Today, we are kneading an excellent traditional Chilean bread called pan amasado. Pan amasado is one of the most traditional and popular varieties of bread in Chile, just as popular as hallulla and marraqueta.
No extraordinary ingredients for this bread except flour, yeast, salt, sugar, some fat and water. All the art of this bread is in the kneading. By the way, pan amasado simply means “kneaded bread”.
In Chile, as soon as you sit down at a table, the pan con pebre is always served. This is nothing more than hot bread with a condiment called pebre, consisting of garlic, onion, tomato, oil, vinegar, cilantro and chili pepper. Pan con pebre most often served with pan amasado.
While strolling in the streets of Santiago or anywhere else in the country, you will appreciate the Chileans’ pleasure of eating; and it is while walking that one discovers one of the most alive traditions of Chile: the sanguche (sandwich), which surprises by a great variety of ingredients and breads, among which the pan amasado or the famous marraqueta , also called pan batido.
With pan amasado, the sandwich will be airy, but with marraqueta, it will be more crisp because of the absence of fat in its dough.
Between Chile and bread, it’s a great love story! The Chileans worship bread. Bakeries are plenty and some individual homes even make it their business. If you ever cross a Chilean town or countryside and see a hanging white flag, then you can run to this house, because that means they sell good hot bread there.
There is no type of retail store in the world that manages to attract passers-by with delicious flavors like a bakery! An irresistible and magical fragrance that owes its appeal to science. Yes, all the love that bread brings is a question of chemistry, or rather of alchemy.
How to get a perfect bread?
Bread is one of the simplest foods and it only contains four ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt. The preparation is a very simple process: the ingredients are mixed, with a gradual addition of water to the flour to obtain a stretchy and homogeneous dough.
Behind simple movements, like kneading with one hand and holding a pitcher of clear water in the other, hides the first secret of bread: flour. It contains a large amount of two proteins, called glutenin and gliadin, that give birth to the famous gluten.
A good flour must contain at least 7% gluten so that the dough and the bread obtained are of better quality. The addition of water causes the formation of glutenin and gliadin in a strong “network”, obtained by two types of chemical bonds: the hydrogen bond and the disulfide bond. Usually, the two proteins have a rather coiled shape and almost keep some links for themselves, but the kneading unfolds them, revealing its links. The end result is that the more you knead and the more these links, and therefore the network, are reinforced.
Gluten needs energy and time to grow and relax to become this network that is responsible for the bread’s ability to swell and become lighter. Know that when the bread is hard or it hardens quickly, it is one of the first symptoms of a dough that was worked for a little time and without energy. From there, the first rule to get a perfect bread is to incorporate the water little by little with a long kneading. So if chemistry is not your thing, remember only one thing: good quality flour with a high content of gluten and a long kneading time to release gluten.
By hand, with a properly controlled technique, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes of kneading but do not be worried, as it can be longer the first time. With a stand mixer, you can reduce the kneading time to 10 to 12 minutes.
Here is a good tip to understand if you have kneaded enough: wash your hands well and, with wet fingers, take a piece of dough and stretch it slowly in all directions, it will form a kind of thin semi-transparent veil.
At this stage of the bread preparation, the dough is rested to rise.The dough may rest but a good part of the bread chemistry depends on this step of the recipe.
First, the water activates enzymes that are present in the flour and turn the starch into maltose, that is to say a malt sugar composed of glucose.
As for the yeast, thanks to its harmless bacteria, it uses maltose and the other sugars present to start the fermentation.
Hence the second rule of thumb: add a little sugar to the dough (or yeast) to facilitate the work of the yeast.
Fermentation is a process that converts sugars into other components, including carbon dioxide. The latter, in the form of bubbles, “inflates” the bread and softens it.
Finally, when the dough is ready, it is obviously baked in an oven. And it is not over yet!
The sugars present or formed in the previous phases, associated with proteins, and thanks to the high temperature, give birth to the famous Maillard reaction.
From there, substances are formed and they deploy this characteristic delicious aroma, which attracts our attention when we walk past a bakery. The Maillard reaction is also partly responsible for the color and precisely the gilding and browning of food.
The last rule of thumb: when baking, it is necessary to preheat the oven and, to obtain a perfect bread, the cooking must be long. An ideal temperature is between 285 F and 350 F. You can of course work with higher temperatures, but the risk is to end up with a well-colored crust and great aroma, but a crumb that will be undercooked and less airy.
A tip and not least: the yeast and salt do not mix well. So, incorporate the salt after incorporating all the water and after kneading.
And finally, the relationship between flour and water should be monitored: about 2 cups to 2½ cups of water (500 to 600 g) for 8 cups of flour (1 kg), so between 50 and 60% of hydration for a dough without eggs or fat or other ingredient used to bind.
Well, baking bread is really not that complicated in the end?
- 8 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups warm water (at 95 F /36 C), or more water if necessary
- 4 tablespoons lard (or melted butter), at 95 F / 36 C
- 3 tablespoons active dry yeast
- In a large bowl, pour the yeast. Add half of the water and half of the sugar and stir.
- Let stand for 15 minutes at room temperature, away from drafts.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and the remaining sugar.
- Dig a well in the center and add the butter and the mixture of yeast, water and sugar.
- Start kneading by slowly adding the rest of the water.
- After the water is totally incorporated, add the salt.
- At this point, knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. The dough should be slightly firm and homogeneous.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead with the hands for 3 minutes.
Form a log with the dough and divide it into 20 to 22 dough pieces of about 2 oz. (60 g) each.
- Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- For all the dough pieces into a smooth ball shape and flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand.
- Deposit them as you go, well spaced on the baking sheet.
- Cover the loaves with a cloth and let them rise for 1 hour and 15 minutes in a warm, draft-free place.
15 minutes before the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C.
- Prick the buns with a fork and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
When kneading by hand, increase the kneading time by at least 5 minutes.