Destination: the Philippines for its famous pandesal. Can’t go wrong with bread!
On June 12, 1898, after an uprising against the Spanish colonial government, the Philippines proclaimed their independence and, in commemoration of this event, June 12th is today the National Day of the country, the occasion for 196 flavors to celebrate Filipino cuisine throughout the month.
I do not think there are a lot of shops that are able to attract passers-by as much as bakeries, strictly based on the wonderful smell emanating from them. An irresistible, almost magical perfume that owes this irresistible attraction to science.
It is often said that love is a matter of chemistry and alchemy and I would not exaggerate if I said that the love we carry for bread is a matter of… chemistry!
Bread is probably one of the simplest foods to prepare with simple rules to observe. A basic bread contains only 4 ingredients: water, flour, yeast and salt. These ingredients are mixed, with a gradual incorporation of water to the flour so as to obtain an elastic and homogeneous dough. Pretty basic, isn’t it?
Behind simple movements such as hands kneading and the pouring of clear water, hides the first secret of bread: flour! Flour contains two proteins in large quantities: glutenin and gliadin, which, together, produce the famous gluten. A good flour must contain at least 7% gluten but more is even better!
Pandesal or pan de sal literally means “bread of salt”. It is the most common bread in the Philippines. Filipinos also call pandesal agahan, almusal (breakfast food) or pandes.
History of pandesal
Pandesal was introduced to the Philippines in the sixteenth century during the colonization Spanish colonization, and it is even said that it would have earlier Portuguese origins. In the sixteenth century, it was also called “the bread of the poor” because it was an alternative to rice during the Philippines revolution.
According to the story, pandesal was originally to be modeled on French bread, the ancestor of French baguette, made from wheat flour, baker’s yeast, sugar, water and salt. But since the Filipinos were not a large producer of flour, they tried using their local flour, which, in turn, changed the texture from the crust of the original French bread, thus becoming the softer dough of pandesal.
The majority of Filipinos can not spend a day without eating pandesal. As soon as the sun rises, it can be found everywhere in the country and at any time of the day. People eat pandesal in different ways, but one of the most favorite ways is to immerse it in a hot coffee at breakfast. As Filipinos say:
Walang matigas na Pandesal sa mainit na kape
Which means “no pandesal without hot coffee”. People will also make tartines with butter and jam, peanut butter or even with sardines.
Pandesal, it seems, is often compared to Mexican bolillo. Personally, I found that pandesal was far more airy than bolillo, with a finer and lighter crust and this, despite all the crumbs with which it is coated before being baked. But that’s just my opinion!
How to make pandesal
If I were to give you a final tip to get a perfect bread with this pandesal recipe, it would be to first manage the use of salt to adjust the rise of the bread: the more salt you add, the more compact and less light the bread will be. A teaspoon for 4 cups of flour is just what it takes.
For the best pandesal recipe, you have to have an eye on the relationship between flour and water: flour with a high gluten content. For example, 4 cups of flour for about 1¼ cup of water and you will get the best bread!
We devoured these little pandesal breads as an afternoon snack. Butter, jam, peanut butter, tuna, sardines! Everything was there and especially the hot coffee… and also, I must admit, a good glass of white wine!
- 4 cups flour
- ½ cup caster sugar
- 5 Tbsp butter , melted
- 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1-¼ cup milk warm
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp oil
In a bowl, mix the yeast, half the sugar and milk and stir gently until the yeast and sugar are completely dissolved.
In another bowl, combine egg, oil and melted butter.
Add the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer starting with the flour, remaining sugar and baking powder. Mix well.
Add the mixture of egg, butter and oil and add the mixture of yeast, milk and sugar and mix gently, for several minutes, until obtaining a homogeneous dough. Add the salt and knead again for 5 minutes.
Form a ball by working the dough on a flat surface. Then place it in a large salad bowl covered with a damp cloth and let it rise for an hour in a warm place away from drafts.
Place the dough on a work surface and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece until to form a cylindrical shape.
Cut 3 or 4 rolls diagonally into each cylinder. Roll each bread in the breadcrumbs and place on a sheet covered with parchment paper, allowing some space between them. Cover with a dry cloth and let the dough rise again for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F for 15 minutes. Bake the breads for 15 minutes.
Serve hot or warm.