A Filipino table is not complete without a serving of Pan de Sal at least once a day. The soft bread roll, with a crusty but tender brown shell, is the second food staple to steamed white rice for every Filipino. My first attempt at baking pan de sal was days after attending a half-day bread baking class. I invited a friend over and proudly showed off my new found talent by mixing the ingredients and leaving the bowl out in direct sunlight. My all-knowing self told my friend that the heat of the sun will help the dough to rise. It did not. The heat of the sun killed the yeast. We baked the rolls anyway but each piece varied in size and were unevenly shaped. The bread had good flavor but was hard as rocks.
Pan de Sal significantly entered my life again during Andy’s first time in the Philippines. He loved the freshly baked bread rolls my mother served for breakfast. He loved it even more during our off-the-beaten-path trip to Puerto Princesa/Palawan. After a tour of Kuyba Almoneca, the owner and staff graciously invited us to join them for merienda. The mid day snack or merienda consisted of the basics. Instant coffee and freshly baked Pan de Sal from a nearby bakery.
We were chit-chatting about random topics when we noticed Andy dipping his pan de sal in his coffee. He had never done this before, and my confusion must have been apparent when I asked what he was doing. We were all stunned when he pointed to one of the employees of Kuyba Almoneca and said “I saw him do it and thought it was a great idea.” Everyone chuckled. It is endearing and amusing because Filipinos don’t usually encounter foreigners that readily adopt our customs or habits. You can read more about our Puerto Princesa adventure here.
Recently, Andy started working early in the morning and I wanted to make sure he had something to eat before he left. Pan de Sal dipped with his coffee for breakfast was the answer. I searched and found pagkaingpinoytv’s youtube video to be the simplest and easiest recipe to follow. The video is a mix of the English and Filipino language but the recipe on the website (here) is written in english. The recipe I am posting is modified from their original recipe by using less sugar and oil.
My initial attempts to make Pan de Sal were successful. I learned the recipe by heart. The fresh, fluffy rolls and I had a good run for several months until I stopped baking bread because of my work schedule. It wasn’t until this month that I started making Pan de Sal again but our beloved bread has been elusive lately. My attempts at resulted in bread rolls that were either too hard or almost flat like focaccia. I was confused. What happened?
I revisited the video and searched online to learn more about bread making. Weather/climate and age of the yeast or flour affects the quality of the bread but most of the time the error is in the baker. The all knowing part of me thought I could bake Pan de Sal by memory after months of not making the bread. I had the basic recipe written down but it turns out my technique was off. Way off. The tips and commentaries I read were valuable. The most recent batch of fluffy and tender bread rolls I baked a few days ago were a success. I’m grateful for the resource websites that I consulted and the people who took time to comment and give tips and advice to new bakers like me. The links to the helpful sites are listed below.
Picture above: Dough after 1st rise, punch dough once to let air out, remove from bowl, gently flatten dough into a rectangular shape, cut with pastry cutter according to desired size
Tips and things to consider in making Pan de Sal:
- A mixer with dough hook is not necessary.
- My preference is to use my hands for kneading to achieve the right dough consistency.
- Prep Time for milk (already lukewarm) and yeast: 15-30 minutes (varies) depending on yeast bloom
- Prep time for dough including kneading: 15 minutes
- Dough first rise: at least 2 hours (can be covered and left in bowl overnight)
- Dough second rise: 30 minutes or when ripe test is postive
- Sweet Pan de Sal: use 1/2 cup sugar for recipe instead of 1/4 cup
Terms and techniques for bread making:
- Blooming Yeast: Feeding or “activating” yeast with sugar and liquid resulting in foamy mixture, necessary to raise bread dough
- Consistency of Dough after Kneading: Dough should be smooth to the touch and spring back when lightly pressed with finger (should not be confused with Ripe Test)
- Ripe Test to make sure dough is ready to bake: lightly poke dough with fingertip, notch/dimple/dent remains/doesn’t bounce back
- Regular spoon
- Small/Medium bowl for milk and yeast
- Pastry Cutter (or dull knife)
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula
- Large bowl to mix dough
2 flat baking pans
- Parchment paper
- 1 cup
- 1/4 cup
- Measuring spoons:
- 1 tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon