Pan de Sal - "salt bread" is the ubiquitous breakfast roll found throughout the Philippines. "De Sal," meaning "of salt," is misleading - the rolls are slightly sweet, although not nearly as sweet or fluffy/airy as the familiar packaged Hawaiian rolls that are present on supermarket shelves.
I've been informed by a friend that she ate a similar breakfast bread called "Pan de Agua," when she visited her grandmother in Puerto Rico. Mexican grocery stores in our town sell a similar small white bread roll called "Bolilos." These small bread rolls all probably evolved from Spanish culinary roots. The distinctive feature of pan de sal are the bread crumbs that coat the individual rolls, yielding the interesting contrast of a soft white bread roll with a crunchy coating.
I never considered baking pan de sal while living in Manila- every corner "Sari-Sari" store and bakery has warm rolls for sale in the morning. The Sari-Sari is the Filipino equivalent of the small corner grocery or bodega; early in the morning there are trays of warm pan de sal that are sold by the piece. They are purchased warm and carried home in a small rectangle brown paper bag. In the morning they are eaten with butter, cheese spreads, peanut butter, jam, eggs or breakfast meat. Later in the day they might be served as snacks (merienda) with sandwich spreads. When I taught at the International School I looked forward to a mid-morning pan de sal with tuna salad.
I've found a number of recipes on line for pan de sal, some have milk and butter, some are non-dairy (pareve). The recipe I'm using here is slightly modified from Jun-Blog. Jun Belen is a Filipino food blogger, his blog has the most beautiful pictures, his pan de sal are of course picture perfect. Since I prefer to bake non-dairy recipes when I can, I opted to try Jun's recipe; his recipe is delicious.
Remember to measure the ingredients by weight: use your scale!
13.5 oz bread flour
13 oz all-purpose flour
1 TBSP yeast (see note below)
4 oz sugar
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt ("native salt" if you are making this in the Philippines)
14 oz warm water (the water should be around 100 degrees)
4 oz shortening, softened or melted, but not hot. I tried both unrefined coconut oil (a solid shortening) and Crisco (which is now trans-fat free)
1/2 c bread crumbs
Stand mixer or large mixing bowl and large mixing spoon
Rolling pin and an area to roll out and cut dough pieces
Cookie or baking sheet, lined with parchment paper
Scale, measuring spoons
Measuring cups (if you are not using a scale)
Note on yeast: Jun's recipe calls for yeast that is proofed (active dry), I opted to use SAF Gold, an instant yeast that is formulated to be used in sweet breads. SAF Gold requires no proofing, although I add the yeast and a bit of sugar into one side of the bowl along with the flour. When I add the water, I pour it near the small area where the yeast is concentrated, assuring myself that the yeast is hydrated, it will begin to bubble immediately. You can use active dry yeast interchangeably with instant yeast. Using active dry yeast requires proofing and will add about 10 minutes to the dough-making process. See my posting on working with flour and yeast for more information, I made this dough with my KitchenAid, but it is a soft dough and can be made easily by hand mixing.
1. Measure all of the ingredients. Line a cookie or baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare an area to roll out and cut the dough.
2. Measure warm water - the first several times you bake you should measure the temperature of the water, you will, over time, get a "feel" for how warm the water should be. My experience has been that when using instant yeast the water should be about 105 degrees F, for active dry, the water should be a bit warmer (110 degrees F).
3. Add flour, yeast,sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. See my note above.
4. Pour the warm water into the bowl, along the side that has the concentration of yeast mixed with a bit of sugar. It will begin to bubble almost immediately.
5. Start mixing the dough at low speed and pour in the melted (but not hot) shortening into the bowl while the mixer is working. The shortening will be incorporated within a minute or two. Increase the speed to low-medium and continue to mix for 3-5 minutes. The resulting dough will be soft, airy and a bit oily.
6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap that is in loose direct contact with the dough. Covering the dough in this way eliminates air space that can dry the dough as it rises, the wrap will accommodate the rising dough. Place in a draft free place (a cool oven is a good place) and allow to rise for about an hour- the dough will be double in bulk.
7. The baked product will be light and airy- rising time is essential. The resulting dough will be soft and airy after an hour. Test the dough by pressing your finger into the dough - if the indentation stays and does not bounce back your dough is ready.
9. Working with one portion at a time and keeping the unused portion covered and to the side, roll out the dough to a rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Trim the ends.
10. The essential step to ensuring the particular domed shape unique to pan de sal is to tightly roll the dough rectangle and to cut pieces that are about 1 1/2 inch long. The end of the log should be trimmed, the log rolled in bread crumbs and cut into portions. Note that you need to roll tightly and might need to pinch the edge once you roll up the dough so that it does not un-roll as the rolls rise and bake. If you skip this step the rolls will be delicious, but will not have the particular nuanced shape that are typical of pan de sal and will look like a typical rounded white bread roll.
11.The other essential step is to roll the dough log in bread crumbs, place the dough pieces cut side down and press a bit more bread crumbs onto the exposed cut side that is the top of the dough piece on the baking sheet. This did take a bit of practice, my dough pieces got prettier as I practiced. (See photos A-E.)
12. The pieces should be slightly oval, not completely round. Place the pan de sal dough pieces (the recipe will make several dozen rolls) about an inch apart on the baking sheet, allowing for space to rise. Unlike some dinner rolls that look wonderful when they rise and bake shoulder to shoulder, pan de sal look prettier when they are each individually allowed to rise and attain their particular shape. Allow to rise in a draft free location (again, the cool oven will work until the point where you have to pre-heat the oven) for about 45 minutes.
13. About 10 minutes before you are ready to bake the rolls, pre-heat the oven to 360 degrees F. Make sure to remove the unbaked dough if you are using your oven as a place to allow the dough to rise. Once the temperature has reached 360, place the baking sheet in the top 1/3 of the oven, close the door and lower the thermostat to 350 degrees. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. The rolls will be a light golden brown, the bread crumbs will be crusty looking.
14. Cool for about 10 minutes before trying the warm bread. Unlike white bread, the consistency of the warm rolls will be light, airy and are ready to eat warm. Enjoy the pan de sal immediately, serve after they have cooled, or double wrap after they completely cool and freeze.
Many thanks to Jun Belen for his email correspondence when I started to think about attempting to make pan de sal. The warm pan de sal lived up to my memory and his non-dairy dough make this recipe an easy addition to a kosher bread baking repertoire.