cottage in the Endless Mountains was the perfect opportunity for bread making. I have only one cookbook there – The New York Times Cookbook (c 1961)– and as always, it came through, with a recipe for – would you believe it? Cuban Bread!

I don’t know if it’s an authentic recipe or not – I’ve since found others that use a sourdough-type starter. I do know that it indeed tasted a lot like bread I ate one afternoon at a restaurant in Havana. It made us some wonderful sandwiches and toasted up beautifully.

Warning – I am truly a novice bread maker. This post is more a report of my experience and not a lesson in bread making. To hang out with folks who really know what they are doing when it comes to bread making, head on over to The Fresh Loaf or let Bittman show you how he does it (and does it again).

Cuban Bread (Pan Cubano)

This recipe was modified from the James Beard Cooking School. I further modified it because Claiborne did not tell me what to use to grease the bowl (I used Olive oil) and because I did not have corn meal.

1 package yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/4 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
6-7 cups flour
Olive oil (I assume)
Corn meal

Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the salt and sugar, stirring to dissolve thoroughly, until it starts to foam. Add the flour, one cup at a time, beating with a wooden spoon, until you have a stiff dough. Knead for about 10 minutes till no longer sticky, then shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl and grease the top.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dishcloth and place in a warm spot (I used the porch railing in the sun) until it is doubled in bulk.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and shape into two long, french style loaves or round, Italian style loaves. Arrange on a baking sheet heavily sprinkled with corneal and allow to rise for 5 minutes (I did not have cornmeal, but wish that I did. I love that texture on the outside of bread).   Set a pot of water on the stove to boil while the bread does this last rise.

Slash the tops of the loaves with a knife or scissors, brush the tops with water and place in a cold oven. Set the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and place the pot of boiling water on the bottom of the cold oven. Bake the bread until crusty and done, about 40-45 mins.
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Pan Cubano Around the Web

  • Andrea Meyers tells us that my recipe is a “quick” Cuban bread, (as oppoesed to the more traditional method using a starter) and makes a very similar recipe ifrom Memories of a  Cuban Kitchen.
  • Taste of Cuba has the traditional recipe that uses a starter
  • Plantanos, Mangos and Me makes my recipe but in a food processor and with an egg wash. Looks gorgeous!
  • Dino Grrl (does she know Dino Doc?) makes a whole grain bun version.
  • Watch Libby make Cuban Bread in this You Tube video – Nice Job
  • Klaus Tenbergen tell us that authentic Cuban Bread is baked with a palmetto fond atop. (See Lydia’s photo for an example)
  • The Fresh Loaf has a nice thread with lots of Cuban Bread recipes
  • MyBig Fat Cuban Family shares her mothers recipe for use in a bread machine

COMMENTS

Bardiac said…

Wow, that’s interesting that you put water in a cold oven. I wonder what that does? Keep the crust from drying too much?

Now I want to make bread and eat it slathered with butter. :/

AUGUST 07, 2010

Nale said…

I like all sorts of bread. This is new for me, and I will try it. 😉

AUGUST 08, 2010

rlbates said…

Beautiful!

AUGUST 08, 2010

9 Responses to Cuban Bread (Pan Cubano)

  1. Welcome to your new home! It’s fitting that there’s a bread post as the first post up, isn’t it? Now you get some virtual salt to add spice!

  2. CUBAN BREAD!!! Wow and yippee! The only place we used to be able to get wonderful, soft, tasty Cuban bread in DC (a chewy sourdough wasteland) was at Firehook on Q Street NW. Maybe it’s still available there, but I’ve moved, and they’ve changed. Anyway, THANKS for publishing not only your featured recipe but also all the other links.

  3. Also, baking bread just takes practice, like any other skill or art. Once you get the hang of it, your hands know what to do with the dough, and the dough has its own life.

    Somebody commented on adding water to the oven….they do this for French bread, too. It makes the crust crisp and tender.

  4. Hey! I spent my weekend making bread, too! I stuck with classic wheat bread, but it was terrific. Also, I cheated and used my breadmaker (that has been gathering dust in my closet for months). I definitely want to give my mother’s old school method/recipes a try, though!

    Your loaf looks wonderful! And I agree with Bardiac-very fitting for a first post in your new home! Congrats on the move!

  5. I’ve been making this Cuban bread recipe from the NYT cookbook for years… it was one of my very first cookbooks and I still rely on it for so many things. (You should try their French Onion Soup recipe!)

    I have since found that there are numerous recipes for Cuban bread. Some use a sourdough-like starter, others incorporate lard. It sounds like you experienced several versions on your trip to Cuba. Fun to try baking them all!

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